When discussing Kamma with Sandima, he made a point that through constant awareness and right action, eventually our negative Kamma will disappear and we are left with only our positive Kamma, or perhaps no Kamma at all. This reminded me of a story I’d heard about a Zen monk in China who let his mother drown in the river rather than create Kamma for himself by dragging her onto the shore. The more I considered this story, the more it bothered me. Where is the compassion? Every stem of Buddhism that I’m aware of emphasises the importance of compassion for all sentient beings. Being a Chinese monk, he should have been well aware of Kwan Yin Bosal, and possibly even taken the Boddhisattva Vows. The story of the monk dumping his family’s fortune into a lake rather than giving it to someone to avoid generating Kamma made sense to me, but not saving the life of a drowning person, let alone his own mother, felt very different. Something about it just doesn’t feel very “Buddhist”. When I asked Sandima his opinion of this story, he didn’t seem very impressed, and had a similar reaction as mine, “That’s not Buddhism.” He made a remark that Buddhism changed in China in ways that he doesn’t agree with and left it at that. It leaves me with an even stronger sense that the term “Buddhism” is swaying a bit further on the empty side of form. It is common to see a distinction between Zen and Buddhism though, or something described as being about “Buddhism and Zen”.
Thinking about mothers, I’ve hardly felt an ounce of homesickness in my life, but having a child of my own has made me realize what’s been lacking in my life during the past four years of living and traveling in Asia. Before my parents visited Korea for my wedding, I hadn’t seen them in nearly three years. It’s now been well over three years since I’ve seen my home. Of all the illusions I’ve been confronting, I’ve realized the sense of home is a strong one. This morning, thinking and anticipating our trip home in July, I realized how much I’ve missed having a mother over the past few weeks. Even though I have a habit of reacting against being very mothered at times, it will be nice to be home. Koreans have a lot of extreme views about how to care for a baby, and every middle aged woman we encounter doesn’t mind telling us how we should be doing it. Even if some of our opinions in Canada might not necessarily be correct, it’ll be relieving to at least be in a place that agrees with me.
And don’t worry Mom, if you were drowning in the river, I would definitely pull you out!