Even in the dead of
a dark dreary winter
Life teems in
the garden of my heart
Bright yellow Winter Aconite
blooms off branches
dusted in snow
Blue sky mixes with
rain clouds, fog, and
a sun low in the sky
Light reflects within
the shadows of
A tender, timid love
warms the cold
A mysterious enlightening
shows me the way home
let birds sing me
let the sun shine me
let mud mud me
let leaves rustle me
let cedars perfume me
let vistas amaze me
let a broad grassy path
open me wide
let gentle breezes
caress my face and arms
let footsteps touch shadows
let clouds carry
The bead at the center
There are no edges to
my loving now.
I’ve heard it said, there’s a window
that opens from one mind to another.
But if there’s no wall, there’s no need
for fitting the window, or the latch.
Last night, a dream
our spaceship crashes
They say everyone, everything was
But the woman ship captain
me and others
and some precious things–broken, everyday items in
a flat open box
I wish I could remember
The captain was calm, self-assured,
not afraid…of the truth
something was not quite right
I wish I could remember
a soulmate of the Buddha
What are the Buddhas’
dreams for me?
Do I have enough
confidence and courage
to act sufficiently?
To carry them out?
Just to go forward?
As best I can?
With actions that remember the heart?
What precious thing
am I carrying?
What is good enough?
In Mahayana schools of Buddhism, a bodhisattva is a person who practices not only for their own transformation, but also to help relieve the suffering of all beings. Reciting the Bodhisattva Vows of Mahayana Zen Buddhism can help practitioners water their aspiration to cultivate a mind of love and continue their practice—even through difficulties. The following is Thay’s translation of the Bodhisattva Vows, reflecting the essence of Plum Village teachings:
The awakened way is unsurpassable; I vow to embody it.
However innumerable beings are, I vow to meet them with kindness and interest.
However inexhaustible the states of suffering are, I vow to touch them with patience and love.
However immeasurable the Dharmas are, I vow to explore them deeply.
However incomparable the mystery of interbeing, I vow to surrender to it freely.
The Therigatha are poems of the first Buddhist women, ordained women who were called “senior ones” due to their spiritual achievements and ability to help others with their suffering. Many of these women came to the Buddha grieving the loss of their husbands, parents or family members. And many of them came to the Buddha suffering from what some claim to be the most intimate and heart-wrenching grief of all, grief over the loss of their child or children. The Buddha, with kindness and compassion, pointed them in the direction of healing.
The following is such a poem. Ubbiri’s poem offers encouragement to all of us, that we can transform even the most intimate, intense suffering.
spoken by the Buddha to her
Mother, you cry in the forest, “O Jiva,”
get hold of yourself, Ubbiri.
Eighty-four thousand daughters, all with that same name,
the ones that said they were “Life,”
all have been burnt in this cremation ground,
so which one of them are you grieving for?
Spoken by Ubbiri
He pulled out the arrow that was hard for me to see,
the one that I nourished in my heart,
he expelled the grief for a daughter,
the grief that had overwhelmed me.
Today the arrow is pulled out,
I am without hunger, completely free.
I go to the Buddha his dhamma, and his sangha for refuge,
I go to the Sage for refuge.
In the Plum Village tradition, we recite the Five Contemplations before we begin eating. On retreat or with friends, we practice eating joyfully together in silence for a period of time. This way we are present for the food, our friends, and the wonders of Mother Earth, without being carried away from the present moment by conversation.
At home, part of my morning routine is to recite my own version of the Five Contemplations before I eat. This particular version began germinating from an insight I experienced while on retreat in the winter of early 2017. As I ate, I viscerally felt the many forms of suffering experienced by each grain of oatmeal, each piece of bread, each and every bit of food I ate. During that retreat I vowed to act with more kindness and less violence in my thoughts, words and actions. I’m still working on that 😉 Over the next nine months of practicing with the Five Contemplations, I changed or added phrases to remind me of my aspiration. It keeps my practice fresh and alive. Here is my current version:
This food is a gift of the earth, the sky, numerous living beings, and much hard and loving work.
May I eat with mindfulness and gratitude so that I can see clearly into the suffering and sacrifice that brings this food to my plate today.
Taking care of my hungry ghosts*, I vow to recognize and transform harmful habit energies**, cultivate courage & well-being, and practice eating with moderation.
May I keep compassion alive by consuming in such a way that reduces the suffering of living beings, stops contributing to climate change, and heals and renews this precious planet.
I accept this food so that I may deepen spiritual friendships, build our Beloved Community, and nourish my aspiration of serving all beings.
*hungry ghosts have narrow throats and big stomachs, are always hungry and never satisfied
*whatever is alive right now, like craving, worry, fear, pride, agitation, etc.