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,


Come Together: a Bodhisattva call to action for the Gulf oil disaster


My dharma friend, Maia, at The Jizo Chronicles sent out a call for us to engage fully in helping with the various aspects of the disaster following the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  In her post today, she quotes one of the Upaya Chaplaincy candidates, Penny Alsop, whose words are too powerful to ignore:

Send your love. Take action anywhere that you can. Look at those pictures of oil covered animals and let it break your heart then take the next steps that make sense to you. Just please do not forget.

Look.  And let it break your heart.  Our practice as engaged Buddhists – and there is no other type – is to do just that (in the words of Joanna Macy): look, let it break our hearts, and then go forth with linked arms.  Maia listed many ways to help in her post.  Barry from Ox Herding also listed a number of sites that are involved in rescue and collecting donations.

On the news today, the predictions are that it will take another three months before interventions might stop the flow.  So much will be lost by then.  Please consider reaching out with anything you have, in any way you can.  It’s been a non-stop run of disasters and I know we are all feeling like we’re caught in an unending series of demands.  Yet I think finally we are allowing ourselves to be faced with real life.  Perhaps we are finally growing up and stepping up to the plate.

Let`s not squander this chance to fulfill our vow,