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Archive for May, 2019

This post is dedicated to those who lived and died. Especially, on this day, those who died in the name of politics, fear, and hatred of the other.

My dear friend and mentor Father John McNeill told me a story about being in the war and when he tried to give food to a starving so-called “enemy” he was chastised and punished heavily and tagged an enemy of the state.  But it never deterred him from being the kind and loving man he was. Thus, for me he was the epitome of peace, love, and compassion on planet Earth.  If only all people treated each other as Father John did there would be NO wars, hatred, or killing.

My fiancé Dennis Cama died in Viet Nam he too was a kind and loving man who was forced to kill and die for the politicians of the world.  May they both be in peace on this Memorial Day 2019. My mom and dad both served in the Army Air Corp during WWII and dad earned the Silver Star as a belly gunner on a B17 bomber.

More thoughts on the passing of my mentor and friend: Father John J. McNeill

Wednesday September 22, 2015 Father John J. McNeill went to meet his friend and guide, Jesus.  When I heard the news I thought it was just what Father John would have wanted—to make his transition the day that Pope Francis was in the country voicing his support for the LGBT community around the world.  Good going John!

Father John was silenced, sanctioned, and finally asked to leave the Jesuit Order by the former Pope Ratzinger because of his support for the LGBT community and for living a life of truth and compassion as a gay man with a wonderful supportive and loving partner Charles Chiarelli.

Father John has written many books and counseled many people in and out of the LGBT community.  He was my mentor and friend for many years as I worked as an associate pastor at Sunshine Cathedral in Fort Lauderdale, FL and as a hospice chaplain.  As one of the founders of an interfaith clergy group for those serving congregations in the Broward, Dade, and Palm Beach Counties I had the pleasure of picking Father John up for our meetings and events when he needed a ride.

To be with him and hear him talk was an amazing thing.  It did not matter what topic he was speaking about or even if it was just a causal conversation about life–I was blessed simply by being in his presence.  If you have not had the opportunity to read any of his books I recommend them highly.  His knowledge of scripture and Christianity was amazing.  Two of my favorite books by Father John are Both Feet Firmly Planted in Midair: My Spiritual Journey and Sex as God Intended.gassho

In memory of Father John, Dennis, my Dad and Mom and all those who have died in war I would like to leave you all with this poem by Kuan Hsiu, Zen Buddhist monk and master poet who lived from 832-912.

This is for you my dear friends…

So, say my way differs from yours,
We both have old men’s hair and beards.
They say words can kill faith.
I like to arrange spring blossoms in a rough old
  funeral jar.
In gassho, Shokai

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light-and-dark-poem-mushinIn the wonderful book A Guide to the Buddhist Path Sangharakshita writes about peace in such a beautiful way. In Pali there is a word “Upeksa which is tranquility or, more simply, peace.” He writes:

“We usually think of peace as something negative, as just the absence of noise or disturbance, as when we say, ‘I wish they would leave me in peace.’ But really peace is a very positive thing.  It is no less positive than love, compassion, or joy—indeed even more so, according to Buddhist tradition, Upeksa, is not simply the absence of something else, but a quality and a state of its own right.  It is a positive, vibrant state which is much nearer to the state of bliss than it is to our usual conception of peace (page 162).”[1]

And yet most of us have never experienced “bliss” itself.  Sometimes we can feel something similar with help from drugs or alcohol but that is not the Buddhist idea of “bliss” for sure.   But we all have experienced the idea of peace. What would the world be like if every morning every person on the planet woke up filled with peace, joy, and compassion for self and all others?  No one would go hungry because if we had one piece of bread–we’d share it with someone who had none.  There is a very powerful saying, “I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.”  I cried because I had no peace until I met a family who lived in a war zone, or walked thousands of miles with their children to leave gangs and death, rape, and poverty.

The author goes on to write, “We shall have to regard ourselves as citizens of the world in a more concrete sense than before, and rid ourselves of even the faintest vestige of nationalism.  We shall have to identify ourselves more closely with all living things and love them with a more ardent and selfless love.  We shall have to be a louder and clearer voice of sanity and compassion in the world (page 132).”[2]

If it’s to be it’s up to me!  I must be it, live it, and honor it in all that I do, and think, and say.  I must be the example of peace and love and not to just the nice lady down the street, or the kind man who held the door for me when my hands were full of packages.  Not just when the person agrees with me.  There is a great story attributed to Mahatma Gandhi and told by Chuan Zhi in 2003.

“When we achieve true restorative balance within ourselves, we are happy and content and can live without regret, remorse, or guilt. We are at peace. The enlightened approach is to always be vigilant, to guard against committing sins—those violations of our Buddhist Precepts.  But when we slip and fall into error, we must go that extra mile into positive areas and not only make restitution and correct the damage, but we must also correct ourselves.”

Chuan Zhi goes on to write:

Gandhi is near death from starvation when a crazed man, a Hindu, arrives with food that he insists Gandhi must eat. He demands, “Here! Eat! Eat! Eat! I’m going to hell—but not with your death on my soul!” Gandhi replies, “Only God decides who goes to hell.”  “I killed a child!” the man confesses.  “I smashed his head again a wall!” Gandhi asks, “Why?”

“Because they killed our son…my boy! The Muslims killed my son!” Gandhi sees the man’s unbearable grief and remorse.  He gently tells him, “I know a way out of hell. Find a child, a child whose mother and father have been killed—a little boy- and raise him as your own.  Only be sure that he is a Muslim…”

And thus, came peace in the heart of the man and the child that he raised.  What do you need to do to find peace in your heart?  Now go do it….

[1] Sangharakshita, A Guide to the Buddhist Path, Windhorse Publications: Birmingham England

[2] Ibid.

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gasshoThe World is Waiting for us to WAKE UP!

By: Rev. Dr. Kathleen A. Bishop

May 4, 2019

Henry David Thoreau wrote: We Must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn, which does not forsake us in our soundest sleep.”

Arthur Zajonc wrote in his book Meditation as Contemplative Inquiry, these words about Being Awake, Fostering Peace:

In his remarkable record of two years at Walden Pond, Thoreau wrote of the morning: “Little is to be expected of that day, if it can be called a day, to which we are not awakened by our Genius, but by the mechanical nudging’s of some servitor, are not awakened by our own newly acquired force and aspirations from within, instead of factory bells…The millions are awake enough for physical labor; but only one in a million is awake enough for effective intellectual exertion, only one in a hundred millions to a poetic or divine life.  To be awake is to be alive.  I have never met a man who was quite awake.  How could I have looked him in the face?” (page 9-10)

Arthur goes on to write:  If not by “factory bells” or other external means, then by what… Thoreau pointed to our genius, that high principle of us, as the force that can awaken.  Our genius lives in expectation of the unknown as we expect the new day.  It prompts us to be awake to the subtle dimensions of experience, to meet the sufferings and joys of life with equanimity, and to sense the unknown that continually invites us after her.

The Buddha means “one who is awake.” Together with wakefulness, the Buddha is said to have radiated peacefulness.  In other words, if one is to be more fully awake, then the burdens of such wakefulness require steadiness of mind, largeness of heart, and a deep equanimity in the face of new and significant experiences.” (Page 10)

And thus you are here reading this post looking for equanimity in the face of serious and dangerous challenges in America today, a growing division between races and religions where the followers of these faiths and philosophies, and prejudices are appearing in our schools, and places of worship, and our shopping malls, and movie theaters with guns and hatred and death on their minds.

And yet there is hope, hope because you are all here with your faith, and your prayers, and your scriptures, and your hearts and your love for each other.  Which is not based on the color of our skin or the clothes we wear or the food we eat but on love.

We may not be Nelson Mandela or Martin Luther King, or even Rosa Parks but Arthur goes on to say, “They were awake to the suffering not only of themselves but of their entire communities.  Both have become exemplars because they met suffering with compassion and because together with truth, they sought reconciliation instead of revenge (page 11).

We must wake up! We must give up our fears as individuals and stand up to hate and bigotry where ever we see it, where ever it pops up its ugly head. We must write letters, march in the streets, stand up when we see injustice in our White House, or our workplace.  We must stand up when we see it in our communities, and our supermarkets, and yes, in our homes.

The Buddha’s teaching implores us to WAKE UP. 

The dawn awaits for us to speak up. Are you awake or in the soundest sleep?

If not me who?

If not now when?

 

 

 

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