Offerings of Light – In Memory of Tibetan’s Hero Martyrs

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Exactly three years ago, February 27, 2009, a young Tibetan monk named Tapey left Kirti Monastery and walked to the crossroads of the market in the town of Amdo. He had showered his body in oil, lit a match, and set himself aflame as he waved the Tibetan flag with a photo of the Dalai Lama on it. His was the first Tibetan sacrifice – an expression of spiritual courage, a cry against decades of unendurable oppression, a plea for recognition and assistance from the world. The Chinese call these brave souls terrorists.

Buddhism emphasizes the preciousness of human life and the karmic weight the destruction of life carries in future rebirths. However, sacrificing one’s life for the benefit of others is also acknowledged as an act of compassion. I recently watched the movie “Joan of Arc,” with Ingrid Bergman, and immediately thought of these Tibetan martyrs. Below is the poem that came from these juxtapositions in my mind.

For continuous information on the continual struggle of the people of Tibet and to contribute to easing their suffering, join the International Campaign for Tibet – http://savetibet.org

Offerings of Light

Flames flood flesh
searing pain
soon ends.

She cried out “Jesus”
they shout “Dalai Lama.”

Centuries separate martyrs.
She burned on a pyre.
They burn in squares, at crossroads.
An executioner lashed her to a cross
set the wood aflame.
They anoint their bodies in oil
light the matches themselves.

Their bodies tantric offerings.
Towers of fire
blaze with defiance
suffering of spirt
cannot be endured.

St. Joan, French young woman
responded to voices she alone heard.
Fought oppressors of her people
refused to deny her spiritual guides.

Tapey, Tibetan young man
waved his country’s  flag
with the Dalai Lama’s photo
first to set himself aflame.

Near 20 human candles
lit in three years.
January 2012 Sobha Tulku,
“I give my body
an offering of light
to chase away darkness
to free all beings
from suffering.”

Light offerings of death
to terminate tortured humiliation
to stop sacred sites’ desecration
to end environmental decimation.

Will worlds remain silent
while sons and daughters of the land
take the ultimate stand?

Remember their names
Tapey, Tengyi Phuntsog, Lobsang Kalsong
Dawa Tsering, Kayang
Tsewang Norbu, Sobhu Tulku
Lobsang Kachok, Kelsang Wangchuk
Choepel, Norbu Damdrul
Tenzin Wangmo, Palden Choetso
Tenzin Phuntson, Tsultrim.

Centuries ago
Joan’s body became a beacon of hope
for the French against English dominion.
Now Tibetan monks and nuns
light a path through the
darkness of China’s nefarious night.

With bodhicitta motivation
compassionate wish
to relieve pain
of sentient beings
their flames are alchemy
transforming tyranny
into freedom’s equanimity

Bridging Contradictions – Becoming 21st Century Saints

Once upon a time, a golden skinned little girl knelt on her knees and prayed before her statue of the Virgin Mary.
“Hail Mary, full of grace. . .help me to be good like a saint.” She tried to be helpful to her parents and to be obedient. She tried to be kind and loving to her sisters. But, it seemed almost every day she was plagued by anger she could not stop from feeling. She could not understand why people got into fights, or lied, or stole, or were just bad for the sake of being bad. Most of all she could not understand why young men hunted each other in state supported killings called wars. But, sitting out looking over water, the large lakes in Minnesota or the endless gulf in the Florida panhandle brought her joy and wonder in the majesty of nature’s gifts.

Time hurled her through life and she found her hair beginning to gray while her concerns only grew and her anger now turned to the perplexing question of “How do I live my beliefs in peace, preserving the beauty of nature, and practicing compassion for all peoples?”

Over the past several years, my e-mail has changed from a source of communication with friends and family to an activist’s launch pad. Monday through Friday, I receive from 20 – 50 e-mails informing me of environmental, health, women’s issues, civil and human rights, and political issues – most with a petition to sign or a letter to send. Whenever I do sign a petition or send a letter I feel I am taking an active part in creating positive change. Last year, I actually received several “We won” e-mails. One of them was regarding the XL Pipeline, an environmental disaster waiting to happen, that rears its ugly head again. For years, my husband and I have found ways to recycle our cans and plastics -even living in the middle of the Hopi Nation.

Recently, I’ve taken more steps to decrease the contradictions in my life between what I believe and how I live. The last time I cleaned beneath my kitchen sink, I threw away the Round Up weed killer. Round Up is one of corporate Monsanto’s major selling poisonous products. (A fact I learned from several activist organizations’ e-mails) Also, I quit buying my favorite toilet tissue because it was a Koch Brothers affiliated company. (A fact my husband told me from an internet source.) I opened a new savings account to remove savings from one of the high rolling banks that has been criticized for its predatory mortgage practices. But, I still find myself carrying a sense of guilt that I am not doing enough.

I, along with  most progressive environmental organizations, use electronics to communicate with the world, yet few people address the devastating effects of used computers and electronic parts. I actually learned of deaths caused by recycled computer parts on a CSI TV show. Guiyu, China is just one of several places in Asia and Africa in which environments and people are poisoned by the waste of our technological excess. Guiyu has the dishonor of being the largest electronic recycling site in the world. Although the population makes money from its recycling,  children suffer from lead poison and the recycling work has poisoned ground water.

Then, at other times I feel that this planet will endure beyond my short life or the actions of the worse corporate polluters.  Even our scientists don’t really know how many millions of years this orb of magma, rock, and chemicals has evolved through space. During all of this time, plants and animals have changed, adapted, and yes, many have disappeared. But, new ones have developed and survived changing climatic conditions for thousands of years before industrialization.

If I were not a Buddhist, I would probably be an extreme radical environmental social activist, utterly insane, or despairingly suicidal, or in jail. But, Buddhism teaches that everything that has a beginning has an end. All of these material objects, from our own bodies, to this very beautiful planet we live on, are as ephemeral as a dream. Yet, all of these ephemeralities are interconnected and dependent upon each other to exist. Our purpose in being alive, as humans, is to recognize that we are all one interconnected vast puzzle that can only be solved with compassion, patience, and wisdom.

So that little girl grew up and learned how to transform her anger into action. People working for positive change, motivated by love and concern for others are the saints living in our midst today.

Living King’s Words in Changing Times

". . .I've been to the mountaintop."

I wonder if Martin Luther King, Jr. had lived would he have endorsed his birthday as a national holiday? Maybe he would have said we should have a Civil Rights Day and honor all of the people whose lives were dedicated to obtaining civil rights for all Americans, beginning with the abolitionists and underground railroad heroes such as Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman. Or maybe he would have suggested a national holiday to recognize the first peoples of this nation and all they have contributed from the Iroqouis concept of true Democracy, to how to grow foods and how to survive in harsh lands. Since this observance exists how should we celebrate this year?

This year, 2012, is a five year, the number of change. Change was the slogan of the 2008 Obama campaign and change will continue with the re-election of this country’s first African-American president. Yet, too many people fear change, particularly those who are invested in the comforts of the status quo. But, change is the natural order of life, from the constant cellular metamorphosis each individual body goes through every day to the cataclysmic upheavals of earthquakes and tornadoes. No corporation, legislative bill, law, or weapon can prevent or control such natural changes.

Likewise, on a social level, social change moves forward not backward in the USA. Economic conditions do go up and down, that is the nature of a capitalist economy. But women’s rights, not only to vote and to work, but also to control their own bodies will not be surrendered. The rights of the so-called “minorities” Black people, Native Americans, Latinos, Asians, homosexuals and women,  are now, taken together, the growing majority, will never again be pushed to the back of the bus.

King emphasized compassion and sacrifice, two qualities largely missing from the political and social discourse of the 21st century. But, now during this year of change is the time to resurrect compassion and sacrifice to bring about a truly democratic society guaranteeing everyone freedom, justice, and the pursuit of  happiness. So, let’s imagine how King, by recalling his words, would answer some of today’s pressing questions.

1.    What do you think about the OWS movement?
        The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists who are dedicated to justice, peace and brotherhood. We who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. When you are right you cannot be too radical; when you are wrong, you cannot be too conservative. Law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. The question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be… The nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.

2.    How can we improve our failing economy?
        A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom. Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness. Philanthropy is commendable, but it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the circumstances of economic injustice which make philanthropy necessary. Property is intended to serve life, and no matter how much we surround it with rights and respect, it has no personal being. It is part of the earth man walks on. It is not man. Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think. The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?” But… the good Samaritan reversed the question: “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?

3.    How should we end terrorism and the threat of war?
        Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal. Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love. Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time; the need for mankind to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to oppression and violence. The means by which we live have outdistanced the ends for which we live. Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men. The chain reaction of evil – hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars – must be broken, or else we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation. It is not enough to say we must not wage war. It is necessary to love peace and sacrifice for it. We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.

4.    How would you address the Libertarian and Tea Party positions that oppose social and antidiscrimination programs?
       We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools. The true neighbor will risk his position, his prestige and even his life for the welfare of others. All too many of those who live in affluent America ignore those who exist in poor America. In doing so, the affluent Americans will eventually have to face themselves with the question: How responsible am I for the well-being of my fellows? To ignore evil is to become an accomplice to it. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality. Hate destroys a man’s sense of values and his objectivity. It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek.

5.    What do you feel is the most effective strategy for maintaining social and economic justice?
       I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend. Everybody can be great… because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love. Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it. I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.

Sources: http://usliberals.about.com/od/patriotactcivilrights/a/MLKWords_2.htm
http://www.quotationspage.com/quotes/Martin_Luther_King_Jr
http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/m/martin_luther_king_jr.html#ixzz1jB994xBe

Continuity of Consciousness – A Birthday Story

One summer day, when I was ten years old, I thought, “I always was and always will be.” I found comfort and support in that thought, but immediately remembered  the Catholic Church teaches that only God has no beginning and no end. Although I could not resolve what appeared to be a contradiction to  Catholic doctrine, and at that time I was a devout Catholic, I KNEW I always was and always will be.

Many decades passed before I found validation of my realization in the teachings of Buddhism. The concept of continuity of consciousness reveals that which is the essential element of being always was and always will be. The error in my thought was the “I” for according to Buddhism no “I” truly exists. But, that’s a topic this I cannot tackle in a brief story.

So, today I celebrate another birthday. I’ve reached the age where how old I am doesn’t matter because as the saying goes, “You’re as young as you feel.” Yes, I’m one of  millions of Americans called “baby boomers.” We range from those born immediately after World War II to those born at the beginning of the sixties revolution, 1946 to 1964. Many of us continue to cling to those beliefs, life styles, and ideals that we held as youth. Many of us continue to grow finding new beliefs, ideals, and life styles to keep us healthy and youthful in body, mind, and spirit.

I see myself belonging to both groups. I’ve been blessed to continue to believe, as Ann Franks wrote, that “people are really good at heart.” True many propagate ignorant, racist, bigotry and millions around the world suffer unnecessary poverty and inhuman genocide. But, I do believe that when people conquer the poisons within themselves all of these evils disappear. And today, on my birthday, I cannot attempt to offer all of the solutions that are being provided to end these abuses.

This year, however, through this blog, I plan to share, not only my creative writings, not only to tell stories, but also to provide information and links to the many organizations and individuals that let me know that the balance of good vs evil will prevail, though the struggle is longer than most realize.

To illustrate, I will now end with the story of Tara. The Tibetans tell us two stories of Tara’s origination. The first is that in the most ancient of times she was a princess named Yeshe Dawa, “Moon of Primordial Wisdom.” She was devoted to the Buddha, developed the great compassion known as bodhichitta, and vowed to become enlightened for the benefit of all sentient beings. But, the lamas at that time believed that enlightenment was possible only in a male body and advised her to pray to be reincarnated in her next life as a man. Princess Yeshe Dawa knew they were wrong and vowed to conduct enlightened activities in the past, present, and future in female form. So, she became the fully enlightened buddha known as Tara who bestows blessings in 21 forms.

Going back many more eons, when Chenrezig, the Compassionate One, worked for eon after eon to liberate sentient beings from suffering, to the point of developing thousands of hands and eyes. When he finally felt that he had succeeded in leading all beings to enlightenment he looked around and saw countless beings still suffering. Overwhelmed, Chenrezig fell to the ground blinded by tears of love and compassion. One of the tears from his left eye became the female bodhisattva White Tara, one from his right eye manifested as Green Tara, and both said, “Don’t worry! We two will help you.”   (From, Tara’s Enlightened Activity, by Khenchen Palden Sherab and Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal).

Knowing that consciousness can continue endlessly moving toward enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings is good reason to celebrate another birthday.

STORY OF A HEALING DREAM


I had not intended to write today, but I have a story to share. Tuesday morning, I ended my 12 hour night shift of nursing with a feeling of malaise. For hours I had a headache that was not strong enough for pills, a tiredness I could not explain, and a deep feeling of emptiness, confusion, and loss of purpose. My sleep was intermittent and I awoke with the same feeling I had when I went to bed. Feeling as I did, I could not face another night of no patients, occupying myself with reading, fighting to stay awake, temperature changes from hot to cold, and the never ceasing roar of multiple electronic machines. So, I called in sick.

I was sick, sick in spirit. Something was wrong and I couldn’t figure out what it was. I just knew I had no motivation and the positive pulse that had been directing my days for the past many months was gone. So, I rested. I rested my mind and body. I stayed in my night gown and robe, moved slowly, cooked dinner, took a nap, watched a movie with my husband, did my spiritual practice, and was in bed before one a.m. (which is early for me, even on nights I don’t work).

Of course, I didn’t fall asleep right away but I forced myself to lie in bed and rest. I knew I needed rest to get well, I needed to rest my mind and my body. When I finally fell asleep the first dreams I remembered were confusing and frustrating. They were the type of dreams I have too often of trying to go somewhere and never reaching my destination. Then I had the following dream.

I was sitting at a dining table, the Dalai Lama was at the head of the table, and I sat on his left side, next to him. He spoke with energy and enthusiasm, moving his arms and hands to emphasize his words. He turned and smiled at me, as if he knew me well and we had talked before about what he was discussing. Then, I was in a storefront teaching a class about taking refuge. Someone was mopping the floor as I talked.

When I awoke from those dreams, I felt rested, refreshed, and refocused. I did not get up immediately, I wrote down my dream and then let energy flow into me. The first thought I received is the topic of my next story. Then, the ideas came for the book I have been writing, The Ultimate Wonder, my collection of stories on death and dying.

Finally, I realized that the reason I had gotten sick was that I had stopped writing. The busyness of the holiday season, a new focus and interesting challenges on my job, and a host of intriguing distractions had pulled me from writing. I had even fooled myself into thinking I didn’t need to write, since all I get are rejections and seldom any comments or responses when I do write.

But, as I repeatedly tell Brian, my husband and a visual artist, we must do our work for ourselves and because we have to work to live. We create not to make money but to feel that every day offers the possibility of creative activity, a new insight into the meaning of existence, a novel approach to recalling an experience, a unique and original way to capture a compelling story. So, whether or not I ever achieve recognition, publication, or “success” as a writer in this world. I have this forum to say I am a writer, I live to write, and I will continue to write.

Upon reflection, not only did the Dalai Lama heal me of my malaise, the dream gave me clear direction. My writing is to serve the purpose of sharing the Dharma, the good news that with compassion for ourselves and all sentient beings (and a lot of work) anyone can realize their Buddha nature and attain enlightenment. . .but that’s another story.

Reflections on a Year of Gratitude

The gratitude symbol as a rock garden.

The old analogy of some people seeing the glass half full while others see it half empty can also be applied to how some people will reflect on 2011. Some will see this as a year of betrayed promises leading to despair, others will see this as a year of small successes with positive growth and movement leading to gratitude. I adhere to gratitude. Many writers, journalists, and politicians will discuss the negative and positive political, social, economic, and environmental issues of 2011. The year is done and I want to reflect personally on the many gifts and several surprises I received in 2011.

This year began with kind and supportive messages, cards, and gifts from friends and family for a landmark birthday. Later many of these same people helped me to define myself as a creative, caring, calm storyteller, wanting to make a positive difference in the world. Shortly afterwards someone sent me an e-mail from the Vision Alignment Project and soon I was practicing the magic of Intention, finding that I can indeed positively direct my life course for the highest good through my words and vision. The weight loss photo of a friend on Facebook led me to Isagenix. After many years of failed attempts to lose weight, I lost 16 pounds in 41 days and in general feel healthier and have more energy than I have in years.

I’m grateful for my work as a registered nurse in the Hopi Nation and for finally getting a nurse manager who considers herself a co-worker and not a boss. I’m grateful for being able to live in this spacious and beautiful land of tall mesas, big skies, and warm winter afternoons and living in a house that feels like home. I’m grateful for my husband who continues his creative journey with me.

When this year began, my focus was on writing and storytelling. I am grateful to have successfully completed my series of audio stories, “The Ultimate Wonder” and am in the process of preserving the series in a book. As I struggled with rewriting and submitting my screenplay and short story while reading professional writing magazines I am grateful for finally deciding on how I want to direct my work as a writer. This blog will be a major tool for me to share my written works.

Finally, I am grateful for being able to apply my Buddhist practice in my daily life. I have been able to devote more time to spiritual practice and meditation which guides my choices and priorities. As the Dalai Lama, and all Buddhist teachers, relate until each person turns inward to free themselves of the poisons of anger, greed,  ignorance, desire, jealousy, and pride we will continue to have problems that make the headline news and keep the wheels of war and corporate monopolies turning. So, I am grateful that I am striving to develop the antidotes to those poisons, the six perfections – patience, generosity, wisdom, joyous effort, ethics, and meditation. With these skills as my sword, I draw a circle of gratitude and prepare for the coming battles of 2012 to be a  force for the highest good of all. So be it and so it is.

Welcome to the World of the Feminine Ocean Holding Great Knowledge.

I have spent this day, the burial of my dear elder Cousin Helen, going through my Buddhist books, notebooks, and prayers. I was searching for the Sur practice to do for Cousin Helen to assist her passage through the Intermediate Bardo. In the process of this search, I found the card with the name my teacher, Shenphen Dawa Rinpoche, gave me when I took refuge.

I came upon Word Press after signing up for the Chagdud Gonpa blog (where I ordered my Sur practice, which I did find). Just yesterday I realized I had forgotten my refuge name. So, that I found it on this day, I decided that it would be the appropriate name for my blog, Rigzen Chomo, Feminine Ocean Holding Great Knowledge. When I received this name, I felt humbled and inadequate. Although, I still have much to learn, for learning never stops, I am beginning to recognize that I am blessed with an ocean of knowledge and it seems now is the time to begin.

To introduce myself – I practice Tibetan Buddhism, I am married to the artist, Brian Payne, creator of the online Zinc Comics. I am a professional storyteller, http://storytellingtheater.com, and a registered nurse. We currently live in the heart of the Hopi Nation, Polacca, AZ where I work the night shift as an OB and Medical/Surgical registered nurse.

So, I’m very busy all of the time but all things happen for a reason. You will be hearing from me.

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