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Sunday, October 16, 2005

green gulch

This morning I managed to drag myself out of an unpleasant physics dream and drove across the bridge to Green Gulch Zen center. This was the first time I'd gone. The Dharma Talk for today was by Meiya Wender. She spoke of many interesting things in a way that was both personal and intellectual; a combination, together with clarity, I really respect.

The talk centered around a piece of caligraphy she recieved from a 105 year old man that said something like, "the flower falls and is swept away by the stream." She spoke about duty: duty to communtiy, or even civic duty. She said that American culture lacks humility, lacks the ability to ask for help, lacks a sense of home. The flower is at home as it is swept away by the stream.

She gave the example of the yoga guru Iyengar who recently spent a large amount of the money he made from his fame on improving the physical and educational infrastructure of the village he grew up in. She imagined that this flowed naturally from him: "the left hand bandages the right hand without asking whether or when it will be payed back". She also talked about her father whose mother died at a young age and was put in an orphanage by his father. He immigrated to the US and eventually became a successful business person. She said that he had the attitude that he had gotten to where he was mainly as a result of his own striving. If this is your atittude, then where is the community to give back to? Meiya Wender asked. I could relate to this question. Not because I haven't gotten lots of help, and lots of good fortune in my life, but because I do feel like I'm a pretty independent person trying to do as much by myself as possible. I asked her about this point later on in a discussion group. She acknowledged the question and the difficulty of doing this. How does one identify the community to be grateful to if it seems so dispersed? In addition to family and friends, I must be grateful to the rest of the world that to some (perhaps great) extent the possibilities in the US are responsible for. Can I feel this gratitude and find empathy when I hear about earthquakes and hurricanes? In my own situation, with a somewhat complicated family, I've always felt that bridging the gaps to identify such a "community" is a difficult, but somehow necessary task.

Anyway, it was a nice morning. At the end, they serve lunch- today was split pea soup, good bread and butter and a green salad with tasty cherry tomatoes and avocado. The meditation was hard, but seemed somewhat useful, and the talk and discussion felt surprisingly relevant. Asking for help, feeling part of community, giving back: things I struggle with.

1 comment:

Froggita said...

I wonder if Iyengar struggled with it or not. Duty to community doesn't flow naturally out of me, though I have an intact family. Giving in any way is an act of faith that what you can give is better in every way than saving yourself the sacrifice.

It's odd, Boaz; I've left communities behind that I could have held to. I think that to find or make community, you have to stop looking for something better...and like the solid chair from your earlier post, be sat on.

oh dear. now there's a monty python song in my head.