As you read this, I will be winging my way back to Upaya Zen Center for the last Core Training Retreat of the Chaplaincy Program. Has it been all this time already? It’s been a blur of books read, papers written, field trips, internships, and now the birthing throes of the “Final Project” leading to (hopefully) ordination in March.
Oh but that’s too far in the future. There is yet the harvest to get through – squash and tomatoes, chili peppers and pumpkins. There are brilliant coloured leaves to wade through yet and knee-deep snow drifts that lie in wait for the inquisitive cat to burrow into. There is a world that needs to turn on its axis for a sliver of a moment while we waddle towards enlightenment.
There are Jizo and Manjushri Bodhisattvas to be manifested and Buddhas to grow.
There is Rilke to read!
As if he listened. Silence, far and far …
we draw back till we hear its depths no more.
And he is star. And other giant stars
which we cannot see stand about him here.
Oh, he is all. And really, do we wait
till he shall see us? Has he need of that?
Even should we throw ourselves before him,
he would be deep, and indolent as a cat.
He has been in labor for a million years
with this which pulls us to his very feet.
He who forgets that which we must endure,
who knows what is withdrawn beyond our fate.
Rainer Maria Rilke (transl. C.F. MacIntyre)
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,