December 4, 2013

Zen as Sin is Bliss: A Response to the Questioning of Faith.

I’m trying to hold my tongue, but my lips are parted.

My words want to fly out, yet I’ve learned to pause before speaking.

Yesterday, I posted the following quote as a snippet from a blog, The 3 Essentials of Zen.

“In Zen Buddhism faith means faith in yourself.

It is holding on to the belief that the Buddha nature is present within us.”

I typed that quote as a means to sharing his story, not my own. Yet I found myself surprised to have a person directly tell me, Jessica, that I shouldn’t get mixed up in Buddhism, that Zen Buddhism is a false religion, and that they loved me (I don’t know them) as well as we serve living God and no other. Freaky?!

Why me? Why did I get a person responding to my post? Why not my fellow elephants?

The person also said that Buddhism can’t help me. Plus, the worst part—the person called me Jessica. (Sorry, but that name is reserved for my close friends, and my mom.)

That’s where she pushed my button, so I began to think about my faith.

After my initial annoyance and bewilderment, I laughed, remembering another Facebook post that one of my co-elephants posted earlier: Nothing goes away if you don’t deal with it.

I guess that this response to my post was that Nothing.

Sometimes I wonder if someone put a post-it note on my back that says, “Try her; she’ll convert.”

Years ago, a co-worker (who was a close friend of our boss) slipped one of those Born-Again comic books into a Sierra magazine, knowing that I would read it during my break in the lunch room. Yep, I found a new job in no time, and recycled the Born-Again comic book, so it could be part of a new notebook or paper bag.

Certainly, the person’s comment that invaded my personal space had to be the Nothing that I had to deal with in my journey.

So, here’s my advice to all those who may want to convert me.

IT is not happening.

My heritage is mixed, so that my roots go back to Hans Landis (who was beheaded for standing up for his Anabaptist’s beliefs in Switzerland) while another one weaves back to Native American blood. I am not easily tamed.

I may appear sweet, soft and diplomatic. In college, I won the award for saying “No” a hundred different ways while representing South Korea for the National Model United Nations conference in New York City.

I can’t be converted.

I respect all the variants of religion. Although, I think that I might be tempted by Judaism: I love their rituals, and Jewish guys are handsome and smart.

Yet it’s not my religion of choice.

Sure I’ve experienced religious moments like being full-bellied pregnant while attending Christmas mass at a Catholic monastery. I could relate to Mary, as we had spent that summer camping on our friend’s property while the father of my sons looked for a job. We finally found a job and a home; our son was born just after Christmas (almost nine years ago).

During the surprising moments of my journey, I’ve had to have faith (especially in the past 10 months). Faith is hard; it means letting go of expectations while still holding onto our dreams.

Faith in my self is essential in overcoming all the obstacles that have been put in my path. I didn’t plan on finding the above quote about faith as something integral in my life, but it is now. The Buddha nature is present within me.

Buddhism has played a part of learning to have faith in my self. I learned to “check in” with myself. What am I feeling? Where am I at? Who am I with?

I’ve learned to hold my tongue. Reflect upon my words before I speak them. I pause, as I did before writing this piece.

Seriously, it works because I learned that we can be diplomatic and true to ourselves.

Furthermore, we cannot be passive and ignore injustices by keeping our mouths closed. We need to welcome our anger just as much as we need to be diplomatic.

Yogi Seane Corn explained the use of rage beautifully in an interview with elephant journal. She explains how rage is necessary, yet she learned how to use that rage through yoga and meditation by creating dialogue that encouraged engagement and conversation, “as opposed to making someone else wrong, so we can be right.”

I balance that desire for justice with respect for others. Buddhism helps me find that balance.

“In Zen we do not follow our religious teachers and leaders blindly. We check every belief against our own knowledge and experience.”

~ Daniel ‘Dharmavirya’ Scharpenburg from The 3 Essentials of Zen.

Coincidentally, I believe that Feminism is rooted in this method. We check the reality against our own experiences.

I learned in Journalism 101 that it’s essential to check all sides of the story, so I try to give breathing room for differences in opinion. Maybe that’s the reason for the attempts at converting me.

I try to see all sides of the story, so I gave my reaction to the faith comment the same space as the recent blog, Feminism Sucks. The article chewed away at me while I slept, so that upon awakening, I found that the response about faith from the reader and the Feminism Sucks blog merged into a common ground.

As I went through my morning of shuttling my sons to school, I thought about the interconnection: in Zen, I check others’ beliefs against my experiences and as a Feminist, I check others’ beliefs against my experiences. Are Zen and Feminism both sins? Wow. I’m sure that commenter would hate to see me mixed up in Feminism, too.

“True power is sacrificial, giving, nurturing and good.”

~ Eric Shaw in Feminism Sucks.

I read that line as “true power” means recognizing our experiences—only if they are giving and nurturing. If we act masculine, then we blaming the men. No, we are questioning the dominant paradigm (a story, but one we all take a part in).

As a woman and a human, I long to see a society in which femininity and masculinity is blended. Yet I have not experienced our society as being one of True power—nurturing and caring is not a norm. Feminism is still necessary, and doesn’t suck, except for those who are threatened by it.

Thankfully, our society is moving toward one that is more caring and compassionate: thanks to Zen and Feminism among a hundred other reasons.

In the meantime, I will do my part to share acts of care, not fear.

I will be open-minded, but I will not be converted by another.

I enjoy being mixed up in the likes of Zen and Feminism. Also, I plan on interrupting anyone’s desire to put their beliefs of God in my face, so quit it; don’t tell me that your God doesn’t like Zen Buddhism.

Remember that by having faith in ourselves we may find that this feeling invites us to have faith in something greater, regardless of its name.

Faith with my self is not a sin.

As for me, I believe in a Great Spirit. A being that wants all of us to live fully awake, loving, angry, sad, disappointed, caring, sharing and trying to be our best with what we are given. That is not a sin.

In fact, Zen as sin is bliss because I love my faith, and I will share it.

Come close, I’ll give you a hug, tickle you and listen to your joy and sadness, but please do not call me, Jessica. Wait until we know each other a little bit better.

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Editor: Bryonie Wise

Photo Credit: Pixoto

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