Welcome to the first edition of Boundless the Salt Lake Buddhist Fellowship Newsletter. We would love to hear from you and if you have something that you want to share please forward it to me.
Here you will find suggestions for practice, sangha news, insights from sangha participants and hopefully support in your practice. As the Buddha said, our spiritual friendships are the whole of the way.
In our first edition we will have the opportunity to hear from Jenn Munson and her path that led to our Sangha. We also get to hear from Elesha Morris who will present us with a beautiful guided meditation.
In addition to our Sangha members, there is a teaching from Koyo Kubose and an amazing spoken word video from a Tibetan Master, Jamgon Mipham Rinpoche.
Enjoy and Gassho,
Salt Lake City July 2016
HAIKU AS SPIRITUAL PRACTICE
I would like to talk about Kobayashi Issa and Haiku, well technically senryu as practice. Haiku’s focus is usually nature and senryu is like haiku but the focus is primarily on human nature and emotion. For today, when I say haiku I mean both haiku and senryu. So who is this Issa fellow? He’s by far one of my favorite poets of all times. He was a Pure Land priest and poet and is considered one of the four masters of haiku in all of japan. In his lifetime it is said that he wrote over 20,000 haiku! Issa lived a difficult life and knew loss and impermanence intimately, outliving three children and his wife. He is most known for this haiku written shortly after the death of his young daughter,
This dewdrop world —
Is a dewdrop world,
And yet, and yet .
And a less well known one.
Outliving them all,
Ah, the cold!
His poems strike at the heart of being human and the challenges of being “foolish and passionate beings” who live in the midst of samsara. And yet even in the midst of his suffering, Issa finds the promise of the Buddha way and Amida’s grace and faces his life directly, not with just sadness but with the wide range of human emotion. In the midst of Issa’s difficult life he was able to cultivate great compassion that he expressed toward the lowliest of creatures. His haiku exemplifies a respect for all life and that all life is moving toward awakening, he is a master of the mundane and the mythic. Here are a few examples.
Don’t worry, spiders,
I keep house
On the flower pot
Does the butterfly also hear
The Buddha’s Promise
They praise the Buddha too
Frogs on the rocks
In a row.
Swatting at a fly
And praising Amida
Climb Mount Fuji,
but slowly, slowly.
I love Issa’s frogs chanting the nembutsu! And the last haiku is one of my favorites. Here, even Issa realizes the irony of … “praising the Buddha at the same time condemning, one by one, the insects that rove over my table.”
There is a reason I bring up Issa, some years ago I was inspired by him and Basho to take up writing haiku. Initially I was fascinated by the powerful imagery and emotional impact of such a short poem, with three lines and a certain number of sound units. I wrote a few hundred, I posted them up on walls around salt lake city anonymously, some very large others small transparencies glued to random bricks on sides of buildings. It was fascinating to see people stop and read them and watch their reactions. As a form, my haiku were sometimes more fragments than really haiku. My mother-in-law calls them “littlies”. Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsburg called them American sentences since they broke a lot of the rules of traditional haiku but the “practice” was still there. At first I didn’t realize the practical cultivation of awareness that writing these poems offered. In time, I began to notice the practice of writing and thinking “in haiku” was shifting my attention, I began to see the profound in the simplest things. My mind slowed down, became more focused, more open. I began to see timelessness and meaning in everyday events, in a tiny green insect walking across the pages of the book I was reading, of a mother and child interacting, the intimacy of being in the present moment with my breath or quietly drinking a cup of tea. Here are a few examples of my practice. ( Warning for you syllable counters, these do not follow the traditional sound unit form.)
A kite leans
against a window
dark winter sea
a lone boat
a mother sings
her child’s eyes
heavy – heavier
thrown into the air
young child laughing
– now a mother
the old man flying
a kite his mother
calling him home
sleeves rolled up
he gives his son a bath-
a small child cries
called home by his mother-
litter of puppies
Reading and writing haiku can become a form of practice. The haiku becomes a manifestation of simple awareness, of the profound present. It helps us to recognize the flow of energy and the interdependence of all things, of being present with someone or something, that the world is created over and over again in every moment. This can happen because ideally the haiku is ego-less – no self, it can open a world where one forgets the separate self. In my experience because of the practice of haiku, I could more easily let go of the “storied self” with all its subplots and dead ends and become aware of the openness that is found in simple awareness. I like how Elizabeth Searle Lamb has explained haiku,
“haiku epitomizes a moment that occurs naturally in our lives, but that we often hurry or gloss over. Haiku awareness is a simple way to slow down and tune in to this fleeting moment, to appreciate what is right in front of us. For a fleeting moment we pause and note the sunlight on the sheets as we make the bed, note the warm sun on our cup as we sip tea or note the fading light on the curtain as we enter the room... And we let out a breath or sigh. Pausing.”
Thank you and
Namu Amida Butsu
Here is an amazingly beautiful video of Tibetan Buddhist culture and dance, set to a gentle trance groove, and the modern Buddhist teacher Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche reading one of his poems.
The Sakyong, Jamgon Mipham Rinpoche is one of the most respected lamas in Tibetan Buddhism. In addition to his role as teacher and spiritual guide, he is also a poet and artist. He is the son of the much-loved, but somewhat controversial Tibetan Buddhist teacher, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche.
His title “The Sakyong” means literally “Earth Protector,” and he is considered a spiritual king in the Shambhala tradition that emphasizes courage in the spiritual journey through earthly life.
Finding the Buddha Path
My journey to the fellowship
When I think about the path that has led me to the Salt Lake Buddhist Fellowship, my thoughts center around the Summer of 1987. I was 12 years old and desperately looking for answers. My journey (remember now, this was pre-internet) had led me to one of my favorite haunts, The Orem Public Library. I meticulously worked my way backward via the Dewey Decimal System, hopeful that I could find somewhere between the 500’s (Pure Science) and 100’s (Philosophy and Psychology) information that we help me understand just what was wrong with me and hopefully, how to fix it.
I’d suspected something was up since I was 4 and living with my wonderful family in a trailer park (BYU Family Housing) in Provo. I got busted organizing a mass trailer park wedding (my marriage minded cohorts and I “borrowed” neighbors flowers and used tablecloths and bedsheets for the wedding veils and dresses. Those pour souls, assigned to be grooms, bless their hearts, were on their own) where not only was I the officiant of said event, I was also a glowing bride. The problem was that the intended apple of my eye also happened to be of the blushing bride variety. For the life of me, I can’t remember her name, but she was blonde, green eyed and had a smattering of light freckles that were dusted across the bridge of her nose and wore a pink Granimal t-shirt with bold stripes.
I took my lovely groom home, pleased as punch that I’d managed in the space of an hour to joyfully bind all children under the age of 6 in happy matrimony, and announced to my family (my grandma was visiting) that my new love and I were married and were planning on having babies as soon as possible. That happy announcement went over like a lead life preserver. Nevermind what happened when I kissed her.
As I continued to peruse the library, I had to admit to myself, that I should have been a bit more circumspect. When I got to the 200’s (Religion) I got nervous and remember how my hands became cold and clammy. I already knew what was said about my worrisome condition and didn’t want to over visit the instructions that I couldn’t forget in Leviticus. I didn’t want to be an abomination, and wasn’t too keen on involuntarily slipping my mortal coil, so I skipped that section and tore into the 100’s, hoping against hope that I’d find answers in science.
As I look back on that time, I remember that there were other people (mostly men, young and old, and as scared as I was) lurking in the 100’s section where the librarians kept books on human sexuality. Perusing books that talked about sex was risky business. When anyone walked by, the 100’s club (as I thought of our little cabal) pretended to read something else or became scarce. I also understand now, that the few books that could be found were outdated and not accurate. The version of the DSM (Diagnostic Statistical Manual) that I was able to find was pre-1973, and categorically stated that people with my “problem” were mentally ill and morally deficient. I cried when I read that. Actually howling may have been the better adjective. I scared the 100’s club (I don’t blame them for scattering) and ended up getting a pretty stern lecture from a librarian for looking at “books about dirty perverts”.
Flash forward to 1994. I was in college and preparing with a great amount of zeal (and a fair bit of serious internal desperation) to serve a worthy and successful religious mission for the church I had been brought up in. I’d worked so hard through my teenage years to be as righteous as possible and ignore the base temptations that I had been assured came from none other than Satan. I’d played it safe and never engaged in any sort of sexual activity. No kisses, no hand holding, nothing. Nada. Zip. I was determined to prove that I wasn’t a horrible mistake, a cosmic whoopsie that would never amount to anything good and eternal. Sadly, try as I might, I couldn’t pray the “G-Word” away, no matter what did or how long I fasted or engaged in good works.
I nearly lost my life that year to a devastating depression, avoiding an overdose by the skin of my teeth. And the person who saved me, the friend whose deep compassion pulled me back from that brink, was a tall, Danish bespectacled “bad boy” (he had a leather jacket and motorcycle after all) from a small copper mining town in Nevada. He was a karate student and instructor and loved martial arts. As we talked, he told me about the Buddhist Shaolin Monks of China and how they’d influenced him. He talked about not being a slave to attachment and that it was important to be compassionate, not just to others, but also to one’s self. He assured me that I was fine, just the way I was, and that he didn’t care if I liked girls. I bawled with relief in my howler monkey sort of way when he told me that and he held me close and cried with me.
Flash forward to 2015. It was November and we were having a rousing dinner conversation. My bad boy, motorcycle friend was now my wonderful husband and our 20 year anniversary was approaching. While no marriage is perfect, and mixed orientation unions can be very, very challenging, my husband and I deeply loved and respected each other. We had two boys we adored, 15 and 17. During the summer, one of our beautiful children came out to us casually as we were doing dishes one Saturday afternoon. He was so confident when he told us, and assured us he knew we loved him no matter what. I was so proud of him and stood in awe of how calmly he went through this process of self-discovery.
One of our family traditions was going over the news and discussing it. It was my turn to pull up an article. It was from the Salt Lake Tribune. It was about Gays and their families and their standing (or lack thereof) in the faith I had been born into. I’ll not revisit the specifics of the announcement. After reading the article aloud, my voice giving out at the end, and tears blinding me, I managed to excuse myself from the table and make it to my room before once again, the howler monkey in me was unleashed. I was devastated and heartbroken. Gutted and forsaken. Thankfully, my husband and boys followed me, armed with hugs, kisses and a box of kleenex.
A few weeks later, my youngest son, announced that he’d like to investigate Buddhism. When my boys were growing up I took them to many different houses of faith and had many adventures (including accidentally crashing a double wedding at the Cathedral of the Madeleine) so this wasn’t an out of the blue sort of request. We did our research (thankfully we didn’t have to use the Dewey Decimal System anymore) and attended several temples. Time passed and we both found a great deal of solace in our basic understanding of this middle path.
The first time I attended the Salt Lake Buddhist Fellowship, I was met with warm hugs, sincere offers of friendship and complete acceptance. I’d been drawn to the fellowship because of the Fellowship’s theme, “Come as you are.” This compassionate invitation beckoned to me and soothed my still aching heart. As time has passed, the invitation to come as you are has been nothing short of transformative. In learning and then applying the principles of self-compassion, I’ve been able to let go of decades of self-hatred and accept, joyfully and wholeheartedly, that I’m not a mistake, that I have worth and that being gay is nothing to be upset about. Far from it!
In learning about the Oneness of Life, and accepting the great compassion of Amida Buddha, I am reclaiming my own life and in doing so, have found my purpose, and am devoted to doing what I can to alleviate the suffering of others, especially my young brothers and sisters who are facing the same struggles and fears that I went through as a teenager and young adult. Compassion has and does save lives and this message of self-acceptance needs to be shared in our community. I’m thankful for my dear Sangha friends and look forward to more learning, growth and discovery as a member of the Salt Lake Buddhist Fellowship.
I am currently in a Lay Ministry Program with the Bright Dawn Way of Oneness Sangha - Koyo Kubose is my teacher along with the other members of our Lay Ministry Program. The program was designed to preserve the teachings of Gyomay Kubose and Koyo Kubose. The unique perspective they bring is the focus of the everyday and ordinariness of Buddhist practice. Here is how Gyomay Sensei puts it.
“This Buddhism can be explained in simple, everyday language and practiced in every aspect of our daily life. Yet, it is a unique Buddhist life-way, non-dichotomized and non-dualistic, that will bring about a peaceful, meaningful, creative life, both individually and collectively.” Gyomay Kubose
For a long time I have been thinking and teaching about the idea of Radical OKness. We have had a few good discussions regarding it in Sangha and it was wonderful to find this similar teaching by my teacher Koyo Sensei. - Enjoy
Here is a lovely guided meditation by Elesha. In today’s busy and stressful life guided meditations are a way to return to the present moment and can be a helpful tool for those who have a challenge doing silent form meditation. Find a quiet place and enjoy.
Come join us.
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