Friday, June 5, 2009

Snake Pits and Playlists

Here - pop open a little MUSIC while you read today - it is my blog equivalent of making you each a mixed tape. ~Smile~

Ya'll remember my friend Sam from the original Bowdawg blog? He rode/drove with me from Sedona to New Orleans after Katrina and our miraculous story unfolded that week...

Well Samuel has become an unexpected media "lightning rod" this week...

In print (with nods to John's iPhone) here

And local TV coverage here:



I arrived for my midnight prayer shift Sunday as KT and Sam were on the phone with Poison Control and so I was really shocked to hear Monday (having seen how calm and collected they were on Sunday) how serious the little bite I saw was. Granted the swelling was already profound by midnight... but this turned into a 3 day hospital visit. So ~Yay~ to Shady Grove doctors for takin good care of Sam.

As to the release of the snake... what a FaNtAsTic opportunity to discuss some elements of the dharma. I will be belly rolling at the bad misconceptions about snake handling at the temple! But I digress...

I hope it is clear to you why we do not kill even the poisonous animals that bite us and perhaps cause us harm. Do you think that is wierd?

Buddha taught very succinctly on the subject of not killing. It is not simply a warning to avoid purchasing uzis and plowing a field of people down from a watch tower.

We practice the equality of ALL LIVING creatures to the best of our ability. Are we perfect? No. Not even close. We still encounter inevitable scenarios where we drive - and small insects fly in to the grille of the car, we smoosh critters we can't see when we walk across the lawn... sometimes we have to use pest control for buildings we live and or work in because of infestations that would render the place condemned by public standards. So we have not perfected the art of living here on earth and causing ABSOLUTELY no death.

But that was an important teaching of the Buddha as well. That Samsara is a flawed place to be ~precisely~ because from the moment you open your eyes in the morning... until you lay your weary head on your pillow at night - you are admonished to cause no harm or death to any living being and yet your first (or within the top ten) acts of the day are brushing teeth, putting on deodorant (killing living strains of bacteria in your body) eating food that has required the death of beings. (Even you vegans - the grains you eat are grown in fields teaming with life. When they harvest that grain - it is equivalent to a massive slaughter.) We may think cows and chickens are "more important" because they are larger and have prettier eyes and cuter offspring - but in Buddhist philosophy you do not assign more importance to any being because of its size or station in life.

SO do you begin to see what the mindfulness training is required in life? We (as Vajrayana Buddhists) spend COUNTLESS minutes and hours thinking of the dilemmas of Samsara. There is no day where you get to skip the training, "kick back", and coast along mindlessly. Every day you STUDY... STUDY... STUDY life and how flawed and out of control cyclic existence is.

But WHY? Many people initially throw up there hands in disgust at thei concept. Saying "Well, if you cannot do anything about it anyway... then WHY BOTHER?"

And there in lies all the potency in the Universe. Every thought that you conceive of, every utterance out of your mouth, every action no matter how large or small that you make... creates an equal "result" in your field of experience. Our teacher emphasizes how DIFFICULT this is for us to understand because we experience life over a long span of TIME so we don't believe we have anything to do with the events that seem to happen "to us."

Example: Say you throw on your iPod, crank up the tunes and just go jogging. You are on a health kick. Doesn't that seem like about the most innocent of activities? You are alone with your tunes... not a care in the world except that exhiliration of getting healthy.

Now consider the scenario differently- you are jogging along... squashing countless ants and crawly bugs as your footfall pounds the pavement. You don't see them at all - you are "in the zone" and enjoying the latest tunes you downloaded. But they are unavoidable... and sadly - they are dying from our simple afternoon jog.

Let's say with a half hour jog you kill 100 bugs that are invisible to you (that is probably conservative). Why should you care? You didn't see them. You didn't mean to harm anything. You just wanted to jog!

Welcome to Samsara. You just created 100 future deaths for your karmic experience. ~WhOa!!!~ Seriously?? That seems absurd doesn't it!? All you did was jog. Right?

And that is why the Buddhist view of life is so different. Because even if you do not believe the teachings (and they exist in other belief systems as well.. I just cannot speak to other religions because I have not studied them) does not mean that you do not live the result of actions. I have never studied physics and do not understand all the formulas that compose the laws of gravity. I did eventually learn as a child - if I let go... things drop. It was affecting me before I understood it the same as it was affecting a master physicist who could manipulate the outcomes because they studied it so intensely. Both live with the laws of gravity - but one can interact with it quite differently.

I hear the argument all the time about how that just seems silly. Well it might seem silly now because - just as people thought Christopher Columbus had lost his mind for arguing SO EMPHATICALLY about something everyone KNEW with such conviction to be true - nowadays anyone arguing against the roundness of the earth would be considered the lunatic - not the person who pioneered moving beyond the old concept.

It is going to take time to educate people - Buddha, Jesus and probably all beings who come to affect the consciousness of those as stubborn as we humans are... they actually show even MORE compassion by returning and continuing the training - despite our insistance on our own belief and ego satisfaction. Even though we doubt, mock, crucify, ignore, shoot, hang and do horrible things to them... still they patiently come and teach and wait for us to change.

So when a snake is released- when MOST people would have killed it - or trapped it until the "authorities" could have dealt with it (captivity, eventual destruction) - Sam was practicing a very wise choice. That when presented with a CHOICE> you should cherish life. All life. Can you purposely kill one less being today? Or 10 -- maybe carry the bugs out of the house instead of spraying them with RAID - (which by the way ain't great for you to be breathing in anyway!)

It is not from judgement that these instructions come. Just like when training children to share their toys - some children take it easily and others think it is torture. But the adults are trying to prepare them for a future time when they will better understand why those instructions were important... a time when they must comply, conform and interact with others and make conscious choices based on desired outcomes.

So it goes with mindfulness and honoring lifeforms of all kinds.

Do you have to become vegetarian? No. For some it works well, for others it does not. And the key is to not fall into judging others for their decisions. It is simply supporting one another along the path, whatever progress we can make.

I would LOVE to see more honoring of different life forms in the USA. Yes ants in the kitchen are annoying - but can we minimize them by the most kind practices first? Better cleanliness... herbs and oils that deter most of them (maybe you learn to live with a stray ant here and there.) At some point you might have to use harsher methods... but we can be MINDFUL that we are taking lives at that point - and maybe counter act that action by putting wild bird feed out - supporting life where you can to balance to the inevitable loss of life that we all create - usually blind and unknowing. But we do cause it and we will reap the outcome.

SO anyhow. I wanted to chat about this. It is a heavy topic and a SLOW change as it comes to America. Even in the vet clinic where I work - I look for moments to see how good the intention of the person choosing euthanasia is because I know how bad the karma of it is. We think it is kind to end that life we have judged as "finished". But that is not our role in the universe - even if we seem the intelligent ones. That comment will surely draw arguments from some... but again - it is the gravity thing. The laws of karma trump the laws of convenience!

Our role (in my humble observation) is to care take and comfort beings as they live through this karmic obstacle that has arisen for all of us- based on our previous actions and lifetimes. YOU can give a being simple comforts as it worked through its cancer and mobility issues and difficulties that seem inconvenient to our modern world when we have meetings... schedules and lordy that incontinent beast did NOT JUST CRAP in my new carpet did it!?!?!.

And likewise - you sow the seed of some kind and compassionate person creating that same comfort for you in a distant life when you have forgotten all about this one, and you cannot help that you crap on the carpet - because technically you should live in the great outdoors... not a townhouse in the 'burbs.

So let's be brave. When we encounter a being that... out of fear for its life - not out of spite for us, maybe bites or stings or enters our clean domicile and soils it... let us, as often as we are able, take the highest road we can. Nonviolence and respect for life first and foremost. And when that is not possible in some cases... then make prayers for the best outcome - the highest rebirth possible for that life form, so that it may ponder outcomes and choose compassion and bring all its karmic interactions one step closer to that coveted peace that awaits us when we give up the earthly endless pursuit for unreachable goals - and relax into the truth, the light and the way. That is the enlightenment of being in the moment and viewing the presence of that Supreme Nature and recognizing it in ourselves and in "All God's Creatures" to coin a phrase that I am PrEtTy sure Buddha never used! It is a challenge to reach that state - and that is why we want to work towards it EVERY single day!! ; )

Peace ya'll. Save a life today. You will NOT regret that karma when it comes to fruition!

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