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Buddhadharma : Winter 2011
BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY WINTER 2 0 11 40 I n the Zen Peacemaker family tradition we define Zen as a way of awakening to the oneness of all life. In the engaged Shin tradition, oneness is a metaphor for the compassion- ate action of the bodhisattva’s vow, personified in the cosmic mythos of Amida Buddha. The term “oneness” has become very popular and usually refers to conceptual ideas on nonduality and other interesting philosophical models. But the real heart of oneness is not an idea but an experience, an experience that opens us up to participate in a more universal consciousness unbounded by the fear-laden and survivalist tendencies of our self-conscious conditioning. I would like to share with you my most recent encounter. In early August, I received a phone call asking me to serve as a Buddhist chaplain at the tenth anniversary memorial ser- vice for the victims of Flight 93, which was hijacked on Sep- tember 11, 2001, and crashed into a field in Pennsylvania. I was deeply honored to be asked to serve in this capacity and immediately agreed. It was only after a few days had passed that I began to discover the immensity of the responsibility I had undertaken. My first response was to let myself enter deeply into this space by practicing the way of “not knowing.” For me, this practice is about stopping and looking deeply into what is happening in my life and consistently asking, “What is this?” I allow everything that I think I know about a situation to rise up and then fall away like the thoughts that come and go in my meditation. The reality is that I often do this very poorly and spend a great deal of time obsessing. However, as the years have passed I’ve become deeply aware that the practice of not knowing is really nothing more than becoming intimate with reality as it is, not as I wish it were. In this instance, I began to question whether I was “good enough” to do this. I wondered if I would do it well and be acceptable to the families. I wondered how they would per- ceive a Buddhist minister in what would be a largely Judeo- Christian setting. In other words, I questioned my own iden- tity and self-worth. So, I sat down with trusted family and friends to review the stuff that was coming up, challenging it with the mindfulness process that we use here at the Blue Mountain Lotus Society. Next, I entered into the practice of bearing witness. For me, this practice is about really getting close to the things that I have an aversion to. As I read the stories of the passengers and crew and watched the many documentaries and programs about their lives, I began to feel a connection to them that was visceral. I myself had recently gone through the sudden death of my father and the near death of my mother, all within the span of four months. I went deeply into my own pain and found myself openly weeping as the victims’ loved ones shared their stories of both suffering and joys. I experienced a real sense of interconnectedness with them as I came to realize the Buddhist wisdom that it is not in our strength but in our suffering that we truly connect with others. Then I began to ponder the lives of the four men who had committed this act of violence. During one of the liturgical meetings with the other clergy, it was made clear that this day was for the victims and that even though the remains of the terrorists were now forever intermingled with those they had murdered, it was decided that it would be too painful for the families to recognize this publicly. I was troubled by this, not because I couldn’t understand the pastoral wisdom in their decision process, or that I had not felt my own grievous anger The One Heart of Flight 93 Sensei Anthony Stultz served as the Buddhist chaplain at the tenth anniversary memorial for the victims of Flight 93. He recalls this moving experience. PHOTO J. TODD POLLING T.J.SHAFFER