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Buddhadharma : Winter 2005
winter 2005| 12 |buddhadharma first thoughts What’s the rush? Providence Zen Center abbot Chong Hae Sunim JDPS offers a question to bring us back to before- thinking mind. Our tendency as Zen students is to approach our practice the way we do most things – by trying to get something from outside to make us feel bet- ter inside. But that very tendency is the origin of our suffering. Trying this mantra, trying that tech- nique, going to see this teacher, going to see that teacher, we are always going around and around, searching outside of ourselves for a fix. Approached this way, Zen, or any other kind of practice, only results in more suffering and confu- sion. But Master Lin Chi gave us the key: “Just stop this mind that goes rushing around.” How do we do this? Thinking about stopping the mind only creates more movement, more turmoil. But when we look into the question “what am I?” this leads us to our before-thinking mind, our don’t-know mind. This is how we “just stop this mind that goes rushing around.” when we return to “don’t know,” our minds become clear. Clear mind sees, hears, smells, feels, perceives, and functions clearly just as it is. This is great substance and great func- tion, our original job. Any environment, tumul- tuous or calm, is just how it is – complete. There is no need to rush around and around looking for something. everything is complete, moment to moment, just as it is. There is no fault and no progress. This is called having faith in yourself, getting to know the buddhas and the patriarchs, and moving freely in this world. This is also called the great bodhisattva way. from The Providence Zen cenTer neWsleTTer (augusT 2005). no separation, no Bars Moved by the case of death-row prisoner and Zen practitioner Damien Echols, Rod Meade Sperry concludes that people in prison are not only like us, they are us. The case of the “west Memphis Three” – as sup- porters of Damien echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley call them – has spawned docu- mentaries, benefit concerts, albums, and books. Yet each of the wM3 remains behind bars – wrongly, those supporters contend – for the horrific murders of three young Arkansas boys in 1993. And they’ve been there since they were boys themselves. A few years back, the Shambhala Sun reported that Damien echols had elected to take the Zen precepts ceremony, and I’ve since learned that his zazen practice continues today. I found this out in a record store, browsing the book Broken Summers by the writer/performer Henry Rollins. In part a document of Rollins’s efforts to do benefit work for the wM3, the book includes a portrait by echols of Bodhidharma. Now, this is no sketch; it’s a well-detailed picture of Bodhidharma, rendered entirely in coffee. (One assumes that prisoner echols had no access to a pen.) That picture blew my mind. I looked closer, and read that Damien was indeed still meditating in his death-row cell. word from supporters has always been that the wM3 were set up: with no solid leads on suspects, the police decided that the three murdered boys had been the victims of a Satanic ritual played out by echols, Baldwin, and Misskelley – each of whom had a fondness for heavy metal music and black clothing. It’s worrisome: as kids, my friends and I listened to some pretty out-there music, and God knows some of us dressed the part, too. As an adult, despite very different circum- stances, I share Damien echols’s desire to sit, look at my mind, and to try to transcend my suffering. with the “All-coffee Bodhidharma” staring at me from the page, I could only think of the wM3 and reflect, That could have been me! what I’m starting to see is that echols, Baldwin, and Misskelley are me, or rather, they are us. The wM3 trials and their outcomes, whether or not they are indeed the travesties they seem to be, affect all of us. Are we people who prize dialogue and fairness, or can that go out the window when three little boys are victimized and a whole town is calling for heads to roll? Is “a life for a life” really something to live by when life is as short and complex as it is? Big questions like these don’t generally have answers that fit us all. But whatever you think about the west Memphis Three – guilty or inno- cent – there’s a powerful reminder here of hope. Consider Damien echols: even if you studied up on the case and ended up thinking he’s guilty, the fact remains that he’s found his way to the dharma in the face of it all, and he’s making a commitment to himself under very extreme and unfortunate All-Coffee Portrait of Bodhidharma by Damien echols