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Buddhadharma : Winter 2014
winter 2 0 1 4 buddhadharma: the Practitioner’s quarterly 15 earthquake can devastate, or the financial institutions of an entire country can col- lapse. Change is happening at such an immense pace, it’s hard to have any idea of where we are headed. Our experience of time and distance is ever-shrinking as the Internet moves us into warp speed. Every day, a flood of information makes “out there” more obviously “right here.” As the consequences of actions rebound ever more quickly, it’s as if there is no distance between thought and what it materializes. Everything is immediate. We live in increas- ingly virtual realities, and at the same time are confronted with the likelihood of no sustainable planet for future generations. For many species, it is already too late. Life has always been intensely challeng- ing on planet Earth, but it’s hard to imagine another time when the stakes were so high. We may feel anguished by what’s happen- ing, but what’s happening is happening. None of this is outside the dharma. The intensity of our times is pushing, squeezing, and pummeling us. The image that comes to mind is of a birth canal—it is as if we are being born into a different way of under- standing everything. We are awakening into an awareness that knows no ultimate separations. There is no other that is out there. FROM lisTening To The hearT, NORTh ATLANTIC BOOKS, NOVEMBER 2014 dressing the Part Zen teacher Michael Stone explains why domestic chores and parenting are made better when he puts on his rakusu. In Zen, there is an old tradition called jukai. Enkyo Roshi, my teacher in Manhat- tan, mailed me a bag with sewing instruc- tions, black thread, sheets of black cotton and a long line of green thread in a small bag. I was to sew a rakusu. The rakusu is a traditional garment worn around the necks of Zen students who have taken the precepts of lay ordination. It’s made of sixteen strips of cloth sewn together into the shape of a rice paddy and worn like a bib. Some say that in the old Chinese Chan tradition, Buddhist monks were persecuted and so they sewed their robes into these brick-like patterns and wore them hidden under their jackets. The Buddha is said to have renounced the wearing of fine robes, insisting that his students make their robes from pieces of cast-off burial cloth found at funeral sites, then dyed with saffron as a disinfectant. The Buddha wanted robes to be made from discarded material. The way I interpret it, the Buddha was making a gesture to welcome in and include whatever was being compartmentalized. When I study with Roshi, when I sit by myself, or when I do any other form of practice, I always wear the rakusu. The rakusu changes my rela- tionship to whatever I’m doing. Wearing the rakusu is training. It’s a reminder that my commitments are as close to me as my eye- lashes. I try to do whatever I’m doing with concentration, and with both hands. Jukai is a commitment to the precepts. I’ve always seen the precepts not only as prescriptive, but descriptive of the way a Buddha would function in this world. But they are also good guidelines for family life. They are my compass. Last night, while my partner, Carina, was lying down feeling nauseous, I felt stirred up that I was wash- ing dishes again with two loads of laundry on the go. So, I put on my rakusu. I’ve decided that whenever this domestic mon- astery gets overwhelming, especially from chores, I’m going to wear my rakusu. FROM MIChAEL STONE’S SELF-PUBLIShED BOOK, Family Wakes us uP, COAUThORED BY MATThEW REMSKY, OCTOBER 2014