Salmon in the Dark
‘Buddha nature pervades the whole universe, existing right here and now. The wind blows, the waves fall on the shore, and Kuan Yin finds us on the dark and broken roads.’
~ Pacific Zen sutra service dedication
It was only a few days ago I was wading out into the cold and clear Kemano River in north western British Columbia. The salmon ~ Chinook and Pinks ~ were swimming in great schools up the river to spawn. We had earlier seen grizzly bear tracks along the bank, and now sixty yards across river was a mother and her cubs, following the salmon up stream. In the cloud-broken sky above, bald eagles were flying to high branches in the Sitka spruce, screeching. It was beautiful. Not a thing was out of place.
The mother grizzly bear waded across a tributary, hardly waiting for her cubs. Born this spring, they were robust, but still a bit hesitant and unsure of themselves. One cub waded into the stream and then the other followed. A few minutes passed and our view was obscured by some brush. One of the cubs let out wrenching wails of distress, and we could see the mother trashed about in the water. A short time later, she continued upstream, now followed by only one cub. Apparently, the second cub did not make the crossing. As she certainly was, we were deeply distressed and angry: stupid mother, weak cub, bad fate. Lots of fault to be found. But in its own beautiful and terrible way, not a thing was out of place.
It is easy to find fault and get angry at the world: stupid boyfriend, weak self, bad fate. Our practice is not so much about fixing those things as it is realizing that not a thing is out of place. And somehow, coming to understand that allows for a deep healing to take place. We can find joy on the dark and broken roads.
The service dedication goes on: “We give thanks to all the ancestors of meditation, in the still halls. To the unknown women, centuries of enlightened women, ants and sticks and grizzly bears.’
It ends: ‘Let wisdom go to every corner of the house; Let people have joy in each others joy.’