Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘karma’

The Return Trip

imagesFrom a talk to sisters during the sunny season. 210 B.C. A deserving excerpt from Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire.

Let’s speak of karma and cause and effect. This is an important concept that is often misunderstood or diluted with theory and make‑believe.

Karma is simply a word we use to try to describe the reality of one thing affecting another – action and reaction. What you put in one end comes out the other. Nothing exists in a vacuum, unless you’re a piece of dust, which has been sucked up from the carpet. In that case, your entire existence is in a vacuum.

Everything we do, say, think, or feel goes out into the universe. Sometimes the universe spits it right back at us, and at others it goes through a long wash cycle until it is clean and folded. There are millions of karmic vibrations intermingling, bouncing off one another, and influencing the direction we are going.

That is why it is vital that we stay awake and conscious of what is occurring (unless we are sleeping of course). When we are aware, we can then make choices, and not just react out of ignorance, drowsiness or a craving for a latte. Whether these conscious choices make any difference is dependent on your reactions to this teaching, and whether you are dust in a vacuum or just another cog in the karmic dream machine.

More karmic influences at: Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire.

Aunt Tova’s Closet

imagesChantall’s story about her aunt’s material things. Excerpt from Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire.

Master Tova’s niece, Chantall, had recently arrived from the land of the Maori to care for her aunt in her final days. The first thing The Master requested was that Chantall clean out her bedroom closet.

“It would be my pleasure Auntie. Where would you like me to put everything?”

“Just clean it out first, then we’ll figure out what to do with it.”

Chantall went to work and was surprised to find such an array of items packed into such a small space. She pulled out three bags of clothes, ten pairs of shoes (including some sequined platform clogs), a shredded bed roll, five pairs of candlesticks (which were melted almost to the wick), fifteen unmatched socks, a pair of rusty engraved silver scissors, scroll after scroll of some ancient texts (which she could not read and did not understand), two balls of yarn, a broken knitting needle, seven lightweight blouses (with stains and various colored material), a large pair of men’s pants, a moth-eaten velvet hat, an earring, nose ring, ankle and wrist bracelets, an array of playing cards, a begging bowl, an ochre-colored robe that had turned almost gray, a wooden chess set, two brass bells, some old letters (which she planned to read as soon as her Aunt drifted off to sleep, as they appeared to be love letters), a drawing of an elephant sitting in meditation, and a necklace with a green emerald pennant in the shape of a Bodhi tree. Clearing out the closet took much longer than she’d expected.

“Now what Auntie? What would you like me to do with all your things?”

“We must first clear out the closets of our mind, before we can be free,” Master Tova replied. “A mind cluttered with ideas, thoughts, the past, the future, or desire, will never find freedom.”

“Okay,” Chantall said, “but what do you want me to do with all this?” She nodded towards the high pile of Master Tarantino’s possessions.

“That? That is nothing more than a collection of matter, which had been stored inside a container of matter. Holding on or letting go of material objects makes no difference. It is our attachment to people, places, or things which causes suffering and keeps us on the endless wheel of karma.”

“Yes. I understand Aunt Tova, but where should I take it? What do you want me to do with it?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Just leave it. Better yet, why don’t you take what you wish, give some to your mother, and distribute the rest to charity?”

“I’m not sure how to say this Auntie, but most of this is useless. It wouldn’t even be worth donating.”

“Then burn it all. Light a pyre and reduce it to dust, just as I will soon become.”

“As you wish.”

Chantall took load after load out into the light of day, built a fire, and started throwing Master Tarantino’s material goods onto the fire. She kept the ancient scroll, the necklace, and a bell. She tried to retrieve the love letters, which she’d inadvertently thrown in with everything else, but it was too late. Then she returned to her aunt’s room.

“It is done Auntie.”

“Excellent. Now you are free. There is nothing holding you back. You can move on.”

“Those were your things, not mine.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, I’m sure.”

“Well, it doesn’t matter, does it? Desirelessness is a trap and desire is liberation.”

“Don’t you mean . . . oh, never mind.”

As Aunt Tova drifted off to sleep, Chantall quietly tiptoed out of her room, wondering what she would have found in her aunt’s love letters, and berating herself for having inadvertently thrown them into the fire.

Chantall told this story to her mother after she returned home from caring for Aunt Tova. Her mother wrote it down and later passed it on to an undisclosed student of her sisters community.

More stories of desire at: Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire.

Stealing the Buddha

Stolen from Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire.

One rainy morning, Mistress Tarantino was sitting quietly in the garden under a banyan tree. She was very still. Suddenly, she heard a noise and opened her eyes. She watched a man climb over their two‑foot tall security fence and creep into the yard. He looked around quickly, but didn’t see her watching. The man plucked some apples off the apple tree, then picked up the large bronze statue of Buddha in the center of the garden, lifted it onto his shoulder, and started walking towards the fence.

“Hey!” Mistress Tarantino shouted. “Stop!”

The man didn’t look to see who was calling out. He began to run towards the wall. The Buddha was heavy, so he couldn’t run very fast, but he was almost at the wall when he was tackled from behind. The statue fell to the ground, the apples flew into the air, and the man lay sprawling.

The poor man looked up and saw Mistress Tarantino standing above him. “I didn’t take track in school for nothing,” she said.

“I’m sorry,” the thief replied. “Really, I’m very sorry. Please, don’t call the police.”

“Police?” Mistress Tarantino smirked, “we don’t need no stinking police.”

“What are you going to do? I’ll do anything to repay you.”

“Anything?” asked the Mistress.

“Yes, anything.”

“Okay, if you insist.” Mistress Tarantino helped the man to his feet. “First off, promise to never steal again.” The man nodded. “Secondly, please put the Buddha back where you got it.” The man nodded again. “You must be strong. That sucker is heavy duty. Last, but not least, come back here every day for the rest of the apple harvest, take what you can carry, and give them away to anyone you see who is hungry.”

The thief was perplexed. “Is that all? Is there no punishment?”

“You’ve already punished yourself with the karma you’ve created. There is no need to add oil to the fire.”

“Thank you Mistress.” The thief bowed, then took the statue and placed it back in the middle of the garden. “I will return tomorrow and take a bag of apples into town. I know several families that need them.” He bowed again and started to leave.

“One more thing,” Mistress Tarantino said. “I strongly urge you to meditate and strengthen your awareness. If you ever decide to steal again in broad daylight, at least you will be more attuned to your surroundings and will see if someone is sitting just ten yards away watching your every move.”

More thieving words at: Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire.

The Summer of Stones

Here is the latest touching poem from my friend Jerilyn Elise Miripol.

The Summer of Stones

Sweet butter,
imagesThai vegetables
Remind me
Of felicity
The summer of stones,
Trailing along the Buddhist parkway,
A garden of solidity
This temple embraces me
As I view the purified altar,
A liturgy of karma.
I also postulate in the euphoric
Bursting lotus blossom
Replicating the light of the One
Who guides me out of my affliction
With the wonder of
The seraphic essence of healing herbs,
A tonic
Dissolving my corporeal pain

Goddess of Cancer – Scene 4

Excerpt from Goddess of Cancer and Other Plays by Gabriel Constans.

Goddess of Cancer – Scene 4

Characters

GODDESS: Multi-cultural woman of no particular age. Face painted a variety of flesh tones. Hair a mixture of blond, brown, red, black and gray. Long rainbow-colored robe. Changes persona frequently.

VICKI: Asian-American woman in her twenties. Casual dress. Animated. Angry. Anxious. Scared.

WENDY: European-American woman in her thirties. Conservative dress. Quiet. Shy. Fearful.

JENNIFER: African-American woman in her forties. Business suit (beeper). Intellectual. In control. Avoids emotion.

LENNIE: Mexican-American woman in her fifties. Flowing skirt, flowery blouse. Insightful. Compassionate.

BARBARA: Arab-American woman in her sixties. Gray skirt and sweater (wearing a cross). Strong. Survivor. Dogmatic. Angry. Tired.

CHANTALL: Jewish-American woman in her seventies. Slacks and blouse (gray wig, in wheelchair). Humerous. Matter of fact. Sarcastic. Worried.

Setting

Living room. White couch center stage facing audience. White chair next to couch, stage left and black coffee table in front of couch. Large green plant on floor between couch and chair. Flowers in a vase on table. White door stage left. Three large pictures with red frames on wall behind couch. One picture is of the Grim Reaper, one is of an angel and the other an hourglass. Black bar facing audience stage right, with potted plant on its corner. A light switch is on the wall by the bar. Closed cupboard behind bar is full of cigarettes.

A slide-projector (with a color slide of each actor’s face shown at beginning of each scene) is placed on one end of the bar for the Goddess to operate or in front of the stage and controlled by a stage member.

Time: Afternoon or early evening. Present.

ACT I

SCENE 4

(Picture of Lennie appears on screen.)

GODDESS: Lennie. Fifty-six. Poet. Divorced. Children and grandchildren. Terminal lung cancer.

(Goddess turns project off and lights on. There is a knock at the door.)

GODDESS: Come on in Lennie. It’s open.

(Lennie enters.)

LENNIE: Hey, how you doing Goddess?

(Goddess walks up and gives Lennie a hug. They both stand back holding one another at arms length.)

GODDESS: Can’t complain . . . life, death, fear, hope . . . living on the edge like usual. You’re looking quite beautiful, even sexy I might add, considering your condition and all.

LENNIE: You’re so sweet. I try. People look up to me, you know. I can’t let them down.

(Goddess walks with her arm around Lennie to couch.)

GODDESS: Let me get you some Ginseng tea. It’s supposed to help your immune system stop me from spreading.

(Goddess walks over to the bar and brings back a cup of tea, hands it to Lennie and sits down next to her.)

GODDESS (continued): People look up to you? Why?

LENNIE: I don’t know. I guess I’m a good listener and they know I really care. I try to love people for who they are and show compassion for all living things.

(Lennie looks at flowers and plants.)

LENNIE: (continued) What beautiful flowers!

GODDESS: Thanks. I love being surrounded by life. (Pause.) When you said you love people, did you mean your family and friends?

LENNIE: Yeah.

GODDESS: Do you feel the same towards strangers?

LENNIE: I guess so. Yesterday, I was waiting for the bus when a lady said I had ‘kind eyes’ and started telling me all about her family and how it was falling apart.

GODDESS: Could you love anybody then, even me?

LENNIE: (Surprised. She takes Goddess’s hand.) Of course! It’s not your fault you act the way you do. It’s your nature. I know it’s nothing personal. You’re a biological abnormality that can’t sit still. Blaming you would be like yelling at the sun to not rise. It’s your karma.

GODDESS: And it’s your karma to die?

LENNIE: Of course. I deserve it.

GODDESS: You deserve it?! I thought everyone loved you.

LENNIE: They do, but . . . something happened once . . . I’ve never told my kids. I’m sure it’s why you came.

(Lennie sadly turns away from Goddess)

GODDESS: Tell me. Please.

LENNIE: I can’t. It’s disgusting. I’ll take it to my grave before I tell anyone.

GODDESS: (Laughs) Hey . . . that’s not a problem. I’m going with you, remember?!

LENNIE: (Looks around and sighs deeply.) Oh yeah. Well . . . how do I start? (Pause.) My father died suddenly from a heart attack when I was thirty. I hadn’t seen him for twelve years. The day I turned eighteen I left home and never turned back. He was a real Jekyl and Hyde. People in town thought he was a saint or something, but when he got home from work and started drinking . . . If my brother or I tried to stop him from hitting Mama he’d slam us against the wall and call us foul names, especially my brother. I don’t see how he survived. He ran away when he was seventeen. (Pause) We’ve never talked about it.

GODDESS: You’ve never told anyone?

LENNIE: No. We were taught to keep things in the family and he swore he’d kill us if we didn’t. But that’s not the worst.

GODDESS: What could be worse?

LENNIE: What I . . . I did . . . in front of his family.

GODDESS: What?!

LENNIE: I didn’t know I was going to do it. (Pause) You sure you want to hear this?

GODDESS: I’m dying to hear!

LENNIE: Well . . . everyone gathered at the graveside for my Dad’s funeral, with the family up front, you know how it is. (Goddess nods with understanding.) I was standing between my mother and brother, with my grandparents next to them. The priest was praying and everyone had their heads bowed. Suddenly, I felt a burning in my belly. It worked its way up my gut, got stuck in my throat, then spewed out of my mouth in a guttural scream, ‘I hate you! You bastard. I hate you! You’re a filthy Jack ass! Thank God you’re dead!’ (Pause) Then I leaned forward and spit on his grave. (Pause)

GODDESS: That’s it?! You think that is why I came?! (Goddess starts laughing.) Lennie Lennie Lennie. Listen. I had no idea. I didn’t know anything about it. How could I be your karma?

LENNIE: I just figured . . .

GODDESS:You just figured that since you’re so sweet, compassionate and understanding that you weren’t capable of such hatred. It doesn’t fit your self-image, does it?

LENNIE: No. I spit on his grave . . . in front of the priest . . . his parents!

GODDESS: Honey, that’s nothing. Sounds like you could have killed him yourself and it would have been justifiable homicide! He put you and your family through a living hell and believe me, that’s far worse than dying.

LENNIE: But he was my father!

GODDESS: I don’t care if he was the Pope. Nobody has the right to treat another human being like that, let alone his own daughter.(Pause) How about practicing some of that love and compassion on yourself, or don’t you think you’re worthy?

LENNIE: (Crying) I guess so, but . . .

GODDESS: Shhhhh. No buts about it. You are creative, beautiful, a talented poet, caring mother and extraordinary human being. The feelings towards your father are just as real and valid as your compassion.

LENNIE: OK OK. It’s useless to argue with someone who is killing me.

GODDESS: There you go. Now get out of here. You don’t have much time.

(Whispering to herself.) Damn. Now they’ve got me saying that time thing!

(Goddess turns back to Lennie and gives her a hug.)

LENNIE: Thanks. I hope I don’t see you for awhile.

(Lennie waves as she closes the door.)

GODDESS: (Crosses her arms and shakes her head side to side.) Sometimes this job stinks. But hey . . . it’s my karma.

(Goddess turns off lights and starts singing to way to the projector the tune of “Wouldn’t It Be Lovely” from My Fair Lady.)

GODDESS: All I want is a body somewhere, far away from the mammogram’s stare, with one lump here and one lump there, oh wouldn’t it be lovely. Lots of cells for me to eat, lots of tissue for me to meet. Warm hands, warm face, warm feet, oh wouldn’t it be lovely.

(Goddess turns off projector with picture of Lennie.)

Goddess of Cancer Continued – Tomorrow Scene 5

Are You Dead When You’re Dead?

How we feel, believe or think about what happens to us after we die matters. It matters because our thoughts about the after-life often effect how we react too and live in the present.

If one believes that their physical reality and what they see, feel and experience with their senses is all that exists, then the thought of its termination and our bodies decline may be frightening, if not down right terrifying. If someone’s faith tells them there is something that continues beyond the known physical realities of the world or takes them to a place of peace and happiness, they may be less inclined to fear their own mortality or that of others.

Both ideas and beliefs, that something continues beyond death and that nothing does, may also help us live more in the moment and appreciate the short, precarious lives we live or create continuing anxiety about how things are or where we would rather be.

The reason the word may is italicized, is because there is no omniscient law of nature, physics or human response, that such beliefs in life after death or solely in the material world, causes only those stated or expected reactions. We are far more infinite than the stars in our complicated, yet simple, desire for understanding, comfort and reassurance about the unknown and what happens to us after we die.

When I was a teen, I used to believe strongly in reincarnation. At the time, it made sense. As I grew older my beliefs shifted from Yoga and Eastern traditions to Quaker activism and social responsibility. Then it changed again and again, from the Catholic Church to Judaism and from Eastern Buddhist belief in transgression and karma, to natures continual recycling of all forms of matter, including human beings. Whatever I was practicing or following at the time, was my reality. Each exploration into the afterlife or spiritual nature of humanity gave me some answers and experiences I could hold onto, make sense of and say, “This is it! This is the truth! This is what happens!”

In my early work with hospice and later as a chaplain at the hospital, I met a number of people who had been clinically dead and revived or resuscitated. After hearing their stories and reading research that had been done with thousands of others who had had similar experiences around the world, I “knew” that some part of our consciousness or awareness as human beings (at least in the first few minutes) continues.

Most recently, after my acquaintances with a number of people whose cultural background and/or religious practices, has worshiped and spoken with deceased ancestors, I have begun to send blessings to and bring into the present, those in my family who have preceded me into death.

Because of my work as a grief counselor I have been granted the opportunity to explore the question of life after death with many people. Here are some of the answers, thoughts and beliefs that have been shared.

“Those who believe will find everlasting peace with Jesus and the Saints.”

“God is the only answer. I know they are with God.”

“My loved one always felt at home by the sea. When we scattered their ashes in the bay, it felt like he had been buried in his church.”

“As a Tibetan Buddhist, I know my wife went through different Bardos (spiritual worlds) and gained enlightenment. She is such a compassionate loving being.”

“When we’re dead, we’re just dead. There’s nothing more and nothing less. That’s why it’s so important what we do while we are living.”

“I believe there’s a white light and the peace and joy are indescribable.”

“The bible tells me there is heaven and hell. I hope I’ve lived a good life and go to heaven. I know my son is there waiting for me.”

“My sister has come to me several times and told me she’s alright. I have no doubt that she’ll be there to meet me when it’s my time.”

“The Lord is the way, the truth and the light. I will be with my Lord Jesus.”

“Maybe I’ll see my parents when I die, but I don’t know. I tend to believe that something better is waiting, that there’s something more than this, but I couldn’t say for sure.”

“It’s all chaos. There is no rhyme or reason. I have no idea what will happen after I die.”

What’s your experience been? What do you think happens after we die? What have you been told? What does your family believe? What does your religion teach you? What do scientists propose? How has the media portrayed the after-life? Is death less frightening because of your beliefs? Do you think anybody “really” knows before they die what happens after we stop breathing? How does your belief or thoughts about life after death effect how you live your life now? Does it matter?

Tag Cloud