This past Sunday we received a visit from our Buddhist sponsors, usually Shirley and Danny, founding members, come together but now Danny is sick and staying home for a while. Venerable Xian Zhong has been coming with Shirley lately. So they come and bring us books, malas, incense. They have been doing it for many years. Many of us are like children in a way and come to the service to get some beads, colorful papers with Tibetan writing, fragrant incense. There was a time when this used to bother me, ‘how dare they’ I used to think, but now I see it differently. Perhaps while they are with us they may hear something that makes an impression in their minds, have some influence and help them suffer a little less. There is lot sadness within these walls, a lot of pain but you don’t see it much because it is covered with many layers of anger, hatred, violence; you know, hardcore maximum security lever IV shit- means ass masks, and it is true, it is dangerous in here.
Some visitors have told me that they can feel the bad vibrations before entering the prison grounds. I don’t know about that, I have been here for 23 years and all this is just normal to me. To this rarified environment our Buddhist sponsors come, they are calm, soft spoken, so full of love and kindness. They are a Chinese couple in their fifties, they are fragile and light but you can sense their inner strength. A will strong enough to bring them to dangerous places with the only purpose of teaching us how to suffer less, to show us the path that leads to the end of pain. We truly don’t deserve their kindness. We have done harm, taken life, steal, cheat, and abuse, hurt people. All of us at one point let greed, hatred and ignorance be the predominant forces in our life. But yet here they come, every month, year after year so full of love- they truly care for us. I consider them as family. I have had the fortune of receiving their kindness for more than 14 years.
I think they are retired now and dedicate most of their time to the building of their organization, ‘The international Bodhisattva Sangha’. I don’t know how they did it and I can only imagine that it took a lot of work, time, effort and dedication to reach a true milestone in the structuring and betterment of their organization. Since last year and surely thanks to the support of many kind, and compassionate people, Danny and Shirley were able to bring a monastic from Taiwan to aid in their tireless work. Venerable Xian Zhong is a young Indian monk whose knowledge, deportment and maturity are well beyond his years. It is a joy to listen to his Dharma talks, meditation instructions, and the stories of his training in the monasteries of Nepal and Taiwan. So much wisdom accumulated in so few years, but then again who knows how many life times he has dedicated to the cultivation of the path. He has impeccable deportment, a peaceful smile, kind eyes, the humbleness of his way has motivated me to make the vow that I too would want to be a renouncing in a future life. I want to go where he is going, to the end of suffering, the peace and clarity of Nirvana.
I have many flaws: ill will, destructive desires, and selfishness are often in the forefront of my untrained mind and are the motivation for my actions. But not as much as before, now I consciously try not to do harm, try to let go of pride, personal interests. I wish I could be kinder, more compassionate, have more patience, and be more tolerant. But I feel that these traits should come spontaneously and not be the product of a mind wishing to make merits to improve its own karma, in order to ‘gain’ something. I don’t feel it is right to smile when I don’t feel as smiling, or patiently listen to the non-sense of some deluded dude that thinks himself enlightened. I can not muster the bravery to forgive if someone offends me, disrespect me. Although I intellectually know that the self does not exist in the way I think it does, this knowledge does not stop me from giving raise to anger and resentment. Perhaps I am less likely to act upon it, return the hurt, demand respect. Still, my mind creates images of revenge, where the offending part is taken care of, and sadly sometimes these images become reality. But I am a little more sedated now, older, more aware of my flaws and wish to correct them.
Thanks to these wonderful people many of us are aware and wish to amend our defects, overcome our shortcomings. Thanks to these wonderful people many of us have realized that there is a better life to be lived. Thanks to them now I know that the nebulous notion of a life free from suffering actually exists, and it can be reached, and for that I am grateful beyond words.
Anyway dear Prima, all these lines were just a tangent from what I set out to write you about: In his Dharma talk, last Sunday, Venerable Xian Zhong brought up the subject of Haiti, the tragedy that is happening there now. He said that we should not think of ourselves as separate. He asked us to imagine ourselves having dinner with our family and then, in the blink of an eye all our family is gone, everyone dead. He asked us to skip a couple of meals and see how hunger feels like, how thirst feels like. These is no separation between us an them. Their suffering is our suffering, we are all alike, having the same feelings and we all wish to be happy. He asked us to direct our Metta-Karuna meditation to them, wishing deeply for their well being, for the ceasing of their pain, touching them gently, may you be well my brother, may your suffering be over soon. While I listened to these words I realize something that is difficult to put in to words, I realized that somehow us and them are arbitrary words that not describe reality the way it is, that somehow their suffering is my suffering, their tears were mine, mine is their pain, that there is sort of a common sentiency among all of us. That in a mysterious way I will not ever be at peace, that I can not truly be happy as long as there is one that suffers.
I don’t know if this makes sense, but at that moment it felt very clear and reasonable. As when one understand a rule of algebra or something and goes, “Ha, that’s it!” it made an impression strong enough to cause me to write this letter. From all people, perhaps you may understand.
May you be well dear Prima, may you be happy.