Thursday, December 30, 2010

Peacocks and Prednisone

Today I finally discovered one good thing about the steroids I have to take for Wegener's. A couple days ago the temperatures here dropped into the teens. Jetsunma asked the sangha to collect blankets and warm clothing and bring them to homeless people living on the streets of D.C. Everyone leaped into action and a couple of our Dharma warriors handed out the items that night.

We plan on collecting and distributing more so I looked to see if I had anything to offer. Actually, I already knew what was there--several pieces of clothing that didn't fit anymore. A winter coat I love. Clothes I wore for winter hiking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and bicycling. Brand new socks that don't accommodate the edema in my legs. Prednisone has caused so much weight gain and numerous other problems that I won't be using any of those clothes, at least not for the foreseeable future.

I hesitated, but finally began pulling them out of the closet. Normally when I give away clothing or other items I feel nothing but joy. I don't usually feel the "pull" of my possessions. But this was truly painful. I've held on to these particular things out of hope. They represent the life I had, the health and freedom and choices I enjoyed. I don't know what-- if any-- is coming back, and even though I'm leaving the door open in my mind it's getting harder and harder to imagine being strong again.

As I sorted the clothes, I began a little ritual I do when donating clothing. I clean them and fold them nicely. I remember the joy they brought me. I picture how they will bring joy and comfort to the next person who wears them. I imagine how, at some point when they are wearing these clothes, they will wonder who they came from. I think of the invisible karmic thread that connects us through a shared garment, and how they could only be wearing "my" clothes if in a past life they had provided clothes for me. Then I bless the clothes. I pray that the wearer will have excellent shelter, food and health--all that they need to be happy. I pray that they will never know suffering again.

While all this was going on today--while I was feeling grief alongside joy and trying not to get lost in either-- it struck me that if it weren't for prednisone I wouldn't have anything to donate. All my clothes would fit. I wouldn't be able to do anything at all about homeless people freezing on the streets of D.C. tonight.

At least for today the prednisone was the source of some joy in the world. In swallowing those pills I became like a peacock-- a symbol of transformation in Tibetan Buddhism. Peacocks eat poisonous creatures like snakes and scorpions and it results in spectacular plumage. They literally transform poison into beauty.

With that in mind, I pray that every bit of this disease and every bit of prednisone I take, results in benefit to all beings.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Tear It Down

Americans have a habit of wanting to tear down structures and replace them. It can be an obsessive habit, really. It’s a frenetic desire to seek happiness from external sources, and if a structure is intact for awhile a kind of restless anxiety builds up. Some change is good of course, but often we want change just for the sake of change—a constant bright, shiny object to distract us from dealing with our own minds.

But before tearing something down, you have to consider what you’re going to replace it with. Would you tear down a hospital to build a strip joint?

There are some on Twitter who spend their days pontificating about how they want to tear down the "structure" known as Kunzang Palyul Choling (KPC), Palyul, all of Vajrayana in fact. They get very excited at the prospect of seeing this in their lifetimes, tweeting about it for days on end. They want destruction and they want it NOW. They need something to think about “out there,” because they lack the courage to think about their own mental poisons. So, they obsessively tweet about destroying the Dharma, Pure Lamas, Pure lineages, stupas, monks and nuns, temples, animal rescues, and anything else that exists in the world to benefit beings.

They want destruction but what do they propose as a replacement? They sure don’t like the idea of Bodhicitta. That word never falls from their lips. So far all they offer is hatred, gossip, slander, threats, divisiveness, harassment and unbelievably foul language,. They offer sticks of dynamite but nothing to fill the crater that would remain in the world if they had their way.

Completely absorbed in their obsession, they exist in an echo chamber of each others’ delusions of grandeur--as if they alone could destroy what Buddhas have created. As if anyone could destroy love and compassion.

Saturday, December 11, 2010