July 14, 2010

This Obon: Can We Feed All the Hungry Ghosts?

Can I Acknowledge My Sickness?

In a Huffington Post article, Zen Master Bernie Glassman, the founder of my Zen community explains:

In the Zen Peacemakers, we recite Sanskrit spells and provide food for hungry people in our community. We prepare a food offering and use ancient spells to invite the hungry ghosts into the room.

He explains the origin of the Obon rituals of making offerings, setting boats into the river and doing a traditional dance. He explains how those rituals form the basis of our weekly liturgy, which represents our commitment to serving the community.  As they explain in the video below, Bernie developed our liturgy with the kirtan singer Krishna Das.

Sitting with people or aspects that I don’t want to acknowledge is part of my daily practice, both on the cushion and in the meals program of our Montague Farm Zen House.  At our meal last Saturday, a guest said something to me and I didn’t acknowledge her.  Looking back, I realize that I had a sense that her mannerisms and behavior were weird.  They didn’t conform to typical social standards.  Why didn’t I want to let her in?

It makes me think about attending a group therapy session for the mentally ill of a dear family member of mine.  I previously didn’t want to accompany that person.  I didn’t want to acknowledge that people can lose control.  I didn’t want to acknowledge how people’s psychotic delusions reflected my own personal delusions.  But staying in that space and returning to similar spaces has deepened my connection to that family member, to myself and to everyone.

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