Alright, well he’s my elephant anyway.
I recently posted about how the book The Zen of Recovery changed my life. On a lark, the day before, I had actually contacted the author of the book that taught me that my connection to God as I understood him didn’t have to be a mundane and faux personal connection that I wasn’t even sure existed. The Zen of Recovery taught me that a power greater than myself exists right here, right now. The power greater than myself is much more abstract, much more tangible, much more real than an invisible man that has the right, duty, and obligation to judge me. I mean seriously, what is that about anyway? This benevolent, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent deity that supposedly created the whole universe, somehow concerns he- she- or it-self with whether I walk into a small wooden booth and tell a man that I was angry (an offshoot of the Deadly Sin of Wrath) and lost my temper and gave a total stranger the finger in traffic last week or I think my neighbor’s wife is smoking hot. I feel bad about giving the random stranger the bird and about thinking my neighbor’s wife is hot, so what do I do? And then a man on the other side of what is essentially a padded cell for the contrite slides a window open like a prison visitor picks up the phone to talk an inmate, and orders me to say a bunch of words in a predetermined order and Boom! I get to go hang out with his boss in an afterlife I’m unconvinced exists.
You see where I am going.
I should insert here that the confessionals at St. Margaret Mary’s, the parish where I grew up, were not the same as the archaic, gothic intimidating confessionals as St. Mary Magdalene’s, the church in downtown Omaha where my Da would take us kids for what we called “drive-thru mass.” No songs, no sermon, nothing. Readings from the Old Testament, the New Testament Testament and a reading from Matthew, Mark, Luke or John, communion and boom, we were outta there in time to get to the donut shop and have treats for Mom on Sunday morning.
Zen, on the other hand, addresses the whole can of worms of sin, contrition and redemption much more practically.
The can of worms is me. And I can expunge the worms by living according to the concept of meta, which means having loving kindness for all sentient beings.
Meta for the guy in traffic.
Meta for my neighbor and his wife, smoking hot or not.
In my case, meta for the thousand or so flies and moths that congregate around the security flood light outside my bedroom window.
In his book The Accidental Buddhist, the author quotes the Buddhist scholar Thich Nhat Hahn as saying “Jesus did not say that if you are angry with your brother [or the guy who cut you off in traffic,] you will be put in a place called Hell. He said that if you are angry with your brother [or the guy in traffic], you are already in Hell. Anger is Hell.”
The Buddha never concerned himself with ultimate destinations of Heaven or Hell or Purgatory. The Buddha’s point was that if you live a life of anger, hate, vengeance and wrath, you will, in this life, experience mostly anger, hate, vengeance and wrath. To practice meta, loving kindness and its brethren compassion, joy, love and peace, you will mostly, experience loving kindness, compassion, joy, love and peace.
All this is to say I emailed Ash and he and I exchanged messages and he agreed to guest post for this blog! I was so excited, I rushed to find my copy of his book, which is most likely in the Graveyard Closet in my bedroom where I shoved all the stuff I didn’t have a home for in my new place. And, since I’m avoiding sorting through the closet until, most likely, the next time I move, there it will remain.
Bought another copy on Amazon yesterday.
So, I’m going to read it and draw up a list of questions about the last 30 years since he published his book. Oh, and it turns out Ash is an aficionado of the Beat Generation writers like Kerouac and Ginsberg and Snyder and wrote a book about how Buddhism played into the writing and thinking of that cache of writers.
I’m so excited about this. Look for Ash’s post on this blog!