A student asked Chao Chou, “What is meditation?”
Chao replied, “It’s not meditation.”
The student asked, “Why is it not meditation?”
Chao replied, “It’s alive! It’s alive!”
~ The Recorded Sayings of Chao Chou, case 100
As it sometimes goes in Zen, synchronicity has brought this koan to my life a number of times in the past week. A friend just held a short retreat based on this koan, and a student spontaneously started talking about It’s alive! in a conversation we were having and how it has helped him live with a painful disability. In an unusual form, this koan came to me, of all times and places, as I was watching the news coverage of the Senate Judiciary Committee on CNN. In this blog, in the hope of getting to something deeper, I usually try not to gain easy points with political commentary. Nonetheless, at times the political debate of the day flops into my life, and I talk about my life.
Last Thursday, I was too afraid of the raw emotion to watch the early part of Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony, but tuning in to the latter half, I found her presentation balanced, compelling and courageous. Brett Kavanaugh’s showing, to my eyes, was aggressive, evasive, and partisan. However, it was not these two dramatic testimonies that most moved me. The encounter that stole my heart and returned it with tears happened later, when two sexual assault victims confronted Senator Jeff Flake in an Senate chambers elevator, imploring him to vote against the Kavanaugh nomination.
“Look at me when I’m talking to you,” demanded one of the women as she held open the elevator door, which had begun to close. In a teary voice, she shouted, “You’re telling me that my assault doesn’t matter…Don’t look away from me. Look at me and tell me that it doesn’t matter what happened to me!” The second woman offered, “I cannot image for the next 50 years [my children and yours] will have someone in the Supreme Court who violated a young girl!” She appealed, “Do you think he is able to hold the pain of this country and repair it? That is the work of justice.”
As our sutra dedication goes, “Buddha nature pervades the whole universe, existing right here and now.” That means all of this universe. Practice is not about building coalitions in a divided world; they always disappoint and fall apart anyway. Awakening is about understanding that no divisions existed from the very first, and that we are all one community under the same big tent. And that community is Alive!
Here is the clip of Maria Gallagher and Ana Maria Archil’s appeal to Jeff Flake: