In the last Jushoku’s Journal I wrote about how things may be different as we resume a ‘new abnormal’. There are a number of interesting articles that I can cite that discusses such things as paying closer attention to the environment, changes to colleges and universities, and the airline industry. There is no doubt that there will be some major changes, and many of us conceived that we have an opportunity to ‘reboot’ many social, political, economic. environmental institutions and perspectives.

This will require close attention to the issues of concern. Crises provide an opportunity to make significant changes to society. It requires not only social will, but political will. Political will requires leaders who are ready to undertake the difficult tasks of reorienting social structure. These leaders are spurred on by crises that inspire popular support.

The crises of the industrial North at odds with the agricultural South was a contributing factor to the emancipation of slaves by Abraham Lincoln and a turning point in American history. Upton Sinclair’s muck raking journalism led to Pure Food and Drug Act and the Meat Inspection Act, we take this for granted now but that this was monumental in the early 20th century. The depression and Franklin Roosevelt, led to not only Social Security, but the Tennessee Valley Authority which electrified large swaths of America. Women’s suffrage, the American civil rights movement, Medicare, the environmental protection agency, and many more issues required there to be a crisis of faith, as well as a effective leader to make these changes.

There will be a tendency once the pandemic poses less of an immediate threat to want to return to a state of normalcy. We don’t know when that will be, we don’t know what the new abnormal will look like, but we cannot waste this opportunity to rectify the structural impediments to a Green New Deal, universal healthcare (healthcare as human rights), a more equal socioeconomic system, a true realization of civil rights for people of color, women, immigrants, indigenous people, and gender. Some would argue that this is a progressive sociopolitical agenda. I suggest that this is an inspired Buddhist agenda. We must remember that all of the preceding structural impediments are interrelated, if we solve one or more of the preceding structural impediments they have a ripple effect on all the others.

You may recall, during the Wednesday evening discussion at the beginning of this month I spoke about how Buddhism had grown, philosophically and geographically during a period of crisis and turmoil in Asia from around 100 BCE to 200 CE. From my perspective we are in the second inning of a nine-inning pandemic. The isolation has provided us an opportunity for introspection and reflection. It has become obvious that changes in political leadership are afoot. Let us use this time to design a future after the crisis that represents the best of what we have to offer. We may not have another opportunity in our lifetimes to seize a social reset and realized truly transformative changes to the structure of our society. Rather than taking a sigh of relief when we are back to semi normal let us push forward with zeal and vision, like the early Mahayana Buddhists in the early first millennia.

We should look at this not as a destruction of the old and a restructuring of the new, but a wiping away of the abuses of the past and a new start at the beginning of a new millennia.

Thoughts While Cleaning the Hondo

Explanation: The hon-dō is the main building of a Buddhist temple.

When I clean the hondo I am wiping away my defilements. With a cloth I clean away the trail of harm I leave behind by negative actions. Wipe – vow not to leave behind a trail of damaging thoughts and actions – wipe again see the purity of a new start. Let go of egoistic thoughts, of the duality – me and other. There is only the sacred of this moment in this place, wiping away impurities.

Cluster flies are all over the floor, on windowsills, the dais of the Buddhist image, and the altar at which I sit. Their fragile corpses, the delicacy of the wings, the complexity of their eyes, their birth and death unrecorded. They live to feed other creatures and to be a part of an intricate cosmos. Sweeping them into the pan I see their small bodies, living a short time, how fleeting. The transiency of a human life compared to that of the fly is insignificant compared to the life of a star.

Each time I pass in front of Yakushi Nyorai I stop gassho and bow.  In reverence to the Medicine Buddha, surrounded by Kannon Bosatsu, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, and Bishamon-ten, Guardian of the North. I stop gassho and bow in recognition that we must protect the vulnerable among us, that healing begins by our virtuous intentions that transform into acts of compassion.

Cleaning the hondo is the contemplation that prepares me for all other sacred practices. It is the meditation that is neither sitting nor walking, the meditation to the four-cardinal points, the four-ordinal points, up and down. It is an act of humility, an act of gratitude and a creation of harmony. The mundane and the sacred in each moment indistinguishable.

Love and Gassho … Monshin