Monday, November 14, 2011

A Sunday Sit

It's always a pleasure when Ajahn Geoff (Thanissaro Bikkhu) comes to lead our Laguna sangha in a teaching session and a sit on a Sunday afternoon, as he does, usually, once a month. The hour's study group discussion preceding the sit was based on a chapter in one of his many books, "Skill in Questions," but ranged more widely--in part at my own instigation--into thoughts about the current sex abuse scandal at Penn State University and the question of integrity. Is it possible to maintain integrity in one area of one's life, while losing it in another? Can a man still be honored for years of devoted service to the interests of student athletes when it becomes known that he readily sacrificed his integrity when it came to protecting the institution he served from shame and disgrace? And how does one get past outrage to find compassion for the man, and for those who conspired with him in their cover-up?

I think I arrived at an answer to that last question. As always, alas, it's the mirror. When I myself reach a state of perfection in my own integrity, then I will perhaps be entitled to pass judgment about the integrity of other men. Until then, it behooves me to take a close look at the cracks, small and large, that leave me open to the kind of judgment I am quick to pass on others. I look back on my life and find too many instances where I have betrayed myself and those closest to me, where I have failed to live up to that injunction to "do no harm." All very well to go cantering along on my high horse when others succumb to human failings--and indeed it's important that I recognize transgressions where I see them. It helps me to find compassion, though, when I acknowledge my own.

The hour's silent sit was a challenge for me, with these thoughts popping up insistently in my mind. Still, the breath is a wonderful tool to bring the mind back from where it wanders, and I was grateful for the inner peace I was able to find despite the interruptions. I honestly don't know where I'd be in my life without this resource; but looking around me at the dire state of human affairs, I know that I would be a great deal more fearful, angry and confused.

I left sangha armed with copies of Than Geoff's two newest books, one of which is titled "Selves and Not-Self," which reminds me bit of the original title of my own forthcoming book, "This Is Not Me"--now to be called "Mind Work." The second is "The Truth of Rebirth"--a topic with which I have struggled for many years as a nascent Buddhist, and one that assumes a particular resonance in the light of the recent arrival of a newborn in our family. Does little Luka join us in our current lives from a former incarnation? Where does this miraculous baby come from--and how was it that he chose our family to join? Mysterious questions. And questions I must be content to all to remain a mystery. Still, you can understand why I'm eager to find out more about the truth of rebirth...


heartinsanfrancisco said...

Such a beautiful baby, your Luka! I hope you will ask him who he was before as soon as he is old enough to tell you since there is a chance he may not have forgotten yet. It's probably a very small window, but I have always believed it exists, if only someone would ask.

I am constantly humbled by the thought that my own children all chose to come into this world through me. The longer I live, the more I realize what an enormous gift it was, and continues to be.

As for the Penn State scandal, it is very hard not to judge even though we know that is wrong action. There is always particular outrage when children are victims, even if one believes in karma. Sometimes it simply fails to comfort.

PeterAtLarge said...

A lovely thought, thank you! I noted your own comments on the Paterno business. Compassion is hard to come by, in this circumstance.