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Buddhadharma : Summer 2006
buddhadharma| 17 |summer 2006 Buddhadasa neVer dies This year marks the one-hundredth anniversary of the birth of Ajahn Buddhadasa, a Thai monk and reformer who became one of his country’s most influential Buddhist teachers and helped inspire a new generation of socially concerned individuals with his teachings on “dhammic socialism.” In a poem he wrote several years before his death in 1993, he urges readers to forever treat him as if he were still alive. Buddhadasa shall live, for there is no dying. Even when the body dies, it will not listen. Whether it is or goes, is of no consequence. It is only something passing through time. Buddhadasa carries on, there’s no dying. Through good or bad times, always one with the true teaching. Having offered body and mind in ceaseless service Under Lord Buddha’s command. Buddhadasa lives on, there’s no dying. In service to all humanity forever through the Dhamma proclamations left behind – O Friends, can’t you see that nothing dies? Even when I die and the body ceases, my voice still echoes in comrades’ ears, clear and bright, as loud as ever. Just as if I never died, the Dhamma-body lives on. Treat me as if I never died, as though I am with you all as before. Speak up whatever is on your minds as if I sit with you, helping point out the facts. Treat me as if I never died, then many streams of benefit will accrue. Don’t forget the days set aside for Dhamma discussion. Realize the absolute and stop dying! rEprintED From hEartwooD oF thE BoDhi trEE, puBlishED By wisDom puBliCations. © Evolution liBEration, 1994. Be the elephant When you’re surrounded by negativity, embrace the qualities of this strong and noble animal, advises Tonen O’Connor, resident priest at the Milwaukee Zen Center. As a Zen teacher, I spend a lot of my time talking about kindness and compassion, but I was brought up short recently when a member of the sangha at Oshkosh Correctional Institution asked, “What if you’re in a dark place?” He went on to say, “I have negativity all around. Negativity to the left, negativity to the right, negativity to the front, and an officer behind.” This prompted me to think about all the ways in which we can be hemmed in by negativity – sarcastic and mean-spirited co-workers, drivers waving the finger on the highway, horns blown abruptly the moment the light changes, complaints in the line at the post office, cynical holiday cards. None of these things are as violently negative as the anger, hatred, and violence of the prison atmosphere, or the wars and genocide bleeding our world, but they emanate from the same place. That place is a dark place, and if we are sur- rounded by its darkness, we can be hard-pressed to find light to illuminate the Way. Hard-pressed, that is, if we require that it come from others. The sangha member continued, “What do you do if you’re surrounded by tigers?” Obviously, the easi- est thing would be to become a tiger yourself – you certainly wouldn’t want to be a zebra. My answer at the time was that you must be an elephant, big and strong, and yet a herbivore. Later, I remembered that the Dhammapada has something to say about this: Patiently I shall bear harsh words as the ele- phant bears arrows on the battlefield. People are often inconsiderate. Only a trained elephant goes to the battle- field; only a trained elephant carries the king. Best among men are those who have trained their mind to endure harsh words patiently. If you cannot find a friend who is good, wise, and loving, walk alone, like a king who has renounced his kingdom or an elephant roam- ing at will in the forest. It is better to be alone than to live with the immature. Be contented, and walk alone like an elephant roaming in the forest. Turn away from evil. It is we who must provide the light that will illuminate our way. We cannot rely on getting it from others. And, further, for us to be able to light our own way, we must train ourselves to stand upright, strong, and alone. To find the light, we must question our own darkness. We must see how rooted it is in illu- sion. And we must be courageous enough to look sion. And we must be courageous enough to look beyond ourselves to the luminous dharma world beyond ourselves to the luminous dharma world that awaits our clear vision. This is not easy to do. We cling tightly to our This is not easy to do. We cling tightly to our illusions, and their darkness makes us feel safe. illusions, and their darkness makes us feel safe. Yet the darkness cuts us off from others, from life Yet the darkness cuts us off from others, from life and from living. In the dark places, whether created by others In the dark places, whether created by others or by ourselves, we must find our own light, reach or by ourselves, we must find our own light, reach out, and grasp life. From thE milwaukEE ZEn CEntEr nEwslEttEr (January 2006). MIkEHOlMES