Let me begin this edition with a wonderful announcement. We will start meeting in-person, in the temple hondo, on June, 10, 2020. The discussion will begin at 6:00 PM in the Hondo, the kuri does not have sufficient space for social distancing, followed by the meditation service. We will finish the service by 8:00 PM. We will not have potluck dinner until further down the road. Now for the details.
Governor Cuomo announced Saturday (6/6/20) that temples, mosques, and churches, may reopen during Phase II, with certain guidelines. Columbia County NY is in Phase II. The guidelines are simple: 1) The number of people attending may not exceed 25% of the buildings capacity, 2) social distance must be maintained [two meter intervals], 3) entrance and exit must be done in an orderly fashion that does not pose a threat, 4) cleaning and disinfection protocols are met.
Since our sanctuary is 100-person capacity by code we can accommodate 25 people. The distances have been measured and we can maintain social distance effectively. We have worked out the protocol for entrance and exit with an usher, we will even use a forehead thermometer. We will expect everyone to wear a mask except when they are seated, and no one may move a zafu, seiza bench, zabuton, stool or chair from its assigned location. If people wish to add additional zafu or zabuton they must let us know beforehand. The disinfecting and cleaning protocols are already in place.
Several additional points, 1) people should try to arrive a bit early because it will take longer to enter, 2) no one will be admitted after 6:15 PM, 3) no one without a mask will be admitted, 4) we suggest people use the restroom before the discussion, we have a procedure for entering and exiting the kuri (house).
In order to accommodate people who have been joining us away from the local area on Wednesday nights via Zoom, we will be putting into place a means to continue Zooming the discussion and service, though without the PowerPoint accompaniment. People can download the daily service from the web site. We hope to have this in place by Wednesday June 10th, though, we are still working out the technical issues and may not have the required equipment until a little later. Essentially, we must extend internet Wi-Fi to the hondo.
It would be good if people let us know if they are interested in the ‘Zoom Discussion and Service’. If there does not seem to be an interest, we won’t bother. If people are interested only in the discussion, we could make that available on YouTube or some other platform if streaming is not necessary. A separate notice will be sent to this email list if and when we use Zoom.
Tendai Buddhism is especially reliant on ‘direct transmission’ of the dharma. Using Zoom has been a real advantage to us recently, something that was not available not so long ago. However, it is not the same as sitting in the same room and sharing our conversations, teachings, and worship. It will seem a little stilted as we resume our in-person Wednesday evenings. We will adapt, and then in several months we will be back to normal.
I will tell you now, do not be surprised if we must, suspend normal again one or more times in the next year or so. We now have a better handle on how to do it and we will be assured that it will last for a finite time.
The first discussion when we assemble in person will be on, “Anger: it uses, abuses, and Upaya in Buddhism”. During this pandemic, the politicization of disease and behaviors, and the Anti-black racism now acknowledged and reacted to, we have gone through many cycles of anger. What does it mean in a Buddhist context?
It will be such a relief to feel the 気 (Ki) of people. The Japanese Ki is energy, spirit, life force, mood, intention, spark, value, mind, a wonderfully imprecise, yet adaptive term. Be aware it is related to but, slightly different in definition and usage from the Chinese Qi, though the traditional characters are the same. It describes what we sense when we are with someone or a group. We definitely know when we together. There is a blending of Ki that we do not experience when separated. We have turned a corner in our lives.
The generic police motto that originated in Los Angeles is, ‘To Protect and Serve.’ However starting in the 1970’s Police have militarized and see themselves as warriors rather than guardians. They have been given military equipment, uniforms, tactics, and mindset. In Rise of the Warrior Cop, (PublicAffairs; Reprint edition, 2014) Radely Balko “. . . shows how politicians’ ill-considered policies and relentless declarations of war against vague enemies like crime, drugs, and terror have blurred the distinction between cop and soldier. He shows how over a generation, a creeping battlefield mentality has isolated and alienated American police officers and put them on a collision course with the values of a free society.”
It made me tear up to see rows of military dressed police/military standing with assault weapons on every other step on the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. How are we supposed to respond when we see military vehicles driving down our streets in cities across America? It recalls Soviet tanks brought in to suppress the Hungarian revolt in 1956, the tanks in front of Tiananmen Square, China, in 1989 and camouflaged Humvees sprinting down a street in Bagdad, Iraq. The line between African American men being extrajudicially executed and urban skirmishes in a foreign warzone is pretty thin.
This is not to paint all police with the same brush. I have witnessed many acts of compassion and genuine concern for the rights of all people, regardless of color and ethnicity in the last week, and I know a number of police officers who are disgusted by the actions of the police criminals.
In the end the police represent society at large, there are racist and anti-racists, concerned, compassionate people and inconsiderate, malevolent poor excuses of people, kind and gentle persons and rough, intolerant, and thuggish jerks, in uniform and out. The chief difference between a police person and the average Jill on the street is that one has a badge and the other does not. That badge is supposed to symbolize greater responsibility. It is intended to grant the person increased liberties to use force when required. Instead, for some, it has come to denote unlimited license to kill and terrorize their fellow Americans.
It has been too long coming, but, now is the time we must find a way to eliminate the warrior cop, the racist cop, the criminal cop, with the guardian police officer, who takes seriously an oath to ‘protect and serve’. We can not abolish the police per se, but we can require a paradigm shift in the minds and behaviors of those who wear a badge.
We cannot become complacent and ignore the pleas of the marginalized, oppressed, and disenfranchised, we cannot let future generations down, we cannot settle for less. Now is the time.
As I write this Quarantine Edition of Jushoku’s Journal I realize how much it has helped me cope with the extraordinary times we have been living through since the middle of March. I have received negatively critical responses to what I have written (I was overreacting and being influenced by fake press) as well as people thanking me for my words of encouragement and solace. Though the reins of isolation are being loosened slowly, I will continue with these missives for now.
As Rev. Bud Heckman reminded me recently, “Remember humans are emotional first and only rational second. We are not thinking machines that feel, we are feeling machines that think. We have to connect with others emotionally first rather than just rationally addressing horrible narratives as nonfactual, etc.”
In Buddhism we recognize that emotions are fleeting. Emotions are like incense, fragrant and ephemeral; the smoke arising in the incensor, to disperse into the ether. But the smoke of incense is very real when we see and smell it and it leaves a trace long after the smoke is gone.
When looking to our religions, whether, Buddhist, Christian, Daoist, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, or Zoroastrian, we must have faith in the canonical works, understand, to the degree we are capable, the philosophy, but most of all hold the core teachings in our heart/mind/spirit in a way that leads us to treat all sentient beings with respect and loving kindness.
Our traditions teach that everyone should be treated as a sister or brother. There are some who need assistance. There are a very few who need correction. There is no one who is not deserving of our consideration.
Here are some of the lessons that have been reinforced in the last few months. Delusion is a constant companion. Leading with the head contributes to arrogance. Leading with the heart is not a fault. It is better to be compassionate and disappointed than to be indifferent and unfeeling.
You are loved and blessed just as you are.
Love and gassho . . . Monshin