Sunday, November 28, 2010


An email out of nowhere tells me of a woman, 33, who has had cancer, been divorced and would like to slip into the soft shoes of "some kind of peace." Her father has practiced Buddhism for ten years and she views him as an exceptionally peaceful man ... though it wasn't always so. The woman wanted to come here and learn how to practice Zen Buddhism.

Between the lines of her email, I thought I sensed some desperation, some clawing uncertainty and sadness. Why is anguish so mundane? I'm not quite sure. Of course my anguish is not mundane and your anguish is not mundane, but anguish is pretty mundane. Touching, tearing, weeping, wailing, incomprehensible, unfathomable, unfair ... and mundane.

Bring me salvation! A solution! A resolution! Relief! Comfort!

The mundane is unimpressed. Like the legalese at the bottom of some home loan, it is immune and immutable. No one wants to read the fine print and yet the fine print has got us in a choke hold ... we must read it ... or succumb to an existence full of wailing or trying not to wail. No one escapes unscathed.

In Buddhism, the fine print begins like this:

There is suffering.
There is a cause of suffering.
There is an end to suffering.
There is a way to end suffering.
I once read that Gautama was asked for the meaning of it all ... life, its bruises, its delights, its wailing. He paused before answering. And then, "summoning all of his powers" (imagine that! summoning ALL of his powers) he replied, "It's not intellectual."

There is more fine print, of course, but a person has to begin somewhere. Begin somewhere and then continue. It's pretty mundane.

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