Reader comment on Sharon Salzberg's passage ...

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    On Aug 9, 2011 John Anderson wrote:

     It is very nice to quote theories of how linterconnected life is, and substantiate with stories of monks that walk through crowds of vagabonds and villains without being harmed, but is that your reality? Because it wasn't the reality of Paramahansa Yogananda, the Hindu Sage, who got mugged whilst walking in New York!  It is momentarily exciting to hear of great deeds by a few, fleeting moments of illumination of some, but as Mother Theresa says: 'we can do no great things, only small things with great love'.  Great love may be felt in Zazen, but can it be transported into reality, when people refuse to listen to your words of love and actions of generosity, because they don't trust anyone?  Do we have the humility to admit we are wrong in front of others?  Do we have the strength to hold our child's head in our arms as they enter their sixth epileptic seizure,and hold the faith to believe that God will be there for them if they die? Can we remain present with our mother and love her, whilst she denies our abusive childhood and not say a word to her in retribution?  Can we understand the actions of our abuser and forgive him?  Do we really think that sitting doing Tonglen meditation, imagining that we are absorbing the world's suffering, will prepare us for real suffering?  There is a vast difference in imagining something and experiencing something.

    Yes, all these techniques have their place; however, the way of the monk is more than Zazen, it is also about abstinence, discipline, training, hard beds, cold showers, meagre food, no alcohol, no coffee or drugs - is this the way of the average westerner?  We cannot cherry-pick the bits we want and expect the same outcome as the true disciple.

    I am not a kill-joy, I have experienced all of these things that I talk about and I remain resolute in life; I believe that if we are to move through the difficult times we are going through, and keep the faith, we need to face our fears and develop the presence of awareness to transform the trauma of our apparent separation through the practice of dynamic mindfulness.  It will not happen in Zazen alone, it requires dedication to the path of conscious living and a process that allows one to flow with life, even when life isn't flowing the way we want it to flow - that is my definition of generosity.  It is through our real experiences, particulalry the difficult ones, that we can develop meaning, purpose and value for life and test the veracity of our beliefs about who we are and why we are here.  John Anderson - The Art of Being Human:

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