Responsibility to Animals

The following is from an article titled, The Buddhist’s Responsibility to Animals by Rev. Master Jiyu-Kennett. The article first appeared in the Journal of the Zen Mission Society, August 1970 and was later reproduced in the Memorial Issue of the Journal of the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives Winter 1996/Spring 1997. Copyright O.B.C. 1997.

I have often thought that if some of the rich people who give so happily to animal welfare associations could be persuaded to give a little of their money to advertising in newspapers descriptions of specific animals who, for lack of homes, were to be destroyed that very day, they might do more good in solving the unwanted animals problem than in buying new humane killers for the societies to use. I have yet to find any person who could resist the appeal of a fellow creature about to face death. As the Buddhist teaching in the oldest of Scriptures says, ‘All men fear punishment, all men fear death.’ To know that a fellow creature faces that very situation within a few hours might bring the truth of the plight of animals home more clearly than any amount of beautiful society buildings could. After all, a good building gives the impression that the animals are being well cared for and need no assistance. A prominent picture in a newspaper, however, with the caption, ‘To Die Today’, would be much more effective in making the public realize its responsibilities and obligations.

I know of a woman who read this article and took this advice to heart. She regularly publishes photographs of dogs in the local newspaper that are about to be killed if they are not adopted. She says all the animals are adopted. All of them!

Island Weather

Walking up the lane in the windy darkness this evening, the trees thrashing around wildly. Attempting to bend into the wind, but it’s coming from every direction at once. Then I thought This is like being on an island in the middle of the sea. And then I realized This is an island in the middle of the sea!

Thanks for your well wishes. Now I’m going to have a looooong sleep.

Sianora San Francisco, Fairwell North America

In the foreground are original houses which survived The Great 1906 Earthquake And Fire and of course in the background modern San Francisco shooting up out of the ground.
The sign reads Old world taste has come to this world. The hamburger is depicted being propelled by rockets from outer space. Note the green alien hitch hiker on top of the bun!
The Victorian houses are a feast for the eye.
Vibrant colour everywhere reflected in the people who inhabit the streets. Castro District, Haight Street, Market Street, Mission….
After much walking and talking with a Sangha friend I was escorted to the BART station. Looking up; this is inside of a vintage street car, one of many from all over the world, which ply Market Street and terminate at Fishermans Warf.

In San Francisco it is easy, as a tourist, to look up. In a certain sense we are all tourist. Here for a brief time…

This is an up-in-the-clear-blue-sky day. San Francisco to Amsterdam and then Amsterdam to Newcastle. It’s been a good five months abroad.

If You Have a Teenager in The House, Or If You Don’t – Read On

The following comes at the end of a commencement speech to graduate aged youngsters. I recommend reading the whole transcript, several times.

I know that this stuff probably doesn’t sound fun and breezy or grandly inspirational. What it is, so far as I can see, is the truth with a whole lot of rhetorical bullshit pared away. Obviously, you can think of it whatever you wish. But please don’t dismiss it as some finger-wagging Dr Laura sermon. None of this is about morality, or religion, or dogma, or big fancy questions of life after death. The capital-T Truth is about life before death. It is about making it to 30, or maybe 50, without wanting to shoot yourself in the head. It is about simple awareness – awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, that we have to keep reminding ourselves, over and over: “This is water, this is water.”
The Guardian newspaper

Adapted from the commencement speech the late David Foster Wallace gave to a graduating class at Kenyon College, Ohio.

David Wallace will be remembered during a ceremony at Berkeley Buddhist Priory tomorrow morning.

Giving With Empty Hands

This letter speaks of tea-n-chats the author and I occasionally had after evening meditation on Fridays during my tenure as the temporary Prior in Edmonton, Canada 2005-06. Such conversations are not limited to priory life. I continue to enjoy them – here in the Bay Area, this morning, in a back garden, with cats and lush foliage and melon and strawberries and (of course) fine conversation.

Rev. Mugo,
Those Friday night teas in Edmonton changed my life. You gracefully showed me the path out of my suffering when you were here and I’m continually glad for your on-line teaching. I think the light started to come on when you directed me INSIDE my head to notice my dissatisfaction (and all the feelings/actions that grew from it). I had to stop blaming, resisting, and start accepting.

I’m meeting more people now that I have a new job. — Did I tell you I have a new job? Well, I do. — I’m meeting more people and I’m seeing something that makes me smile. I’m seeing myself the way I was, mirrored in so many people around me. This makes me feel like I’ve moved on from the old me because I’m seeing how much I’ve changed. [There’s still lots of ego in that last sentence!] It also reassures me because I understand how connected we all are: we all suffer, we all experience delusion.

The new job: adult speech-language pathologist. Traveling to small, prairie towns seeing people in hospitals, long-term care facilities, or their homes. Stroke, illness, disease, or just plain getting old.

I came across a beautiful idea yesterday. Some people in the end stages of dementia (like Alzheimer’s) become as they were when infants. Long dormant reflexes return, revealed as the final layers of conscious life are peeled away. Rub a finger on an innocent cheek and the person will turn toward the finger like a infant looking for a breast.

The thought of this fills me with wonder! Birth returns at death. The phrase no birth, no death comes to mind although I’m still not quite sure what to do with it.

The square bracket comment (also in italics) in this note shows my current fascination: all the unconscious ways I reinforce this card castle I call me without even thinking. The koan (spiritual question): how to remove myself from the situation? Or can I? Or should I?

Dear Michael,
Thanks so much for taking the time to write and for your permission to publish, with edits, as a posting rather than a comment. I benefited greatly from our chats, as you know. Our mutual interest in language, words, giving expression and communication generally left us with much to talk about. Wonderful.

We each bring something unique, ourselves, to the table. Which obviously includes everything we believe ourselves to be, and not be. You could say we are the ornamentation of conversation and human concourse generally. Correctly understood, to allow ones unique colouration to show, to allow oneself to be coloured, to become coloured by others – is a gift. It is possible to truly give in this way because one knows that the self, as we imagine it to be, is actually much much bigger. And is content. That’s giving with empty hands or selfless giving.

You are right to be aware of unconscious ways I reinforce this card-castle. That is best achieved by not criticise or labelling what comes to light. In fact that’s what cements the illusion of the card-castle.

BTW – Originally I’d edited out your bracketed sentence. No, I thought, that thought is redundant. Of course I put it back in as you refer to it later. It’s still redundant though. I’d recommend editing out such thoughts from your thoughts all together. How’s that for a Friday evening at the kitchen table?