Monday, June 16, 2008


It was a joy to be back in our sangha yesterday, for the first time in what seems like many weeks. To sit in silence for an hour in a circle of others committed to the same practice is to experience a kind of bliss, a sense of spiritual community that is refreshing to the mind and soul in a way I have found impossible to find elsewhere. It was a treat to see those faces I have come to know so well and love, even though I know relatively little about most of my fellow-sitters outside our Sunday gathering. Our shared commitment to a path of inner search and the practice of goodwill and compassion in the external world creates, for me at least, a deep bond that I value more than I can say.

My own sit, yesterday, was one of extraordinary calm and ease. Most often, sitting for that length of time, my mind wanders off in countless different directions, remembering past events and planning for future ones, inventing its own fantasies and stories in the attempt to keep it distracted. It's usually a struggle, at some point during the hour--particularly, I find, towards the end--to maintain a quiet and focused attention on the breath. Yesterday, it all seemed to come naturally and effortlessly, and the hour flew past. Before I knew it, the bell sounded, and I found myself wondering if I had been asleep. But no. No one remarked about having heard me snore--as I have been known, embarrassingly, to do! And my head was clear. It was just one of those glorious sits that seem perfect in every way. A rare gift.

Our talk, in the hour following the sit, was about travel, about America viewed from other parts of the globe: about our values; about Las Vegas and the glittering promise of the pursuit of happiness perverted into the pursuit of material wealth; about the opulence of the tsars and the obscene salaries of hedge fund managers and corporate executives; about the nature of happiness itself in a world that gives so much to so few and so little to so many. Our talk was perhaps a little more chatty than the dharma talk and readings that occupy us on many other Sunday mornings, but was nonetheless enjoyable and mutually instructive for that.

In the afternoon, it being Father's Day, I sat with my friend Brian--a father, like myself--and smoked a Gloria Cubana cigar out on the back patio. I will confess to being something of a skeptic about these Hallmark card days, but I had great joy in hearing dutifully from each of my three (no longer!) children in the course of the day--from Matthew, visiting with his in-laws in Montpellier in the South of France; from Jason, in flooded Coralville, by Iowa City, which has been much in the news; and from Sarah, in Los Angeles...

And I pondered once more the grievous irony of Tim Russert's death, at the very moment of his son's graduation from college; and so shortly before Father's Day, for a man whose father meant everything to him, and a father whose love for his son, and pride in the way that son has grown to be a man, are deeply touching reminders to all of us of the true values in this life we share. I sent this letter to the NY Times:

There's a life lesson for all of us in the shocking suddenness of Tim Russert's death. One of the great hindrances in contemplating the end of our lives is the fear of not knowing the end of the story. What a sad irony, in this light, that Russert died without being allowed to know the end of the greatest story of his professional life--a story in which he was so passionately engaged. He must have been looking forward with enormous excitement to the party conventions, the campaign in the fall, and the night of the November presidential election. All this was snatched from him by the intrusion of an event so unanticipated that it shocked an entire nation. It's a sad reminder of the fragility of life and the unpredictability of its conclusion.

It will be little short of a miracle if it gets published, of course, but I thought it worth saying, anyway.

Have a great week!


robin andrea said...

Did you get to see Bill Moyer's journal Friday night? He interviewed Steve Fraser about the new Gilded Age in which we find ourselves. I highly recommend taking a look at it on the Journal website.

A very touching letter to the Times, Peter.

TaraDharma said...

yes, love the Times letter. I was at Tassajara when it all happened, no knew nothing until Sunday late afternoon. What a shock.

Ran into a friend of mine at T., who is a priest, and she has begun a new sanga in Santa Cruz. I'm tempted to try to is a challenge for me in so many ways, and yet I'd like to see where it takes me. BTW, she agreed to marry my love and I in August or Sept. Yipee!

TaraDharma said...


correction, I believe it should read "my love and me."

PeterAtLarge said...

"My love and me" is right--in more senses than the grammatical, I'm sure! Yipee to both from The Buddha Diaries, too! Yes! Try to sit. It is a challenge, but so rewarding, at least in my experience.

MandT said...

Dear Peter,
---A thoughtful piece on Tim Russert. "It's a sad reminder of the fragility of life and the unpredictability of its conclusion."
Just so! as I recall a definition of satori: "A jet black iron ball speeding through the dark night." Tim might have agreed that it was easier to travel without baggage. LOL Peace MandT