Literally Speaking

Our Internet connection was down yesterday, so I picked up a book I’d been asked to review. Here is one of the many teaching stories. The following was taken from the book titled, nothing holy about it, The Zen of Being Just Who You Are, p 18. This book can be downloaded for free as a PDF.

An eight-year-old girl became ill and was diagnosed with a life-threatening blood disease. She needed a transfusion, but her blood type was rare. A search went out for a donor. With every passing day, the little girl weakened, and still, no donor was found.

Then it was discovered that her six-year-old brother shared her rare blood type. The mother, along with their minister and doctor, sat down with the boy. Would he be willing to donate his blood to save his sister’s life?

The boy did not answer right away. He wanted time to think about it. After a few days, he went to his mother. “yes, I’ll do it,” he said.

The following day, the doctor brought both children to his clinic and placed them on cots, side by side. First, he drew some blood from the boy’s arm. Then he crossed to the sister’s cot, inserted the needle, and began the transfusion. Almost immediately, the colour poured back into her cheeks.

After a moment, the boy motioned for the doctor to come to his bedside. In a whisper, he asked. “Will I start to die right away?”

Pausing for thought here. The boy understood ‘giving his blood’ literally, i.e. All of it! How often does this ‘taking something somebody asks/says/reads, literally? How hard can that be to negotiate in the nuanced world we function in.

Simple Advice for Facing Adversity

January 2nd 2020. This is an email exchange from around 2006 which still stands now.

I’ve been emailing back and forth with a reader, in a faraway country, who is in mental and emotional extremity, not without good reason. The directions I give this person are specific to that individual however I think there is something here for everybody.

From Correspondent: Could I ask about spiritual texts or prayers or something which could be probably helpful for me to find myself in that situation (and keep the faith) and develop (as I may say like that) my soul? Could you advise something or should I just sit in my meditation for the time being?

From Mugo: Here is a verse we have for circumstances such as the one you are in right now. (I recite it at take-off and landing in an aeroplane.) This is not a prayer to a higher power separate from your own deepest indwelling heart, that which you touch (and are) when you are still within and which never leaves. Never.

The Invocation for the Removal of Disasters.
Adoration to all the Buddhas
Adoration to the limitless Scriptures
Peace! Speak! Blaze! Up!
To the glorious Peaceful One
For whom there are no disasters.
Hail! Hail! Hail!

It might be good to write out the verse and place it where you will see it and remember it. And have a copy to read in moments when you are able during the day. Reciting this is not magic. It will not make anything happen by reciting it. Basically reciting such verses help to keep faith when all around want to drag it from you. You must maintain your faith in, and compassion for, ALL living beings and not allow yourself to be dragged down to the ground, so to speak.

Your eyes, literally your eyes, maybe lifted up from time to time to look at what is high. Tops of trees, roofs, sky, ceiling – this will help you more than you might think. Deceptively simple, yet by simply looking up ones spirits remain up too. Remember particularly to keep your eyes looking ahead when you are walking from place to place, rather than the usual habit of looking at the ground.

That’s all I have for you so please now simply get on with your daily life. Just doing one thing after the other and keep returning to just doing the next thing. An instruction I have when giving a talk on working meditation is to bring your attention to your hands (mostly we are doing things with our hands). This will help you to keep your attention where you are and away from difficult mental and emotional states. Nothing wrong with such states however it is not so good to dwell there for a long time.

From Correspondent: Thank you for all your messages. they are warm and inspiring and recalling an important matter – “You must maintain your faith and compassion for all living beings”…and that everything (all forces, wisdom, compassion) is inside us. Thank you again.
With kind regards,

From Mugo: Glad what I’ve said is helpful. We sang the Invocation for the Removal of Disasters during a ceremony today. I have to say I kept you and your situation in mind as we sang.

Would you be OK with me publishing bits from our recent email conversation? I would like to publish as there is some reasonably useful teaching and it shows that life can get (very) difficult and that one can live through anything and still come through with a glad heart and not a sad one. I hope and pray that will be the case for you.

From Correspondent: HI! Thank you again for a ceremony and your care. As to your question – definitely I’m OK with publishing. Not only because our conversation is so useful and supportive to me, but also due to the fact that the extracts from your discussions with other people published in your blog are always so inspiring and useful for me that it would be my pleasure to give something to others (if I may express it in that way)
Best regards,

This post is in memory of Rev. Master Meiten of Victoria, BC Canada who died two years ago today. In the last few years of her life she faced a great deal of hardship as her health, and mobility declined. She was a spirited person; said it how it is, gathered quite a community of trainees around her and encouraged me to write and to speak about the Dharma. I carped but she insisted! There is a group in Victoria still sitting together gathered under the banner of Vancouver Island Zen Sangha

Alternative Fireworks.

Success! Sorry to you lovely subscribers for giving you a false alarm earlier, I was having difficulty uploading however the problem is solved.

Here it is an ‘interesting’ short video to celebrate the opening up of the year 2020.