Responding to Littleton: methods of coping with the modern world

In the aftermath of the disaster that happened in Colorado, it is important to review our own true efforts and the efforts of others. It is best to look clearly at this situation, doing our best to examine it and find the source of the great tragedy.

As we consider the disaster, especially if we think about it a lot, we might become very scared, we might panic, we might worry inside that there is no solution to the great confusion and evil which many people hold in their hearts. We might become paralyzed with fear. Each of us knows for ourselves how we have been affected by this tragedy. Yet we must not allow this disaster to confuse our perspective. Instead, we must use this situation to clarify our perspective.

First, we look around and see that the world is still able to function, to move on, to continue living, even after the killing. We see the flowers blooming, the birds chirping, the people caring for each other. None of this has gone away. Yet this disaster must affect the way we see the world. It must have some effect on our hope for the human race.

Therefore, having heard the birds and seen the sun, it is best to carefully consider the reasons that this type of disaster might occur. In order to do this, perhaps the first thing to do is to avoid popular magazine articles about the events. These articles are not written with the purpose of helping the reader to understand. They are written to instigate an emotional response of anger, fear and hope that causes us to read more. Just by living in this society, we hear lots of news all the time. Reading articles like this is completely unnecessary.

How, then, can we discover the cause of this hatred and confusion? First, let us put our energy in a more productive direction than mental analysis. We can think about it a lot, but that does not resolve the issue. It just makes us sad and tired. We must be determined to solve this confusion for ourselves. Having done this, we can then think about it. If we put our energy into thinking and judging, then we have less energy for seeing the people and events around us. In this way, thinking holds us separate from others. While we must use thinking and emotions in order to live in this world, we also must not lose touch with reality.

A living being is wonderful. In comparison to a real living being, a thought is not wonderful. It might be okay to kill a thought. If we think about those around us all the time, then this is the beginning of a big problem. When we kill others, we kill them because we are attached to a set of beliefs about them or about the world. The attachment makes us unable to see the real, pure person in front of us. Therefore, it might seem reasonable to kill others for money. It might seem reasonable to kill others for our country. It might seem reasonable to kill others for our religion. These abstract ideas hold us separate from one another because when we hold onto them, we cannot see the miracle of life, the miracle of the universe, the brightness in each of us.

The way to truly understand this problem is to clear away our thoughts and beliefs. Those boys who lived in Colorado were stuck in a set of thoughts and beliefs. They created a whole world in their heads in which they lived day by day. We all do this same thing, and we each must be careful that we do not push the blame off on them.

We see the brightness of life by clearing away our minds. This is done through meditation. We concentrate until we have come to that same intense concentration experienced by a person whose death is right before him. This meditation is not some exercise. It is not some cultural exploration. It is not some interesting experience. Meditation is not done for selfish reasons, such as the desire to relax or the desire to live in a peaceful mind. Meditation is for directly facing horrific disasters such as what happened in Colorado, what is happening in Yugoslavia, what is happening to the earth right now. Meditation is for digging through and clearing away the hate and darkness in our own minds. This is facing disaster directly, not just reading and thinking about it. To meditate is to live responsibly.

If we face the intractability of our own minds, and overcome it, then we are no longer a threat to the world. Having done this, we can see that the root of our minds, the root of our hearts, the root of our consciousness, is lively and bright and does not go away even after a disaster. This root is common to all of us. We all, everyone, every living being, has this same perfect root. We see this by clearing away everything else, all those thoughts of greed and personal desires and personal ways of seeing the world. Then, we can see the brilliance and perfection of life, of all beings, so that we can trust in this deep wisdom of having seen clearly. By living according to the awareness of the life that we all share, we save others from falling into darkness and confusion.

If we want to help those who are hurt and killed every day, we must make our own opinions worth zero. Once this is done, the direct experience of life, which we all share, is apparent. It is important at this time to review our true efforts.

Soryu Zenji is a monk of the Rinzai Zen Buddhist Tradition. He has trained at Sogenji, a monastery in Japan, for two years, and is now practicing daily meditation in the One Drop Zendo, a small building in the woods behind the Weston Field baseball diamond.

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