Somewhere else in Dhamma…

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      I’m starting to have a long list of posts that I’ve started but didn’t even get to the end of a first paragraph… It’s about time I get something up! I’ve had a hard time writting since I left Korea. There were some reasons I hadn’t come home in a while, and some of those became reasons I had to come home. There’ve been a lot of ups and downs, which has made it hard to write without being inappropriate to the privacy of my family or for what I try to make this blog about. Since it’s alright to be honest about myself, I can admit that I haven’t kept a very good “Buddhist” mind when it’s come to dealing with people since I’ve been home. Somehow family ends up being who I show my worst side to. I wonder if it’s because we’re all comfortable around each other to be our worsted together! In the end, we’re all there for each other at the worst of times too, and there have been some tough times since I’ve been here; conflicts and old memories better off let go of and forgotten, a pregnancy (and sort-of abortion) with everything but the fetus, the passing of an old (and old) family friend, who was suffering from Lou Gehrig’s disease.

      On the ups side, coming here with EunBong and Fina has added a great big plus to the family and definitely made us better as a whole. A month ago we celebrated her 100th day anniversary, Korean style, and had a gathering of nearly all the old hippy friends my parents knew when I was a child. Even though a good portion of them are divorced (to more than one other person there, in one case) it was still a warm and happy evening. I’ve seen more of my little sister in the last three months than in the last 10 years, more because of the baby now than the distance before. My father isn’t worried about me being gay anymore, so it’s a lot more relaxed to be around him now! When he came to my wedding in Korea and met my friend Joe, he admitted he thought we were partners because we traveled and did so much together… I don’t think he read any of the emails I sent after we’d been to Cambodia and Thailand together, or he’d probably have stopped worrying a few years earlier! A couple weeks ago, I joined a Tai Chi class with my mom. My old friend, Kai, who had been away for a few years is teaching the class. His Japanese mom, who I’d only met when I was a young child, has moved here from the Okanogan Valley. She’s been a good person for EunBong to know here. I love listening to them speaking English together. Their accents are very similar, especially with the “l/r” plague. EunBong was telling Isao that every night she writes down her choreography ideas (for dance) and next thing Isao gets out her Chinese caligraphy set and starts asking EunBong about Chinese characters. Isao is a master potter and told me she would make a tea pot for me, so I’m really excited to see it. Kai told me her specialty is creating glazes and when I see her work, even though I don’t know much about pottery, I can tell they are amazing.

      I haven’t learned much new about Buddhism here, but I have been able to experience many of the teachings on a more experiential level. Maintain mindfulness and right speech have been where I’ve failed the most but it’s made me more and more aware of the self-inflicted side of suffering and how “I” is usually right in the middle of it. Aside from Fina, who’s dealing with teething, not-so-skilled motor skills, vaccination needles, and just the over all troubles of dealing with being an infant, most of the suffering that’s going on here is pretty much self-inflicted. At Saturday Sangha (TM ? ^^) Chong Go Sunim once made a point about how in the Diamond Sutra the Buddha goes through his questioning a second time to reach a more subtle level of understanding. Since then, I’ve tried to be more aware of the subtler level of things. This one’s rather obvious, but I used to think not reacting meant externally, physically or verbally, until I realized that if I can keep my mind from reacting, then I would truly be not reacting. I realised that the pain in my back is very small compared to the suffering cause by not wanting the pain in my back. Fina’s crying isn’t nearly as bothersome to me than the craving for silence when she is crying. Fortunately I realized that one after about a month, so it’s helped. I still find myself, even now, craving silence or wanting the tiredness in my body to go away, but just being aware helps and deep down it really doesn’t bother me that much. I also know how fortunate I am to have such a lovely child. She actually made being a father easy, I’m just using the situation as an example. I’m usually only bothered when I want to be doing something else, so that too is more to do with myself than her.

      Another small suffering I’ve had is the lack of Sangha. I always took the Third Jewel for granting but being without one makes me think that it’s the most important. The Buddha is mostly an idea in our minds, the Dhamma just is, whether we realize it or not, but the Sangha is where we can learn Dhamma and get a little help along the way. Reminds me of a Ringo song! People I’ve spoken to generally aren’t very interested in Buddhism. Some of the things I appreciate about Buddhism are what turns some people here off. Many New Age philosophies I find tend to be too idealistic are very popular where as Buddhism gets misunderstood as something negative. I think a lot of people have a hard time thinking that their pleasures could possibly be causing suffering. The Dhamma has poped up here and there though. I read Tom Robbins’ latest book, B is for Beer (an adult book for children/a children’s book for adults). Somewhere around the middle of the book, he makes a claim that if just the perfect amount of beer is consumed, one is suddenly swept through the cracks, basically into non-duality. Sounds almost “Neo-New-Agey”. It might be the first time I’ve ever disagreed with Tom Robbins, but maybe, at this point, someone with more beer drinking experience than myself should comment. I also watched Clint Eastwood’s last film, Gran Torino. He plays the role of a grumpy ol’ Korean war vet, who in the climax of the film ends up displaying the actions of a pretty high level Bodhisattva.

      I haven’t meditated as much as I should. There’s a small field on my dad’s property with a few one-hundred-something year old apples trees. I sat under one a few times when the weather was hot. EunBong made fun of me that the Buddha sat under a Bodhi tree but I was sitting under an apple tree and that an apple was going to fall on my head! I pointed out that I picked a spot where there weren’t any apples in the branches and the Bodhi tree probably wasn’t a Bodhi tree until after the Buddha sat under it! She still thought I looked silly sitting under an apple tree though! There’s a tall pine tree behind our house that EunBong enjoys walking around with Fina, like a pagoda at a temple, chanting “Gwan Se Eum Bosal” and praying for her family. One more thing I knew already but have been able to experience and realize for myself is the importance of a peaceful mind. My parent’s house couldn’t be in a much more peaceful setting, on an old logging road, surrounded by forest, a cow pasture across the road, a river that makes its way through it all. We should all be Buddhas living here. Instead, we’re caught in our own turmoil, uptight as though we’re living in the Bronx. It really doesn’t matter where you put yourself, you can’t get away from what’s going on inside. I say this to myself, and anyone else who wants to hear it… practice now! There’s never a better time!

That’s about all I’ve got left in me. I’m too exhausted to come up with anything great right now, but it’s good to remind myself of some of the basics. My mind feels about as sharp as my baby’s behind (not very sharp, take my word for it!). At least now that I’ve written something, it could be the start of a habit. One last thing, for my friends from the old Saturday Sangha, and anyone else who was there along the way, this is for you…

2 responses »

  1. Hi Joseph,

    “I’m too exhausted to come up with anything great right now”

    But you just did! Fabulous, touching, post. Thank you so much for sharing.

    Now try to get some sleep! LOL!

    All the best,

    Marcus

  2. Thank you, Joseph, for taking the time and making the effort to reach out.

    So much of our conditioning comes from our family, for better and/or worse. My experience is that when I’m with family, the conditioning becomes more apparent, especially in the inevitable conflict. Now that I’m an old man, my parents and other original family are gone. But my daughter has to work out the same issues with me. Perhaps, if I can bring some awareness to this, she can gain some freedom from the conditioning.

    Thanks again,
    Barry

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