Wow, it's been a LONG time since I've posted anything to this page. Which makes sense right? I mean nothing really significant happened in the last year and a half, did it? ...What? What did I miss?
OK. Look, as most of us have been, I bet, I've been somewhere between being overwhelmed with thoughts and inspiration and just being so damned exhausted from it all that just keeping my composer was a full-time effort.
So. In light of some things going on lately, I dug up this Dharma talk note I wrote a few years back. I'll write out a story or metaphorical stream of ideas from time to time. Then leave out writing down my own direct, relevant experiences or perspectives on practical Buddhism for spontaneous talking points. Thus the footnote at the end. It's in regard to an experience I had rebuilding a burned down home. The owner's of the terrifying fire had a new house to live in, but the neighbor's still had some lingering, phantom scents of smoke that continually reminded them of the unintentional harm caused by the event. One might be able to ascertain a metaphor for karmic consequence from even that snippet of the story.
Anyway. Here's my thoughts on a Campfire as our Sangha. Enjoy!
These sits where we come together in the interest and the service of awakening can be really sacred and beautiful. It’s more available, the beauty, if we're willing and able to allow ANY experience that comes out of this to be in that service.
We all came from so many directions today and from the infinite possibilities of experiences we had into being right here together for a little while. And from that, we may have come in with some expectations of what “will I get out of this”, what you expect to hear, who you expect to see, how will you be received and maybe how well you will receive what’s offered.
And while I am happy to share some of my perspectives and understandings of Dharma with you, I feel like my role, my obligation to you as a group facilitator tonight Is to value your time and attention by providing some area of focus and that it may be of some service to you, your direction, your perspective and insight. Shoring up or challenging them, or maybe testing your level of tolerance.
What you take away is yours to keep and do with as you will (you and your Buddha nature), but the creation of it will be collective. Simply out of the nature and energy of the Sangha itself.
When I was growing up on the coast the big event was having a beach party at night with the big fire sometimes or at somebody’s Ranch inland. Now whoever hosted that party was usually responsible for the fire and being in construction, I had no shortage of access to fuel for the fire with scraps from the job, so many times I was elected to that position and that was cool. It felt good to have that responsibility and regard because the fire was the main focal point out there at night in the dark and cold.
Everybody huddles around the fire. So it was cool to be the guy with the pickup truck full of wood. I’m always early to everything so I’d get there and unload it all, maybe have some hands pack it in close by and I wasn’t always the one that got to set it up to ignite later... everybody’s an expert when it comes to this.
So people start showing up around sunset and just before it gets dark somebody would get this thing going and you know how it is at first: big hot fire with the paper and kindling burning off. Of course we usually threw gasoline on there to make a show out of it. Some people like that kind of thing ...some don’t.
You know it’s when (and how) the fire and gets established that it becomes communal... and through the course of the night has a lot to offer.
To the senses and the spirit: all sense doors engaged in the exciting sight of the fire, the crackling sound, the taste and smell of burning wood and smoke, the heat in your hands and face... and for me, just the miracle of fire itself tends to deepen my thoughts and makes me feel connected to a power greater than myself
To our tribe: we can see how we’re all centrally drawn to its warmth and energy and yet how it affects us all differently throughout the night as the fire changes with the direction of the wind or the fuel it’s burning. You know, there’s always someone who gets smoke in the face the whole time no matter where they moved, someone else usually gets so close they get burned or char some article of clothing, someone else always upwind and not really feeling it.
And then there’s all the contributors; some knuckle-head’s going to throw something on there that doesn’t belong and someone else will dowse it with a beer. There’s the experts, the chronic pokers, the hunter gatherers, the chefs, the daredevils, the elders and the children.
None of us are the fire itself.
But we can create it, maintain and nurture it... bring to and take away from it... and leave it to smolder out... taking away nothing but our experience.
The same goes for these sits, energetically everyone brings something into this room that becomes the fire. And everyone walks away without any part of it but their own direct experience from being around the fire like everyone else.
The Buddha spoke often about knowing our experience as externally, internally and both externally and internally. Extensively throughout the Satipatthana Sutta, our User’s Manual to mindfulness meditation in the Theravada tradition.
If we contemplate the element of fire literally and purely externally, we know what a delicate balance it is. An asset and liability as an element vital to our survival, yet when it is unconfined, can be devastating, merciless and deadly.
Living in California, we get an up close and intimate relationship to this nearly every year. Folks in large numbers are still putting back the pieces of their losses as we enter into the next season. In my career as a homebuilder and working on many insurance losses over the years, including the San Bruno fire, I have some rather direct experience with this as well.
Figuratively speaking, if we can parallel ‘fire’ with ‘human passion’ whether in lust or in anger we can see a similar volatility.
This is not our fault, at least not the first part - it’s the conditions of our reality and the fundamental basis of the first and second noble truths. A) that there are causes and conditions that are not agreeable and b) because we cling to the idea that we can control the world we live in by pushing away pain or clinging on to pleasure, the manifestations of these actions gets to become detrimental to our peace and well being.
Absorbing the wisdom of the 3rd and 4th truths; that we are capable of liberating ourselves from this process in this lifetime (3rd) and following the path to this realization or at least getting further from ignorance – through applying the virtues of wisdom, ethics and concentration, using the map of the territory we know as the eightfold path...this is our responsibility once we can see it.
**EICHLER STORY? (leads to compassion, equanimity, sangha)