(This reflection was originally posted on the Upaya Institute and Zen Center website in March 2021 and is shared with permission.)
This past year has been a time where living by vow has been our ballast, our light, our bridge, our refuge. Many of us have also discovered that our practice is bearing witness and being intimate with exactly where we are and where the world is, tough though this can be. We must stay the course through these demanding times, and when all is said and done, see what is and see who we really are, see how we have served, what needs to be forgiven, and how we have loved.
And through this we discover that our vows have been that which has kept us steadfast and sane, brave and compassionate. This I learned from my teacher Roshi Bernie as he sat in the charnel grounds of Auschwitz.
And this past year has been a charnel ground for so many…. courageous and dedicated clinicians in every country who have served those afflicted with this terrible virus, those suffering at this time from covid-19, those who have lost a loved one in the course of this year, refugees fleeing war and those fleeing the climate disaster, the unsheltered, the hungry and the abandoned and elderly, women and children who have been abused and trafficked, indigenous people whose cultures and lands have been stolen, colonized or destroyed.
Roshi Uchiyama once wrote that “The life of a Zen practitioner is directed by vow, not by ambition. …When you meet the LIFE THAT IS FOREVER, that’s the miracle.”
And what is the life that is forever, we might ask? Our good friend Roshi Norman Fischer wrote that “The enlightened person is simply the person who isn’t selfish, who sees things as they really are, loves them, and acts out of that love.”
From love, let us live by vow and carry the spirit of our practice into the life of the world. Every moment is a moment of possibility, regeneration, rebirth, and place where love can heal. And may we meet the life that is forever and bring others to the life that is forever.
We have been given a heavy load this historic year of the global pandemic. The year that is unfolding before us now, the load might not be lighter. May we have the strength to carry what must be carried and in so doing may we know the joy of service and the power of love. Now and in this coming time, may we have the causes and conditions, as well as the courage and wisdom to thrive, serve, and to lean into the light. And may our vows and our practice be our life, our whole life…