Friday, September 9, 2016

How May I Help?

Sometimes we want to help others.
When we give assistance to others it comes in different ways. It may be quiet, relying upon the attentiveness of the other, or it may be directly spoken. Sometimes they appreciate our assistance; sometimes others just want to struggle on their own without assistance. The help of others isn't always wanted.
How then may we help? Zen teacher Joko Beck has written about compassion, "[so compassion ] if we're truly listening with compassion to another person, we may not feel much of anything; we simply listen and act appropriately... compassion is not itself an emotion."

 And there is a Zen story to illustrate another way of help to others:

A Zen master enters the prayer hall with a bowl, ready for the meal being served; he comes much too early. So the cook stops him in the kitchen and says they have not rung the bell yet. The Zen master returns to his room and waits. Meanwhile the cook can't resist! He approaches the abbot, tells him of the master's folly, with glee. The abbot listens, then shrugs replying that the master can become befuddled sometimes!
Soon the Zen master returns to the hall to eat. He hears of the abbot's remarks and is displeased.  Later he speaks to the abbot in private. He inquires of  him if he be disapproving.  At that, the abbot leans forward to the Zen master and whispers into his ear. Immediately the Zen master is relieved of his concern.
Later the Zen master gives a dharma talk. It is thought very good. The abbot profusely compliments the Zen master afterward.

Yet for those listening, the question remained: what was whispered into the Zen master's ear by the abbot? Or from another perspective: what was the role of the abbot in the situation? Did he help the Zen master?

Friday, August 26, 2016

Nothing Special: Justice

"An appropriate and compassionate response does not come from the fight for justice..."  --Charlotte Joko Beck

Joko Beck in her book, Nothing Special, Living Zen, observes "When someone insists, 'I am never angry,' I am incredulous. Since anger, and its subsets, depression, anxiety, resentment, jealousy, gossip and backbiting and so on-- dominate our lives, we need to investigate the whole problem of anger with care... For the psychologically mature person, the ills and injustices of life are handled by counter-aggression, in which one makes an effort to eliminate the injustice and create justice. Often such efforts are dictatorial, full of anger and self-righteousness. In spiritual maturity, the opposite of injustice is not justice, but compassion... All anger is based upon judgements..."

The best answer to injustice is compassion, or love.  Joko Beck writes, "An appropriate and compassionate response does not come from the fight for justice, but from that radical dimension of practice that "passes all understanding," love. As the Christ taught, "love your enemies," and Gandhi and Blessed Mother Teresea of Calcutta both knew, injustice is highlighted and resolved by means of love, of peaceful protest. It's not easy. We must go through the darkness, the pain and grief before coming to the lightness that will ultimately be our guide, and our justice.

"Let us not adopt some facile, narrowly psychological view of our lives. The radical dimension that I speak of demands everything that we are and have. Joy, not happiness, is its fruit."