Pai Chang asked a monk, ’With your throat, mouth, and lips shut, how will you speak?’

~ Blue Cliff Record, Case 71

Speaking, eating, even kissing: There is no need to explain these in Zen. They are the most basic actions of the buddhas and bodhisattvas, which means all of us. So too with shedding tears. I was deeply sad for some time last week after posting about the 8-year old boy in our neighborhood who died unexpectedly last Christmas Day. In their words, the family ‘came to know the bitterness of life’;


I too for a time felt that. Though never easy, somehow when older people pass away, we can understand that they had a chance at life. But when children die, I can’t help but feel that the strongest of social contracts ~ to feed, nurture and protect our young ~ has been broken.

In their mourning, the family of the child has been exceedingly brave. They sent two holiday cards this year, one in memoriam and the other a more conventional collection of family photos documenting the travel and play over the last year of the remaining three family members. ‘If we will continue,’ they wrote in that second card, ’we have to make new memories.’

Without shedding tears, how do we cry? Without using arms, how do we hug our children? It is like tossing a ball in a swift-moving stream, one teacher said. ‘Moment by moment non-stop flow.’