What does it mean, “Taking Refuge”?
One thing is certain, this week’s events regarding the Supreme Court decision has rattled a lot of cages. There is profound emotion, upheaval and consternation. My reaction has vacillated between fear, anger and an attempt at compassionate detachment (bearing witness). It’s been hard to contain, hard not letting it “spill over”. To me, this feels like another step in the erosion of rights and the marginalization of all but the powerful. One thing is certain, the lives of many women and men will be affected. Compound this week with the ultra-violenceof the past few weeks and it seems like we all are experiencing a high level of anxiety and other powerful emotions. In the maelstrom of emotions that rise, is there one place, one way of finding some semblance of inner equanimity?
This phrase “taking refuge” is what’s comes up. Taking refuge can be as simple as a half-hour of zazen or 3 breaths at any moment. We can’t control what comes up, it arises choicelessly, but we can take the refuge of that ‘inner-place of practice’ in many different ways.
Pema Chondron puts it simply; “The idea behind taking refuge is that when it starts to rain, we like to find a shelter.” We reflect on the meaning of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha as the refuge of the three jewels. We understand that the teachings and the sangha can be helpful for us as well. So too, we understand that we are not hiding or escaping life’s problems by taking refuge. We are not escaping samsara. Roshi Bernie taught, “Bearing Witness and Not Knowing”, not turning away, but seeing ‘what is’ without the mental fog of dualism and conceptualization. If we do as Roshi Bernie suggests, we do not turn away but look directly, somewhat painfully at times, and we gain some heart-insight and understanding of the suffering we are witnessing. In being awake to what’s happening there is an empowerment that dissolves some of our anxiety and at best leads us to compassionate action.
We are so fortunate to have each other to speak with, to lean-on, to trust and to be heard without the fear of judgement and the assurance of comforting understanding. We hold a common understanding of compassion. We respect the efforts we ourselves make and support each other, no matter how halting our progress, toward a deeper embodiment of greater compassion. We bring to mind the teaching of impermanence of the “10,000 Things”. Becoming comfortable in that uncertainty, even it means ‘becoming comfortable being uncomfortable’, as many of us are feeling now, also increases our inner peace, and helps us rest in naturalness and equanimity. It seems to me that taking refuge is really just being present, awake, aware and ready to engage in whatever way we are capable of, for each other and all being.
Monday 6:30am Zazen at the Tea House
Tuesday 7pm Dream Koan at the Tea House or ZOOM
Wednesday 6:30am Zazen at the Tea House of ZOOM
Thursday 6:30am Green Tara Sadhana at the Tea House or ZOOM
(Sensei Zenho requests that the merits of practicing the Green Tara Sadhana this week be dedicated to women and marginalized persons affected by the ruling of the supreme court.)
Friday 6:30am Zazen at the Tea House and dokusan.
(Issan in Denver Thursday-Monday.)
Deep Peace & Great Love,
Issan & Zenho