step into the fire – kalyanamitra & constructive social change

On 2011 March 12, nineteen Chaplaincy candidates in the Upaya Chaplaincy program received jukai as part of the two-year training.  Along with us, three other spiritual friends received the kai and another took novice priest ordination.  This last is significant for being a ceremony in which two women Zen masters ordained a woman.

I suppose all ceremonies are significant for being a moment in which the dharma is pulled further and further into the future.  It is a turning point in which past and future converge for constructive social change.  But how can we hold this delicate vision in an even more delicate and fleeting instant as it occurs?

As Frank and I sat in our favourite restaurant having brunch, he transmitted a powerful dharma from The Moral Imagination by John Paul Lederach.  Lederach explains Elise Boulding’s concept of a moment as being a “two-hundred-year-present.”  This is how it works: remember the hand of the oldest person you held (your grandmother, great-grandfather) and that of the newest member of your family.  Subtract the date of birth of the oldest person from the potential date of the passing of the youngest.  This is your 200-year present.  My “200-year present” spans from 1899 to 2080.  As Lederach writes, it is the moment “made up of the lives that touched (him) and of those (he) will touch.”

A spiritual community must also take this broad scope of time.  We cannot as spiritual friends hold to the narrowed vision of attraction and repulsion in each moment.  As each cohort of practitioners steps into the fire, this 200-year moment becomes the turning point from which our future is born.  As a practice that is based in a heart-to-heart, hand-to-hand connection we are touched by hands that have touched a lineage of teachers; and we, in turn, touch hands that will be touched as teachers.

We cannot be limited by the moment.  Our practice, to be effective in creating change, must encompass and be the compass of all that has gone before and all that is to come.  To ask for and receive the kai is a commitment to “such a view of time (which) must take place within what we touch and know but never be limited to a fleeting moment that passes us by.” (Lederach)

Thankyou for practising,

Genju

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