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Sangha Reflections

Comments on Taigen's teachings in Minnesota
by Rick Allen

For most of Saturday and certainly for Sunday's talk, I found myself looking inward towards something I could not see or immediately understand. I found it equally interesting that you observed my mental struggle. I knew it had something to do with reconciling the dualities of spiritual teaching with the necessities of everyday existence. My mind felt as if Dogen was speaking directly to me, simply asking me to listen. Two stories kept coming to mind, one about the universe itself and another of Yellowstone National Park.

What is the universe, except that borne of horrific violence of unimaginable proportion? Violence, by some estimates, 18 billion years old, that is still evident in the continuing expansion of material and energy. The violence continues in thermonuclear explosions that are so vast as to be capable of destroying our entire Milky Way galaxy, whereas other thermonuclear reactions heat the air we breathe and the water that falls as rain that feeds our crops.

Yellowstone is a microcosm of violence turned sublime. Borne of an immense volcano, it blew off the top of a mountain that covered most of what we know as western Wyoming. Over time, lava flows backfilled what must have been one hell of a caldera. Then came the most recent ice age, covering the entire park in ice over 1 mile thick, in selected areas to be prematurely melted by the action of geysers, which in turn eroded land amidst ice, in time weaving the Yellowstone Canyons and Falls.

From this violence has come immense beauty. Beauty of land, beauty of sky, of life and by extension mind and spirit. Were any of us to have experienced first hand the immense energy of the Big Bang or even the volcanic eruption that eliminated western Wyoming, would we not have concluded it to be a tragedy? How could we have known that from what most certainly destroyed all life was the beginning of a new universe? Wasn't it Mozart who said that to God, all life is but an opera?

Who are George and Rumsfeld but ants in this opera? Are they any more negligent than our own actions when we look away from a homeless person? Even with this in mind, I still went to work. And I even contacted my Congresswoman and Senators about Patriot Act II. I have not escaped my own perception of duality.

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