Embracing the Immeasurable Earth: A Great Perfection

In these chaotic times, amid disconnection, the kind of transformation needed is one in which we are aligned with our bodies, with nature we inhabit. We must all first know that we have inherited nature. Our bodies are a form of nature; they should not be hated, abused, or slaughtered. The body consists of all the great elements: earth, water, air and fire. When we abuse collective social bodies we also abuse and pollute the collective elements. We ignore form as nature. – Zenju Earthlyn Manuel

The way we relate to the Earth is an exact mirror of how we relate to one another. – Larry Ward

Everything is perfect as it is – if we move an iota, we damage it, even that, even the deep inadequate thoughts, are perfect…We cannot escape the Bodhisattvic Heart. –Keith Dowman

Keith Dowman opened this year’s Dzogchen gathering Everything is Light with a powerful expression of the Nature of Mind. Immersing us in the Dzogchen view of Perfection, “We know in ourselves we are that Perfection, when we stand back and compare ourselves to others, where does that function come from?” A few days later Larry Ward invited us to see this perfection in ourselves, eachother and the world, as he led Colors of Compassion the first POC retreat at Great Vow.

The planet, Earth & you are the same stuff. – Larry Ward

Bodies are a film on the top of a Boundless Ocean. Get rid of the notion of individual entities competing and relate from the ocean that we all share. – Keith Dowman

Keith gave us the metaphor of the mandala. At its center is the clear radiance of the Heart, the fundamental sameness that is shared with each and every living thing. The emptiness of form. As we move out from the center, we meet our particularities of this embodied life. Our location in society, our history, story, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, class and the oppression, challenges, privileges, projections and aggressions that come with embodiment. The form of emptiness.

Even though it has been said that we can awaken right where we are, in the very bodies we inhabit, on this planet upon which we walk, we still speak of awakening as if it happens somewhere outside of our particular embodiment in time and space. The silence regarding race, sexuality, and gender in spiritual literature may create the illusion that all is well in our spiritual communities, or that speaking of our unique embodiment in terms of race, sexuality and gender is not necessary. When the subject is tabled for discussion in spiritual communities, the tension is palpable, and our inability to approach it honestly gives rise to frustration, grief, humiliation, guilt, numbness, blindness, fear, and rage. – Zenju Earthlyn Manuel

As western Buddhists practicing the Dharma we are resting on the cusp of a new and radical spirituality. The teachings of liberation and compassion are being unbound from the religious monastic institutions in Asia and beginning to really take root in a Western lay culture of technological advancement and socio-political awareness. The relevancy of the teachings asks that we shed what is extra and really look at the Heart of the Buddha’s teaching, the Perfection inherent in each and every embodiment. The profundity and immediacy of this view is accessible to anyone with a heart willing to tune into the truth.

One of the reasons that we are unable to manifest what we deeply want for ourselves, and one another and our children, is our mind. And not just our mind in general. But I mean our mind that has been traumatized. And by mind, I do not mean to disconnect this from our body. We have been hurt, we have been wounded. And being hurt and being wounded is a normal human experience. So, how do we deal with that? How do we attend to our woundedness? How do we attend to the destabilization of our nervous system that gets retriggered and retriggered…- Larry Ward

If oppression is a particular kind of suffering for all. Do we all acknowledge this suffering? No. Are we all tender, in the sense of wounded soreness, to it? Because of the nature of our interrelatedness, the answer is yes. Whether we are aware of it or not, we are all connected to this wounded tenderness in some way. – Zenju Earthlyn Manuel

As Dogen Zenji instructed in his timeless teaching on the essence and practice of zazen meditation, “turn the light to shine within.” The Dharma is turning the light of cultural awareness to shine within the systems of oppression that keep us bound in dualistic and divisive thinking and prevent us from fully actualizing the fruit of Compassion that flows freely from a truly open heart.

Without inner change, there can be no outer change, without collective change, no change matters – angel Kyodo Williams Sensei

This work is not easy. Just as zazen isn’t easy, despite the simplicity of sitting. But to practice non-aggression and acceptance with our own thoughts, emotions, habits of mind and body, gives us the strength and equanimity to practice in the world. How do we react in racially uncomfortable situations? What in us and all beings is indestructible? How can we recognize and skillfully dance the sameness and the differences of our human experience?

We usually suppress our tenderness, because it leaves us far too exposed. But the feeling of woundedness is not the complete experience of tenderness. The complete experience of tenderness is to acknowledge that within the seamless life shared between us, we cannot parcel out hate to some without affecting the whole of humanity. When we reach that kind of tenderness – complete tenderness – liberation is won. – Zenju Earthlyn Manuel

My dearest Earth,

I am so sorry I’ve been away.
I’ve been busy, making things, buying things.
I’ve been lazy, never the less you have remained loyal to me
And I find that to be a wonder!
You have given me my birth and you will receive me again when I die, such loyalty!
Never asking for anything except to be present
With compassion, with care

I have gone to sleep many nights praying for your well being.
But I find it difficult to know how to love you at this important moment.
I am sometimes not sure how we are even connected.

The fog of the modern world obscures your beauty, your preciousness.
And now I realize it obscures mine too.
My desire for continuous things that I don’t need, some I do need.
But when I measure my value by the mark of how my extra I have that I don’t need.
I am not loving you.
I am loving myself.

At this day I ask myself, What is worthy of my life’s dance?
I feel the Great Vow stirring in my blood, in my bones.
Even though sometimes I feel powerless in the face of giant machines ripping your skin and cutting your limbs.
I am left with the question:

What is worthy of me? – Larry Ward

The Heart of Wisdom and Great Vow Sanghas are looking deeply at white privilege and racial injustice and how it displays in ourselves, our communities, cities and nation. And are currently working through a curriculum of re-education. There is a lot of literature about white privilege and the emotional responses a racially sheltered white person may encounter as they begin to open their hearts to the truth about racism and racist systems in this country. Here are a few resources if you are interested in joining us in this collective awakening of consciousness.

Quotes from:

Zenju Earthlyn Manuel’s book The Way of Tenderness: Awakening through Race, Sexuality and Gender

Larry Ward’s talk at Great Vow Embracing the Immeasureable Earth during the POC Colors of Compassion Retreat

Where Does it Hurt? Ruby Sales on On Being

Anatomy of White Guilt

The Costs of Oppression

The Cost of Racism

Being with Sangha

Sometimes we sit just so we can be together
Amounting to no thing and it’s more than enough.
I will sit a little straighter for you, and you will do the same for me.
In the cold junk filled gym, the hail and the wind
I am kept warm by the Sangha’s tender embrace.-Haley Voekel