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I apologize to myself for this disturbing piece. I am disturbed by what I am living in now. But I am also seeing new strains of protest for peace. For a world without killing and violence. Because we all know how unpleasant it is. What we fail to see is how it all works; that if, for example, you kill, you will be killed at some other time, in some other way. If you get furious, your fury will vanquish your happiness. Your pain in butt boss will keep yelling at you if you keep yelling back. You first, as anger congeals in veins, hardens those arteries. Then that tension unleashes itself on everyone around. And so it goes. Thatís why there are 10 Commandments or Lifetime vows, to keep us in check. Not some guilt trip but rather a way to stay a course that leads to more pleasant circumstances. Karma is simple. You commit a good deed, you get a pleasant response. You commit a negative deed, something that is unpleasant, you get an unpleasant response. There is no judge. No one upstairs making a decision. Itís scientific. So when Richard Gere was asking audience to have compassion for guys who plunged planes into World Trade Center (he proceeded to get booed), it was because their actions would plunge them into a state more disturbing than what you were witnessing on TV or in person. Itís awful. And canít we feel how awful it is? Even just one bomb dropped by a pilot on Baghdad is awful and yes, as we have compassion for innocent civilians at mercy of flying destruction, we also have to have compassion for pilot. His pushing of button, no matter intention will have a result. How long do we want to keep living with what is awful? How can we just accept what is awful? Oh well itís human nature, I hear.
It is often said that birth of a human is more rare than a turtle that swims in ocean and only surfaces every hundred years, putting its head through a golden hoop which has been tossed around on waves and driven by wind. By contrast, Buddha taught that number of beings in hell equals number of atomic particles in galaxy.
Human birth is precious and rare. You have capacity to reach nirvana (liberation from all mental afflictions), or Buddhahood (total enlightenment for sake of all beings) from here. In other words, you have capacity to transform awful-ness in you and around you and reach for something beautiful, pain free, for sake of all beings, hell, animal, hungry ghost, semi-god, god as well as human. But as one of my teachers lamented in retreat, Buddha taught 8 fold path, way out, over 4,000 years ago and still people havenít learned, still they are doing same awful things.
Some say itís enough to notice breath. Accept breath. But thereís more. Understand how you got to be breathing in first place. Understand how we all breath. How interdependent our breath is. Your SARS breath out is my breath in. It may or may not kill me. Itís not about SARS breath then, is it? Think about this. Use it as a koan, traverse breath and those streets. See swaying masses on streets writhing, darting. See Bush breathing. And guy with quadruple by pass. The hot-headed Marine. And know as well that your last breath is your death at this juncture. Your last breath in this life is last breath of countless beings, countless times. And beginning of another cycle of life and breath. Then, how red might be blood youíre swimming in or thin streak in sky of a new beautiful dawn, white might be frozen ice of coldest hell or most intense stream of bliss, and how blue might be darkest pool of hot tar or lapis lazuli sky of Pure land.
Hosannah sounds a lot like Osama. Saddam sounds a lot like Bomb. Bush sounds a lot like Woosh. Whoosh Osama Bomb. Hosannah Saddam Bush. Oh say can you see? By dawnsí early lightÖwhat so proudly we hail as twilightís last gleaming?
Born and raised in Los Angeles, attended college at UC Berkeley, Cooper Union (NY) and California Institute of the Arts. Holds degrees in Music, Visual Arts, French, and Economics. Has written articles on Buddhism, yoga, meditation, travel. Currently working on a book about travels in India.