Sunday, April 28, 2019

A Buddhist At A Catholic Confirmation.



My son did Confirmation yesterday. He's 13. His Abuela was his sponsor, holding his shoulder throughout much of the 2 hour ceremony. I had a lot of thoughts and feelings during the ceremony. I kept saying "beautiful" to myself.

Background: His mother is Catholic and I'm a Buddhist. Since I found Buddhism I have decreased my sarcastic atheist humanist comments, and really appreciated other traditions. Since I love spirituality, I was all for my sons having a religious education. We had a Buddhist naming ceremony when he was an infant.

My older son declined to be confirmed, though he was baptized and did communion. I try to engage him about science, and spirituality and humanism, but it's still a bit over his head. I tried to imagine what his secular humanist rituals would be? Going to a movie? Watching the Super Bowl? He's not into sports. He's more into superhero movies and video games.

First off, I'm always jealous of the building. What a beautiful building with amazing visual reminders of spirituality. Churches are truly holy places, no matter what shenanigans humans do there. As a Buddhist in America I go from schlumpy rented rooms to people's houses. There's no money in Buddhism the way it seems you can get rich in Christianity.

My son's sponsor (and indeed her daughters) exemplifies the spiritual kindness I aspire to, and when the father discussed light as a metaphor for spiritual guidance, I really saw her as a wonderful guide and example. Beautiful.

I was flooded with memories of boredom in church in the summers I spent with my grandparents. I loved my grandparents so much and I miss them every day. At the time, I was kind of resistant to Christianity. My parents are atheist and non-religious. My mother refused my offer of a Buddhist statue in her garden. My father has a Buddha in his backyard.

I thought about that lovely book Priestdaddy. A young poet's father got a dispensation to keep his wife and family when he got the calling to God. I remember he liked to play guitar in his room in his underwear. The writer is a gifted poet.

The incense was cool (smell), I like trying to reach all the senses during ritual, and I want more ritual. The bass in the organ made the ground tremble (touch). Of course sight it the dominant sense with the colored windows. I did not take communion, but taste is engaged there. And of course music was lovely (sound). They put oil on my son's head (touch). There are more than 22 senses, but those are the 5 major ones.

I thought about the doctrine of the clean slate. With confession you wipe the slate clean, are forgiven. That could be a huge weight off your shoulder. It's not true that you are necessarily forgiven by any victims and the consequences of your actions still go on and on. I could see how that might be an interesting spiritual gambit.

My higher power is the dharma, the example of the Buddhas and the spiritual community. But if you want to call the great unknowns "God", then that isn't horrible. We know so little. We are so puny. I think spirituality is standing up in the face of that awe and articulating our hopes of a higher evolution.

I'm watching Farscape and I love when Zaan prays to the goddess, she is female. I switch to female pronouns when I do reading at AA.

I find that Christianity keeps plugging away at God in a really tedious way, but I also like rituals so I was torn. There are worse things you could do.

I was helped by AA in the idea of trying to keep the focus on me, and not do everyone else's inventory. It's so easy to slip into judgmentalism, for me anyway. My son yawned, and then put up his hand sending the positive energy to his brother, and I joked with him that he was sending his yawn. My ex-wife doesn't like talk and gave me the hairy eyeball. I kept thinking about Rowan Atkinson saying, "the holy spigot", and Monty Python skits. There's a certain amount of humor for those who don't take life seriously. I'm not one who always feels the unbearable lightness of being, but my ex certainly is on the other end of the spectrum. Everything seems serious and sacred to her, people joke too much.

On the other side of that is that when I was a cross country runner in high school, we noted that those who believe in God ran faster than those who didn't. It was an informal anecdotal gathering of data, but I think there is some comfort in engaging in a spiritual tradition. My son is a soccer player, and he's really hung in there and really improved. He is a light to me.

I also liked all the family around. It is a ritual of coming of age for my son and celebrate my son's growing up and development with family. I liked the community, when everyone turns around and shakes everyone's hand. Seeing the pride in the eyes of family was heartening.

I didn't like the idea that a nun praying made the day a good weather day. I'm not Christian but I don't think God is a Santa Claus god that grants certain people their wishes. There is a lot of hooey that ropes one in, but I think that is to be avoided by me. Spiritual materialism isn't easy to avoid, and to be honest the biggest religion in America is consumerism. Is it a losing battle for me to try and read all of Shakespeare's plays? I want to collect the whole set, it launches a desire to see expensive plays that I cannot afford (Glenda Jackson is doing Lear on Broadway right now).

What I do like is the Saint Francis prayer. Except for the plugs for the Christian dogma, it essentially captures the spiritual kindness I admire (Bodhisattva):

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me bring love.
Where there is offense, let me bring pardon.
Where there is discord, let me bring union.
Where there is error, let me bring truth.
Where there is doubt, let me bring faith.
Where there is despair, let me bring hope.
Where there is darkness, let me bring your light.
Where there is sadness, let me bring joy.
O Master, let me not seek as much
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love,
for it is in giving that one receives,
it is in self-forgetting that one finds,
it is in pardoning that one is pardoned,
it is in dying that one is raised to eternal life.

My son chose his confirmation name to be Francis of Assisi. (His Buddhist name is Shantikara), and he read the prayer to the family back in his sponsor's place.

When people pray they need to reconcile their wishes with the reality, not hope Santa Claus will bring them a present because they are worshiping the strongest god. That was a quote I loved from Wild. She realized she was praying for God to change things instead of the grace and mindfulness to cope with the reality. 

Friday, April 19, 2019

The Study of Suffering



I'm reading The Book Thief and I add it to the books about Germany during WW2, and the holocaust. There are so many books about this time and this particular brand of suffering. It makes you want to eat, the food shortages. It is a journey in to European culture and Jewish culture. Now I alternate between Israeli and Palestinian novels. This is a hot spot of conflict in the world.

But you can also read memoirs of ordinary abuse, or the abuse like a woman being educated and shot for it. It's hard to imagine the ban on education, I think education is so important, but the death instinct has forces

I'm also reading about the Irish potato famine. I'm one thirty second Irish (Great Grandfather) and perhaps more, who knows in the slush of American heritage. A northern european mutt, adding in Ecuadorian heritage to my sons and some Cherokee for my daughter. The smoosh of genetics.

I was particularly offended by a father giving away Katherine in Taming of the Shrew and someone recommended I read "Traffic in Women" by Gayle Rubin. The article helps to explain how women were given away by men, from an anthropologist viewpoint.

Despite one black woman conservative saying there is no racism in America, I read extensively of the African-American literature. I worked with a man who talked about getting paid less than his white co-worker. I apologized to him for my race. In social work school I learned that to deny racism was perhaps the racist thing in the world. To deny the existence of others suffering is a common strategy. The horrified anxiety of seeing others suffering causes us to turn our gaze and deny it. That didn't happen.

It's much easier to blame the victims of systematic violence, racism, sexism, classism. Since this happened to you, then you must have somehow asked for it. If you are poor in America you must be doing something wrong. You have a challenging school? Raise above. People do raise above and get out, you can do the same.

Forget reading, look at the homeless person you next see. I worked as a social worker for many years and saw suffering up close. I'll forever be unable to unsee what I saw, though I have blocked and forgotten quite a lot of it. People are suffering. Turn on the TV and watch the wars around the world. A lot of suffering you see is through a book or the TV but you also see it in real life. Perhaps you are stuck in an Emergency waiting room, or you drive past a car accident. You can't avoid suffering, experiencing it yourself or seeing it in others.

While religions can cause suffering, they are also one of the few institutions that suggest to not avert your gaze, to reflect on it. Can you keep your gaze on suffering when you see it? Do you notice the efforts to push it away, the horrified anxiety we feel.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Buddhist Prayer of Forgiveness

Buddhist Prayer of Forgiveness
If I have harmed anyone in any way, either knowingly or unknowingly through my own confusions, I ask their forgiveness. If any one has harmed me in any way, either knowingly or unknowingly through their own confusions, I forgive them. And if there is a situation I am not yet ready to forgive, I forgive myself for that. For all the ways that I harm myself, negate, doubt, belittle myself, judge or be unkind to myself, through my own confusions, I forgive myself.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Hildegard von Bingen



I can't blog now about how wonderful this movie was, but I'd like to begin the post for my thoughts as they come to me. Turns out there are 4 other movies about her on Amazon Prime, and 3 of them are free. I watched one called Vision. It was subtitled. That led me to Hildegard, a 45 minute drama in English. Then I watched the one based on a one woman play, that was enhanced for the film.

Seeing so many different shows about her, they each had a different slant, but they all this various aspects of her raise to believing in her visions, and the help of her brother, the taking on of the authority and establishing her own monastery, and her intensity and challenges. She developed a relationship with a younger woman who had visions too, and once documentary noted that her disciple was more read for a while.

Then I read the Wikipedia entry on her: Hildegard von Bingen, "was a German Benedictine abbess, writer, composer, philosopher, Christian mystic, visionary, and polymath. She is considered to be the founder of scientific natural history in Germany."

"Hildegard was elected magistra by her fellow nuns in 1136; she founded the monasteries of Rupertsberg in 1150 and Eibingen in 1165. One of her works as a composer, the Ordo Virtutum, is an early example of liturgical drama and arguably the oldest surviving morality play. She wrote theological, botanical, and medicinal texts, as well as letters, liturgical songs, and poems, while supervising miniature illuminations in the Rupertsberg manuscript of her first work, Scivias. She is also noted for the invention of a constructed language known as Lingua Ignota."

Her spiritual intensity, calling out the venial leaders, and her music are amazing. Cut and paste her name into Spotify and listen to angelic music. She is amazing.

Saturday, April 06, 2019

Maha-parinibbana Sutta quote

"...the monk, nun, male lay follower, or female lay follower who keeps practicing the Dhamma in accordance with the Dhamma, who keeps practicing masterfully, who lives in accordance with the Dhamma: that is the person who worships, honors, respects, venerates, & pays homage to the Tathagata with the highest homage. "

Friday, April 05, 2019

The Lotus Sutra Translated by Burton Watson chapter 16 quote

"Because living beings have different natures, different desires, different actions, and different ways of thinking and making distinctions, and because I want to enable them to put down good roots, I employ a variety of causes and conditions, similes, parables, and phrases and preach different doctrines. This, the Buddha's work, I have never for a moment neglected." The Lotus Sutra
Translated by Burton Watson, chapter 16