Sunday, January 7, 2024

Being in Relationship is Being

  ren ren

The source, corner stone of all  Confucius teachings began here with the chinese character representing "humanness". What it is to be human and with compassion. This character is a "person" in the first two downward strokes and the second two short horizontal strokes are the number “2". He wanted his war torn country to have a new way of life beginning with the family relationships. 


This is definitely, to me,  about being in relationship is the definition , the meaning of our lives.

            My painting study of           Sistin Chapel

My recent studies of the Old Testament ( written around 500 BC) and Hebrew language alphabet, have resulted in my experiencing the message of Yahweh as " I am in relationship with you". Many of the stories are to show what happens to our relationships without God's guidance or acknowledgement. My religious studies  at university ( 1969-73 ) included the Dead Sea scrolls . The early translations revealed a different wording of the 10 commandments. Instead of the "Thou shall not" ....wording it was " you are not with God when you...    "  What a transformation of understanding about what it means to follow and keep these commandments. 

Grave Stone in famous Barre VT Cemetery. Well known for Italian sculptors working in the granite quarries. Sculpture is twice the size of our human stature. 

Next the New Testament expands, beyond the Old Testament covenant and animal sacrifice for atonement, to a single commandment of "  that relationship is to love one another as I love you." All peoples, tribes, gentiles and cultures. We are asked to "repent.." by John the Baptist. Translated hebrew meaning is to " turn towards" ( acknowledge this love). The only sin is to " turn away" from and deny the relationship with ones creator. And that sin was even forgiven , " forever more" on the cross.  The idea of being born with "original sin"  no longer is, all is forgiven! ....This relationship cannot be broken. Ignored or denied , (even though free will gives us this illusion) we are never out of relationship with our Creator. From the garden of Eden ( when Eve chose the wisdom, knowledge of this world ) expulsion to the crucification the message is the same.
 We, all creatures, flora , nature are connected to each other.
 Even the recent studies of trees show their relationship under the ground with the entertwining of their roots, that insure harmonius survival for all.

Another teacher Lau Tsu , an elder contemporary of Confucius, spoke more of this relationship with nature.
... In the way of the Tao, it is the creative and "binding"  force that runs through the universe.

A relationship again evident by our need for trees to keep our lungs full of oxygen and the trees needed carbon monoxide.

Yet another teacher, a possible contemporary of both these Chinese spiritual leaders, 500-600 BC,  Buddha from India has an emphasis on connection that begins with the relationship we have with ourselves through our breath. This practice leads to our own and others suffering less, including an awareness of the preciousness of all life, through the understanding of impermanence and change. 


2502 years after Confucianism, my teacher from San Francisco Zen Center (1987-1992) has written a book, " When You Greet Me I Bow" by Zoketsu Norman Fischer. Even the title mirrors the essence of his understanding after many decades of practice, studies and teaching. this following quote is from the first page....................
            ........ "So it is quite surprising that the opening
                     section of this book, its bedrock, is about
                     relationship. Because this is what I discovered
                     after many decades of Zen Buddhist practice:
                     that the religious life isn't about truth as much 
                     as it is about relationship. Or, that, perhaps truth
                     and relationship are one and the same...............
                      Relationship is not something that happens
                      (or doesn't happen) in a life, it is life's truest truth.

My conclusion about our meeting and practicing together for only a few years compared to his life in an ongoing community, my path is continuously linked
to his. It is no longer surprising to me we are in tune with one another as we look back on our lives in our 7th decade. 70+ revolutions around the sun. 

      I have my own story from my  first meeting with a teacher ,Katagiri Roshi, a dear friend of the founder of San Francisco Zen Center, 
Suzuki Roshi. I was a new student of Zen pactice and not experienced in private meetings with revered teachers, one on one. I waited in a cold zendo for the many older practioners to complete their meetings. My barefeet, very cold while sitting zazen for the hours of waiting.
      As I climbed the stairs, I went over my instructions door..... bow to altar ....side step...face roshi bow and sit.
        I opened door, closed door,it was a very small room , perhaps 8x8 feet and one small window over roshis left shoulder. As I began  the altar bow, I saw a beam of light come thru the window and warmed my feet. I nearly jumped for joy.
      "thank you, thank you, thank you, that feels so good . "
I completed my bow, side stepped and bowed before roshi and sat down.
       With some nervousness I began to tell my story, " I am new to Zen practice" and also a new resident of the community.
        His answer was " you have been practicing for a very long time".
It would take another 6 years before I understood what he meant and would leave the center and community.
In a lecture to students during a following visit he proclaimed that if we fall asleep, his words will enter through our pores. A statement of relationship beyond even our awareness. 

                     Aunt Adele

My youngest memory of being taught about relationship was from my aunt Adele. She taught a musical kindergarten in Portland Oregon after she retired from an international opera performer career as a soprano. Her main teaching to me, especially when sending me to the corner when I would act out, "we are all the same." The other students knew I was her niece, so no special favors.
She read from tales about children the world over. I was later at 30 to be her assistant and learn how to pass on to children her view. A blessing and gift . 

In my teens, the time of racial protests, political asassinations and the rise of feminism, I began to read autobiographies including Mahatma Ghandi. The following quote I have attempted to follow throughout my life. It pointed out every choice I make about how I live would affect all beings. I lived without a phone or a car until I moved to Alaska and they were both needed to have job and support myself. I was 40 years old.

                    "Live simply , so others                               may simply live."

Another autobiography I read was about Malcom X. and even though he separated himself from other racial groups he said these words as a truth he became aware of...............

                             ...."and I, for one, will join in with anyone-
                             don't care what color you are- as long as 
                             you want to change this miserable condition 
                             that exists on this earth."    

"..... If  there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones." M Aurelius 180 A D

Live on in our families, friends and even in the caring for nature, forests and oceans, of Earth. Our relationship, our existence lives on. 

           Blessed New Year 2024    


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