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Buddhadharma : Winter 2006
winter 2006| 40 |buddhadharma sionals who help develop the caregiving skills of Tahoma students and volunteers. The profession- als, in turn, can gain a deeper sense of their own work through their contact with the devotion of Tahoma students. In order to help a person through the process of dying, the caregiver should have what might be called an attitude of prayer. A dying person can share this attitude. Without prayer, life is little more than eating, sleeping, and making a living; with prayer, life is illuminated by the light of God. At Enso House, we are trying to provide a place where hospice workers and residents alike can face death with this sense of the sacred. The sense of the sacred that you’re talking about, is it specifically Buddhist? It depends upon the person. Those in training at Tahoma are engaged in Zen Buddhist practice, of course, but Enso House residents are of various faiths. The fact of death cuts across religious dis- tinctions. Different religions have their own ideas about the meaning of death. But in the actual pro- cess of dying, people of all faiths become one in a spirit of prayerful entrustment. All human beings are equal in this profound act of prayer when fac- ing death. Zazen in Insecure Times We live in unsettled and dangerous times. How do you see the work of spiritual people in the world? During sesshins at Tahoma and in Europe, I see how insecure people are in the world today. Peo- ple are not aware of this insecurity. They cannot observe what is in their own minds. This, I think, is an indication of the confusion in modern soci- ety. People in earlier times had a sense of rever- ence. We have lost this now, and with it our trust in the future. People are unsure of what their governments are really doing and of where world events are leading them. The economic situation is unstable as well. So there has been a great increase in uncertainty and insecurity from all points of view. To overcome this insecurity, it is important to understand things in a correct way, or with right view. Inwardly, of course, it is important not to identify with set concepts; outwardly, it is vital that we have full access to accurate information. One encouraging development – one that distin- guishes the modern world from former times – is the wider dissemination of news and information. Because governments are run by human beings, they inevitably err. But when they try to limit information about these errors, they engage in a form of mind control. In such cases, it is inevitable that misunderstandings and conflicts arise. In the old days, the world operated more region- ally. This applied to religion as well. The various faiths, like Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, and Hinduism, arose because of regional differences. In the areas where they prevailed, these religions were considered absolute, and the populace was raised in accordance with these absolute teachings. Although Buddhism is regarded as a comparatively tolerant religion, it too was limited in many ways by the cultures in which it developed. Now, however, it has become possible to liber- ate religion from limits imposed by regionalism, owing to the greater availability of information and knowledge. How can zazen enable one to discern what is correct information? Zazen helps us to free ourselves from notions of profit and loss. If the information we have is accurate, we are able to use it objectively, and not with an eye to our own profit. That is the value of zazen. So zazen is a way to remove filters and screens. Yes. As I said earlier, the notions of a self, being, life, and soul are not things that we are born with. They develop later as the result of external influ- ences. The Buddha is not asking us to acquire something we never had. He is simply telling us to return to that which we originally were, before our original nature was covered over. Our social filters are things that develop as we grow up, as devices to help us live and operate within the norms of the culture we are raised in. There is another aspect of zazen that I think about: the element of alignment, of everything being in its proper place. When you talk about alignment in zazen, I think you mean alignment in things, such as doors or cups, and also with people – how we align ourselves. Precisely. This sense of alignment deepens through the practice of zazen, which develops our ability to focus. With focus comes an awareness of what in our surroundings is in its proper place and what is not. Ordinarily, people’s minds are full of distracting thoughts and images. As this internal noise gradually dissipates through zazen, a clarity develops that enables us to recognize immediately the “center” of whatever it is we see. For example, when we look at a room, we are naturally aware of its balance point and of how the various objects in the room should relate to it. RolAndScHmid