I’m a combat veteran, I work with veterans. I teach martial arts. I teach haiku. I’m the resident haiku poet at the Japanese Culture Center and the Labor Lay Buddhist chaplain at the Jesse Brown VA Hospital. It’s interesting because my grandmother and grandfather were from my grandfather’s, a Protestant minister and Presbyterian Church and Deep South. I was born in Charleston, South Carolina, so it’s deep south. I’m long away from those those roots. But they said as a kid, they would tell a story that when I was an infant in the crib, I always had my hands like this and they kept and my grandmother was thinking, Well, maybe I was going to follow in my grandfather’s footsteps. And now, of course, we know that, you know, we’re talking about God show that. And later on, she came to accept that my path was not hers, but that my path was as equal in its validity as hers was. But I kind of came to Buddhism first. Traveling with her as a missionary, my grandfather died early. My mother had some health issues, so I spent a lot of time with my grandmother and we traveled all over the world Central America, South America, Pakistan, all sorts of different places. And I’ve got some funny stories about my grandmother, but that’s, you know, that’s for a different time. But as she took me around, I saw so many different cultures and so many different paths that I felt. Hmm. Maybe there’s something else out there for me, and I would spend hours I would talk to not just my grandfather before he passed away, but to other ministers throughout my life and ask them questions and read not just, you know, the Bible, but the by the gate to the Koran. I would read, you know, all of the different things that come about. And I would just keep on reading voraciously. Then my grandmother got older and I went to a Protestant. Orphanage, because at that point, no one knew no one knew what to do with me, I was a teenage boy about to start getting in trouble. It was good that a seven year old woman wasn’t having to take care of me. That was the point. A friend of mine. I’m still good friends with gave me a copy of Guarino Show, which is Miyamoto Massage, his book, A Book of five Rings, and I started studying martial arts. And in the intro to that book was probably my first foray into Zen Buddhism because he talks about a little bit of Buddhism. Later on, he goes on to say that it doesn’t. What he practices doesn’t have to be Buddhist, but there are some of some of the influences the head and there are other books on that . And even in his own, the Kaido, he talks about respecting the Buddha and so forth. But doing that, and of course, I’m at a Protestant orphanage, a big Presbyterian Church. We went to church 23 times a week and to sing in the choir. But even then, just some of the things just didn’t resonate with me. So I would go across the street to the Presbyterian College. It was. They would allow us to come into the library big library. And then I would just go and read every book that I could find on all the different Suzuki, all these different books . And so I was at school learning, learning from teachers, from martial arts, different type of traditions and just coming to understand myself better. Then when I got out of high school, I went into the military and learned and learned a different side about myself and exactly how far I could push myself. What was interesting is while I was in basic training, whether it was doing a run, training with weapons, those type of things, I kept in my mind that it was all impermanent, that no matter what they did to me, even if it pushed me to the point where I died, it would pass. I didn’t have to keep on suffering by holding on to my guys. They’re making us do 300 pushups. When is this going to end? I knew it would end, you know, either I would collapse and I couldn’t do anymore, or they would get tired of pushing us and would let us get up. But I really was still searching, and I didn’t really consider myself Buddhist at that time. It was more along the lines of still searching, but I knew that I did not go to the. The cat, the Christian or the Catholic services, any of that. I would go and sit with the monks practice taekwondo with the courtesies, which are Koreans augmented to United States Army. And I hung out with a lot of those guys. They would take me home. So I got a chance to visit traditional Korean homes and they experience wonderful kimchi that was homemade and bulgogi, all sorts of different wonderful experiences. And I think that this kind of not just from what I experience with my grandmother in Pakistan, South America, this was just another that we’re all just one group of people. This is a culture and any any religion that tries to set people apart wasn’t really my path because it needed to be more inclusive. And that was kind of my time in the military, then I f when I got out of the military, I was injured. I was injured and injured in combat, so I finished finished out my time. It was sort of in the meantime. So I spent the last year or so in rehab, getting my body back into shape, my mind back in shape. I also got TBI, so I got hit in the brain as traumatic brain injury. When I got out of the military, I traveled on my own consulting firm, worked for Apple, worked for Adalah and Sons, did print technology after that. Like I said, I traveled around. Up until about 20 years ago. Then I met my wife here in Chicago, and she convinced me that I needed to one. She took me to a doctor and I went to the neurologist, and he said, If you continue working like you’re going to, you’re going to be in a wheelchair. By the time you’re 40, I was 35 at the time. She got me to go to the Veterans Administration here. Jesse Brown. And I’ve been there for some time and they told me, yes. And I’m hundred percent disabled. I look pretty good, but there’s a lot of pins, a lot of Kevlar, a lot of nerve damage, a lot of things that I have to focus with. And by her doing that. She saved me. But also opened the door for me to be able to pursue. What I would have to say is my grandmother’s work continuing, maybe not. You know, passing along religion. But when she did that, she would take medicine to the sick. She would, and I’m dog and we would take Samsonite suitcases through customs. And I look back and I think my grandmother was a drug runner. She was taking penicillin and stuff, but she was still this was not legal. But it was the compassion that she had for the people that she went to help. She would build homes. She would put money so that they had infrastructure and it was amazing and look back on it. And with that, my wife, Renee. I wouldn’t be able to help I run a not for profit for veterans now that I help with them with PTSD navigating through the veteran’s system. I said, I am. I am at the Jesuit ground as the Buddhist chaplain there. I do memorials. I haven’t had to do too much. There’s not a lot of call for it. Most of the ones that are Buddhist, there are also my friends that we talk directly, not through the VA, but I do volunteer at the Jesse Brown answering phones, helping others, working with all the all the different faiths that are there. And so it’s definitely an interfaith. But is that carrying on that tradition that I was shown? By my grandmother, who I’d have to say, you know, she would deny it, but I would say she was a bodhisattva in a way because she just gave. We when I was a little boy. We sat at the Woolworth counter. In Rock Hill, South Carolina, during the race struggles, and she said at the black only table because no one would mess with her, so no one bothered her. And if anybody wanted to sit there regardless. They sat with her and I was at the. Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. And I saw that very counter. On the wall. That’s the type of person that I hope to be. To be compassionate giving. Dealing with adversity. And when I can get back on topic. When I moved after I was in Chicago, I had my wife and I were down in the Salvation Army down the street, and it was kind of odd because we saw these saffron robes and monks and we were like, Did you see that ? She was like, Yeah, I did. But then we turned the car around and they were gone like, All right. We both saw it. It’s not an apparition, so. So I looked and there is a man that her arm just right down the street from my house, probably to I think it’s two and a half miles from my house here. So I went and met them and I met them. Dr. Buncha, who is like, he was not the abbot at the time, but he’s an excellent guy and he did Vipassana meditation, walking meditation every Friday evening. I went to their services there on Sunday. Did it? He suggested that I do the reverse on a ten day retreat, which I did, which was. Kind of like basic training, it was, you know, meditation, basic training, it’s not 13 week is only ten days. So I knew if I can make 13 weeks, ten days of not talking was not that big a deal. The I guess it’s all what you’re used to, but the more I talk to him and the more I learned about them, they’re about a tradition. It was kind of like my grandmother’s tradition. It just wasn’t quite the path for me. With the monks, I mean, they have a shaved head, so that wasn’t the problem. It was just. I wanted to be more involved, and I felt that. It wasn’t just the people that were on the cushion that could. Achieve enlightenment or it could achieve something positive. They were supported by this song. I felt that everybody could do so. So even though I’m still friends with Dr. Boucher today and I’ve gone back and spoke at that temple now from Angela Shinta tradition, they still invite me back because they know that. Or at least I hope they know where I’m coming from is of the same type of. Path, just a different tradition. So I was this was still 20 something years ago, I had met Reverend Campbell say when I was in Chicago long, long ago at the Buddhist Temple of Chicago. And then when I came back, he was no longer at the temple. He had moved on. Reverend in Chicago was there, teaching showed up, which is the calligraphy. So I went and did some calligraphy classes with reverend in Chicago. And I. Was talking to him, and he was a World War two veteran from. He was in the Japanese Naval Academy and his parents were killed. And he and I were discussing what it means to be have been in combat, having to deal with those type of things. Being a warrior and then also trying to be a Buddhist.
There’s actually been research that shows that meditation does not work for everyone. Some people it actually increases their anxiety. It increases their depression. They, as I mentioned earlier in my biofeedback 30 years ago, it was not a modality that worked for me. And all these apps, the other day I was watching someone television and the calm app showed up and then later on, another app showed up. And then the VA has developed their own app, and all these apps are great and they do help develop. I mean, you can find tons of them in multiple languages. YouTube has them all over TikTok, you you name it. There’s some form of meditation, but. And I’ve even heard it said. That oh, you don’t need Buddhism to be meditating. Well, then you’re just it’s a tool. I don’t need a hammer to drive a nail. I can use the back of a screwdriver. I can use, you know, other things to drive that. But. Told something together, I sure need that now. And what is missing, I think within a lot of this meditation in the absence of fourth is the Dharma. And the understanding behind it that’s missing the it almost has become where it’s all self centered. You can help you, you can help, you can help you even in the meta meditations and the things like that is more , it seems about how it helps you. And that is all well and good. But then we’re going back to self power and as opposed to other power. And all you’re doing is even it’s selfish power. It’s all about helping you people or being mindful of what you ought to be. It’s become so cliched that it doesn’t have the power that it does if you go back in the tradition of what it meant to be aware of it. Being aware of all those different things can also you can end up being myself with PTSD in combat IV hyper awareness. I hear things. I see things that people generally like or where they come from. And I I saw that coming way off and meditation as a tool has helped me to control my responses and reactions to that. But it’s it’s been a tool to help me. I think a lot of times in the way that the way that mindfulness or meditation is presented without the Dharma, they are missing, the ultimate underlying part of it is it’s about finding a place and centering yourself and becoming comfortable with yourself. Not so that you can be selfish, but you can be giving in self full. And whenever I teach a haiku class meditation martial arts, they don’t know it, but they always get a little bit of the dharma thrown in there. A little bit of talk about compassion being excellent to each other if you see something that needs to be done. And my motto and I tell people, Do what you can. When you can with what’s on hand. And that that just means all you can do is open the door for someone that’s coming out with a load of groceries. That’s what you do. You do it. You let them go through and you move on with your day. You don’t pat yourself on the back and say, Oh, look, what a good person I am. Oh, look what I did. I was mindful and saw that, no, you are just aware of it. You did an action and you put it down. So. Meditation for me still is a tool. It’s still part of it’s still part of my practice. As. I would say probably even still part of my Buddhist practice was not part of my generation soup practice because here in America, we like to call it a melting pot. We kind of take a little of this little of that and being Irish-American. I kind of throw a lot of those things in, you know, a little bit, you know, from each tradition. And it said that it took Buddhism several hundred years to become Japanese Buddhism when it arrived in Japan. Well, it didn’t arrive here in America until about 19 hundred and that was here in Chicago at the world’s fair . I believe with 19 something, I’d have to look it up. But it was the world’s fair and it was introduced here in Chicago Buddhism. And what’s interesting about that is we’re now 100 years out. And I think that American Buddhism is already starting to develop, but we also have to be aware that it doesn’t become and I’m afraid a lot of it is capitalist Buddhism where a lot of these apps, they’re not. They’re free, they’re there to make money to subscribe. And instead of the Dharma. And yes, we all need to make money, we all need to survive. But instead of doing that, we turn into like a capitalist Buddhism where they get these apps. They have these shows. Subscribe to this YouTube, subscribe to these yoga thing, all these different stuff. And what are they doing with that money? What are they giving back? For everything that you know, my students pay me, the majority of it goes back to helping other veterans to supporting buying stuff for them. Continuing the practice as I can help it. And I think one of the other things that I’ve developed over the years, my evolution has been the sense of gratitude . That. It’s almost. Greater than. The willing to give its this gratitude of if someone does open the door for me or has my coffee prepared for me or whatever it may be Instacart in the time of COVID, they bring my groceries and I always make sure every time to say thank you to them because the gratitude of they are exposing themselves to the elements and to COVID that I may not have to and the time saving that they have done. But just to say thank you, that gratitude. And the other thing I know that as we go along here now is remembering the joy that I had out of traditions who I felt like some of the other traditions were. They weren’t empty of joy, but the joy what it was wasn’t as bad as they Catholicism or, as, you know, the guilt based. It was still more like an Protestantism. Everything was through your own hard work, which now when I look back on it was, you know, he has that prosperity gospel and we have the megachurches now that they’re driving and Lamborghinis while we have, you know, the homeless. 25% of our homeless are veterans, which is a disgusting thing that our country would let that happen. These peoples served and gave for the country. And yet the gratitude isn’t giving back, but the joy that I have developed over time of understanding. That the gratitude that I give to others, the giving to others, their gratitude and willingness to accept, we have to be willingness to admit that we can’t get it on our own. We need someone else. We need that other power. And I think it’s one of the things from Shinra and Shonan that I kind of understood further as I went along was that. I need to be able to lean on others. I can’t do this myself. And I know as Americans, it’s the pull you up by your own bootstraps. You can do this. There’s no, you know, no. But there’s. Absolutely nothing wrong with acknowledging that we are a community and we need to lean on each other and that sense of gratitude and thankfulness and willing to help others that we can give the sense of joy and enjoy of understanding and mean 18th bill that Amita has done all these things and it’s just a path laid out for us that we just have to walk it. The joy of understanding when Enron and hone and said that they’ll be married, if that’s what you need, don’t, you know, don’t put these restrictions on yourself. In addition to We’d Meet. We drink Saki. People drink, we have Ginza fest here, we have the. Up in British Columbia, Chicago, we have a big heart of Missouri, where we have a big festival as a whole bunch of chickens. And we do a barbecue all these different festivals. It’s not about not eating meat, not doing this. It is about moderation, that middle path. Buddha, he lived the life of a prince. You know, this is decadent and had anything and everything he could want. Then he became an esthetic and almost starved himself to death. Sitting on a cushion, then he got off the cushion. Someone offered him something. He accepted it with gratitude and thanks and realized the joy in his heart that, Oh, I can do this. And a middle path which is in jujitsu. We don’t have Oh, you can’t eat meat. You can’t. If you have health issues, of course, you need to do whatever you need to do for your body. Working with Western medicine to understand that high cholesterol don’t have the things that you shouldn’t have. But that’s more of a personal choice. It’s not a. Rule of. You can’t do this. You can’t do that, which is another reason why judges who was more of the tradition for me of understanding that I don’t drink, I may have a glass of soggy once in a while or something. Not a beer drinker. Those type of things. But. Because of it, if I did want one, that’s fine, but within moderation. You don’t want to cloud your senses so much that you aren’t aware that you aren’t. The best person that you can be.
We met online and we were talking and I kept getting a feeling from her, I said, and I came into the house and I saw some of her books and things as they said, You’re really searching for something, aren’t you? And she grew up Catholic parochial school all the way up to graduation. She. At early 14, as a cocky individual, she was a concert pianist and number two in the state in Indiana. She went to one of the churches. They were hiring a Catholic church and she said, I want to draw to be your organist and got the job over at 14 over. Everyone else at 15 took a second job as a Methodist, so she was always wanting to continue and to improve herself. And then when I met her later on, 21 years ago. I said I said it seems like you’re searching for something because she was doing all this, you know, things about you and looking into quantum mechanics and this that and the other thing and I was explaining her, but sort of still Catholic at the time, but not because of all the guilt. And then she had gotten divorced. And they had excommunicated her from the church, but he was fine because she was the female, so she was a community. He was not. So even after all the time that she spent in the church and she used to tell the stories that would choose. But Monsignor, what about this? And it was there, Renee. We need to go clean the glaciers. They would send her out of the room because she would ask questions that would cause the others to go. And look and maybe go home. Think about it. So she’s always had always been searching. And as I did my Buddhist path and I mentioned earlier about how she had seen the monks, you know, for the what that Haram didn’t ever go there with me, but she would listen to me. She would talk. We would, you know, I would leave a book lying around and I would notice it had been moved. So she was reading it and. Then when I went to the Moose Temple, Chicago and Jerseyans, who she also started learning more about that tradition, it resonated with her. Within her tradition of Catholicism and still that kind of giving that openness, that joy without joy, without the guilt in a way. So she. Started to come to and it wasn’t until about six months before her death that she took her to Serrano. And became. Moody, she actually took the vows, and I think the one thing that brought her to that was you just go goddamn g show diesel in Japan, which is the patron like the patron saint of children and all. It’s a gender interesting and wonderful tradition, but it resonated with her and allowed her to maybe understand. The impermanence, the acceptance, some of the things that we talked about because she had it first. That’s probably why I’m so well versed in talking about these things is because she would question me. And there’s no no better person to question you than your spouse on things because they know when you’re, you know, not telling them the truth or not being honest. And when she took your vows are her Buddhist name is Joe, which means all encompassing compassion for everyone. And. And during the time of COVID, so that took place right here. So doing this interview here and talking to you honors even that moment with her, and even though I am crying, it’s also a joy because she also said We you should you should reach out to Jack and do this. So even that she’s no longer here was a point of she was there and she’s still here because it was this bad. Excuse me, and she would have wanted that and she came to that point. And I think in her life, she knew that she she had that illness for a while, and she had come to accept that the goals and the things that she had wanted to do were not necessarily things she was going to be able to do, but that she would try her best. The lady said the day before the day we were going on a picnic she was getting, I think she was getting ready to go on a bike ride and picnic, and that’s when she passed. I had to call her student in Emma Me, who she was doing a Zoom class the next day, so it wasn’t as if she had given up. She was continuing on, and it just wasn’t to be. It was, you know, her life was impermanent. But even in the end, she went out with compassion and had left notes for everyone and all these things that, while not intended to be cause I don’t think she knew. But even the night before, because she wasn’t feeling well. I was sleeping on the couch down here, and she came down and gave me a kiss on the forehead and fortunately, I woke up. And they gave her a hug, later gave her a kiss, and she went back up. And that was the last time I saw her. But. I think because of her. Evolution towards Buddhism. She knew that I, if she passed, would be while would suffer for a while and would feel it would also know that she was at peace, that she was no longer suffering in the traditional sense of in pain ill. She always felt that she was a burden or whatever she never was, but she felt that. And. She knew that I could lean on the Sangha. My friends, she always joked about that if I had, if she had, if I had passed, there would be hundreds of people at my funeral and. We never joked about, but I had thought about that well, if she passes, those same people will support me. And they have and that’s been my Sanga of all sorts of traditions. A friend of mine that is Hindu and is in India went to his temple and. Remembered her. There’s been many different, many different traditions, some of the esoteric the Schengen performed the ceremony in nature and performed as their harmony. The what? The Haram? Those guys chanted for her and remembered her and the Catholic Church. My friends, they’re all remembered her, so it wasn’t just that, so it was like the Buddhism that I hope to live. Not by going out and say, well, I’m a Buddhist and you should do this, do what you need to do. But I’m hoping that because of that. Not just being on vacation, but being out there, leading by example, which is probably a military thing and also for my grandmother, you know, my grandmother didn’t spend her time in the church, you know, telling people about the gospels and talking about that she actually lived them. And I think living the dharma being, you know, as I said, earlier, boots on the ground. Not bad. Not bad on occasion. Boots on the ground out there living it lead by example. Show people what it means to be a good person. Whether you are of any tradition or faith, be a good person. And I think that my wife. This truly did help her come one to let go of the guilt and the grief that she had felt she felt horrible to the church, what the church had done to her excommunicating her because her community there she was a vocalist. She sang for 60,000 people at the soldier field and was invited to go sing for the pope. But her daughter was ill at the time, and she could not go. That was how much she. Wanted to give, but was. Not able to and then when they excommunicated, she was lost. And I didn’t know that, but I felt that she was searching when we met and just through our own exploration of. And we went through. I know that she definitely went through her angry, angry atheist phase, where she had to kind of just shake it all off because sometimes you have to shake that off before you can. Except something new. And she said later on, she left back, she said I was just angry. It wasn’t whether whether or not there is a God, it’s just that I had to let that go. And I think that’s cathartic. You know, sometimes we do need to do that. And then she came to a point of being agnostic of it doesn’t matter. Right now, if there is or is not a god, I am here, I don’t I’m not going to worry about if I’m being judged by something or someone, I’m going to do what I need to do now to help people because it needs to be done, not because of I’m doing it for good deeds or karma or some sort of point system. And I know that she really felt that, and she was amazed. She said I am a strong proponent in karma. But what she meant by that it wasn’t like building up points and good things would happen to her later on, but just that what comes around goes around being excellent to each other. We can come back to that again of. Being nice to people, and if they’re not nice to you, then, you know, be as nice as you can, but then move on. Don’t hold on to that and say, Well, I’ve got to make them better. I’ve got to do this. No, you just. Move on. And I know that Buddhism, maybe through my maybe through the way I led her, maybe my own actions, I fail. I do a horrible job at it, but something may have resonated. She did her own research. I know she came and found to show in her own type of understanding of Buddhism in her own research. And then, of course, we’d talk about it. My eldest, I came into her life when she was seven. And just lead by example, and she was at that time in the because her biological father wanted her to do the Catholic path. Well, that lasted about one summer before, Mia said, And I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to go back there that day. I don’t feel at home there. And she considers herself a Buddhist. And she’s helped out, she’s a full time librarian now, so she works at the library, but she goes to Midwest Bruce Temple and help them organize as their senior project or masters degree helped them organize their library library. So it’s. Giving back and she goes to Ginza and she was there for her mother’s memorial and these type of things, but she just resonates Buddhism in her own way. And she has meditated and she has her own form of practice with meditation, and she understands the Eightfold Path and all of that. But she’s come to her own tradition in her own understanding. And I think traditions, who has done that? And maybe just Ava, our youngest. She did take Hannah Matsuri when she was real young, which is the jurors into Japanese tradition of. Kind of like confirmation in the Catholic terms, but in the sense of the parents are saying. We are going to take responsibility of raising this child in the best way possible, we may fail, but we are dedicating our lives. And it isn’t until they get older, and she’s approaching that age that if she wants to take this arena and take her own vows of following the path of Butare, Buddha said 5000 whatever tradition that she, you know, may or may not choose to do, she. Has the background she’s been two years at the Shaolin Temple in Chicago studying martial arts. She studied aikido. She studied all those things as she got older. She’s I can only do that anymore. OK, that’s fine. But she has that background. Whether it’s from the Shaolin jail inside Jerusalem Zoo, she participated in Sankaran at the White Dharam and dressed in traditional Thai clothing and did the dances. She’s had the exposure to the cultures, and she’ll tell you if you give her any choice of food is going to be sushi. I mean, that’s what that is. Or, you know, of course, she’ll leave a happy meal at McDonald’s, just like, you know, all as well as sometimes we have those little indulgences. But if left to her and our devices, there’s going to be some sort of sushi or noodles, things like that that I think is an influence on her. And it’s just multicultural because we also go to my which is the Lithuanian restaurant, and it’s just she’s accepted that everybody has something to give and offer. And I hope that if that’s all she gets out of. What her mother and I put forth for her, then that’s enough. She can walk her own path. But if we’ve laid the groundwork for acceptance, gratitude, joyfulness and thankfulness and love everyone. That’s more than the father can ask for. And I do know that when her mother passed. She’s leaned more on her Buddhist upbringing because we never told her, Oh, well, you know, we never, never lied to her, we didn’t tell her, Oh well, if you’re good, you’re going to do so and such, Oh, if you’re good, you know Santa Claus is going to bring you this. She understood that everything’s were impermanent. We’ve had dogs and cats pass away, and she’s been there when they have passed away. So she understood that something that is alive now may not be alive. She’s had she enjoys, enjoys rats and she’s had her pet rats and they they have died in her room with her and she has done. He’s taking care of the whole burial and everything. Didn’t even know about it. The strength. That I hope that we passed to her or she had it in herself, she’s always been rather stoic child. But that strength of and then I helped her do it. We chanted and did a few things over it to give her closure. But. She understood that it was happening, and when her mother passed away, she wanted to see the body and she wanted to visit with her before she left the house because she died in this house just upstairs, and she wanted to do that because she knew the impermanence, and that would be the last time she was their mother. In there, she says now she’s coming to her dreams and she’s visiting, and that’s just the way she’s processing her grief. But acceptance of the impermanence, I think, has been a big thing in her life and seeing the outpouring of everyone that has been there for. Her family. For me, Premiere forever. Just all the people that are saying, you know, telling us stories about our mom. The recordings that I did hear from the videos, all these different projects that we’re working on. Avis, all that even up to the moment, mom never stopped. And Abid took. But two weeks off from her college classes and finished her and went back and finished her classes, they’re like, We’ll give you an incomplete. She’s like, No. You like I mean, do it sat down, got her glasses done, you know, got A’s in both of your classes because she knew that that’s what her mom would have wanted her to do and acceptance of the impermanence of that. And I guess the other part is the obligation of mom would want me to do this, even though she’s not here, I should honor her just like we honor the Buddha. You should honor those that go before you. And I think that over time, the. Teachings, the Dharma saturated within her to give her some peace to accept that she can no longer be the performer that she once was. That you can no longer be the instructor, but she could still be the best that she could be.
Buddhism and this as far as all the Christians, I understand when we put our hands together in God show, are we make offering, you know, to the Buddha, to me, to grunion, to go to any about its authors. It is not a supplication. We are not asking for intercession. We’re not asking for favors, we’re not going before the Buddha and saying, Oh, you know, I’m offering this and I’m asking for. And there are some people that for them, that may be how they proceed. But as the Buddha was not a God is not going to grant favors or wishes. He wasn’t a genie that you can go and offer incense and ask for something. So and I think a lot of times when I’ve thought this, people have asked, Well, aren’t you praying to the Buddha? Aren’t you worshiping? No, it’s not worshiping is honoring my students. When they bow to me, they’re not worshiping me. I certainly hope they aren’t. That way I am is probably more fallible than the next person, but they’re just honoring me as their teacher. And I think a lot of people when they see, you know, like I have, there’s a couple in the background. We’ll see them later. They think, Oh, those are idols, they’re not. They’re just pictures of my teachers throughout my tradition that have been there. And when I offer incense to them or I bow to them, it is just vowing to them. Just like when you say yes or no, ma’am. You know, those type of things which sadly have been forgotten that or if I taken my sins and I say as a dramatic ethic, as a master and all I’m doing is to basically just say thank you sensei for sharing your knowledge with me. And the joy of that is just part of the tradition that I find amazing. And I think is. Under valued the Eightfold Path, a lot of times, one of the misconceptions that I hear when people are asking me about it is it’s not a linear path. You know, you don’t have to go here to here, to here, to here. It can be any of those. And I’m never going to break down the Eightfold Path. Many have done that before the things and you had mentioned was suffering. Well. I think that’s a word that is loaded that people think a lot of suffering as well as impermanent. But one of the examples of suffering is my wife was alive, I loved her, I was attached to her. I enjoyed being with her. Then she passed and then I suffered because all things are impermanent. Everyone that goes and buys a brand new car and you have that new car or whatever is new to you. New video game, whatever it is. New, a new a new iPhone, right? You have that, then you drop it and there’s a ding in the screen. It’s the attachment, I got a new car and then you’re sitting in the car and someone left the buggy and their buggy is being blown by the wind and you can’t get out of the car and time to stop it from crashing into your new car. And it’s not a major ding, but it still is. So it’s impermanence. It’s not suffering so much. It’s just that that holding on to wanting things to be as they are that causes the suffering and accepting that you have a new car. You might as well understand at first when you drive it off the lot brand new is going to drop, you know, greatly in value. It’s going to get you’re going to be behind the truck one day and something’s going to hit dinged up your car. Your children are going to grow up, they’re going to grow old, they’re going to be teenagers and be difficult. And then they’ll come back. But that first love that you have, you have that. You feel it in your teenager whenever you have that first love and it’s like, Oh my gosh, this will never end, you know, two days, two weeks, whatever it ends, you’re married for 20 years. Then that person passes. And it ends. It’s not suffering per se, is the attachment to wanting things to be as they are not. Or as correction as they were, not as they are. My wife still in my heart, still in my room, still with me, but she’s with me because of the things that I remember of her. And does it still hurt? Obviously, yes, I cry a lot about it, but it still hurts, but I’m not suffering because I understand that even my pain. Will pass and then the memories that I have till I get them into some other thing, then I won’t remember much of it at all. But that too passes my life, and born I live, I die. It’s the fear of dying. It’s the attachment to being a teenager. It’s the attachment to the new car, the latest iPhone, the latest game. All of those different type of attachments are what calls us. In what we say, suffering, but it’s not suffering, it’s just acknowledging that things change and we go back to kind of the joy and gratitude of understanding that just because I understand if I have a new car and I had a new car bought it in November and I was the one I was in, my garage didn’t put something away properly, slid off the shelf, dinged the side of the car and I left and said, being upset because I’m like, Well, it’s got his first ding now, and I can’t blame anyone but myself and my own stupidity for not being aware. And then I went and fixed it, so it didn’t rise. But every time I walk out and I see that, I think, yep, there’s there’s a reminder that things change. My daughter, that was small and tiny. Now she’s 16, and she entered college. She’s doing well and successful, but she’s no longer a little girl. My 27 year old is out of the house. She’s engaged, works for the library and she has her master’s degree. All of those steps that I walked with her. And then some point I have to say, OK, you’re on your own. Yes, that hurts, but it’s impermanent, but I’m not going to suffer because now I get to see her grow. And experience new things, so when you hear the word Buddhism is all about suffering. No, it’s not. Suffering is actually a lot of joy with it because once you understand what suffering is meant by that, it’s just that things change. It’s impermanent no matter what you have, whether it’s a brand new sheet of paper, a brand new puppy, an ice cream cone. Sunny day, cloudy day, it will change and the acceptance of that, and that’s where you start getting into the next chapter beyond suffering is accepting and enlightenment and enlightenment doesn’t have to be outside of this world. You can walk in this path, slightly enlightened, fully awakened like the Buddha, which is all that means is the awakened one. Before that he was just, said Arthur. He was just no matter no different than anyone, he was just awakened. He didn’t become a God and a rise to heaven. He just awoke and. Awakening to the moment, and you can slip and slide back and forth, you can go from being, you know, hopefully somewhat awakened to be a full healthy say, Barca, a fool, you know, all the way over here where you’re just attached and you’re crying in your beer because things are not going the way you want to. But. What I lead on, lean on with my tradition and my understanding of is the moments when I am. Upset, I’m crying or I’m attached to the moment that may be causing me anguish or anxiety to understand that I’m not alone in that. Millions of people are going through the same. Pain and anguish for different reasons. And as I think I probably demonstrated on camera today that I take a moment to acknowledge the pain out, and then I just kind of let it go and be in the moment. The time to be here with you, Jack, is something that I value and I’m joyful for that it presented itself. And as my sensei, Ray Fukumoto always says, is the causes and conditions. Had it not been for you reaching out and then the Buddhist Temple of Chicago sending the email out and then me contacting you, those causes and conditions were everything that set up for today. My wife’s birth, all the things that she went through and her death were all causes and conditions that are beyond our control. But it led me to a different level. It led me to be a single father. With new challenges that I have to raise and accept. So. Suffering, I think, is an M is an improper or poor translation without much more explanation of what that suffering and the next step of if you are attached to. Well, I’m not making enough money, I’m not happy, I’m not doing this and you aren’t willing to maybe look at it and say, OK, what are the causes and conditions? Why? I’m not happy. Then you can’t do anything about it. Maybe there is something that is causing that and you can alleviate and look beyond the suffering to acceptance, accepting the impermanence to Gingin like punctuated punctuated enlightenment. And very few can go from zero to enlightenment. But maybe we can gain a little bit. We can understand things with a little more compassion. Open our hearts with gratitude. Live our lives with joy. And acceptance for all those things around us. And don’t be attached and hold on to. Well, I had a beautiful day and I was going to go plant on a picnic. Well, you may find that that changes. And then you just kind of shake it off and try to live the rest of the day as best as you can and do what is needed for the rest of that day. So.
In the generations WHO tradition, which is where with Reverend Chicago and Cobo say, I found my home. And what resonated with me there is instead of walking like when I walk into the mud that around everyone takes off their shoes, you sit down on the floor, you have cross-legged or whatever you walk in to either Buddhist Temple of Chicago or Midwest Buddhist Temple or Orange County Buddhist temple. I’ve been to the ones in LA. You walk in as if you’re walking into a Protestant church is there’s there’s seats, there’s benches there. We have goths, which are songs. The format is one that most, you know, Westerners can understand. There you walk in. Instead of an offering of money you offer to the Buddha, you offer incense. Sit down. There’s a kids talk. The kids leave. They go to kids Dharma School. So if I grow in the tradition I grew up, it was just like the only. The only difference is is, isn’t it the message of, you know, this omnipotent being? But this sense of community? And devotion to as best as I understand, it is based around the 18th vowel, which is and kind of I’ll rephrase it in military terms, leave no man behind. In the 18, Val said that not going to be I’m going to do the work, I’m going to spend innumerable amount of time making sure that. Everyone can reach the pure land, whether the pure land is in some in some thoughts, a actual place, whether it is. A. State of being. After we die, I do not know, and there’s if you know, if you want to look up the parable of the poisoned arrow to discover more thoughts on that one, go into it. But for me. I understood it as pure land enlightenment is now. We don’t know what is in the past. We don’t know what is in the future. We only know this moment. And with. Joe Titian’s, who in the 18 fell kind of let mean kind of lets me know that I can put trust in me too, that he, as a teacher, has gone forth and put all this out there, and all I have to do is. Find a way to intuited and understand it as opposed to. It doesn’t have to be followed dogmatically or hardcore. Some still argue that, and they’ll say that, yes, it has to be. This has to be that. But. With Reverend in Chicago, I learned, just like when you were doing shadow and you put your brush down, you put your brush down and you do it. There should be no hesitation. There should be no worry about, oh my hand shaking in his right position. You put it down and you do it. The same thing is as I see it with giving if I see someone that needs my assistance. I don’t worry about, well, if I’m giving this, if I’m giving this homeless person $5, what are they going to do with it? That’s not for me to judge. They need assistance, whatever it is they should give. And the song, especially after my wife died, showed me just how much. And what that meant, because the giving that everyone did not have, you know, of just time and contact and support was amazing. And. Not having the tradition of meditation and jujitsu while. It is in some temples, they’ll have a Zen meditation before or there’ll be a Zen Group afterwards. It is not a part of the traditions who service because the meditation is everything you do. It isn’t just being on the cushion. It is what military term boots on the ground. You can’t. You can’t sit on the cushion and help others. And there’s two terminals Juridique and Tariq. Self self power, other power, the media is the other power that we know, OK, this can be done, we just have to follow that path . Other power self-correction south power means that I can sit on this cushion. I can bring myself to enlightenment and I know that myself, I’m not capable of it. And one of the things in the generations who tradition when I started learning more really resonated with me as children shown in the founder of Jettisons, who he had ascended gone into Mount here. I believe it was like nine and spent 20 years on the mountain, and he realized that that kind of self, that kind of other self power was not going to work for him. He couldn’t do it. So he left the mountain and he ran into his teacher, Honan. And there’s a. Fraser, a kind of a phrase or set of words that I like to think about what is her saying that Honan or Shen running said I do not remember exactly which was that if you can’t follow the path on the mountain, become a householder. If you can’t follow the path celibate, take a wife. So. It showed me that you don’t have to just. Sit on a mountain, sit on a cushion, cut yourself off from everyone. Because to me, that just resonated is something that was in a way quite selfish. In that I was always raised to be of service to others, not just to myself. And I find myself to be most fulfilled, fulfilled when I am helping others. So generations who spoke to me and I have been in that tradition 20 years now, my wife and I renewed our values at the Buddhist temple in Chicago, and our 10th anniversary this year would have been our 20th. Has she survived? And Reverend Patti Nicci at the Temple of Chicago was the one that conducted that. So we have been part of the tradition. I’ve moved over with Midwest Buddhist temple with. Just due to its a little bit closer, and my wife is. She had a memorial service there and is in the temple there with her ashes. That’s where we go and visit. But it was still the same type of tradition of giving as reverend on, I think one year saying was, you know, come as you are. And there’s no you can come in whatever you whatever fits for you. You don’t have to be this, you don’t have to be that you just come as you are or what I think is sums up my understanding of my path and my tradition of Buddhism and silly movie with Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Just simply be excellent to each other with if we can follow that, I think that sums up. To me, everything. About Buddhism as I understand it, and I continue to learn and grow, and that has that that saying has resonated with me since I was so they saw the movie in the eighties and it has continued. To get stronger, unfortunately, the people who have seen the movie has gotten less and less since then, and it was a new movie out, so hopefully more people will come to understand being excellent to each other and in this time of COVID. That’s really all we can do, and B is excellent to each other. And I think that is what for me and generations who kind of sums up. The practice with the Sangha and the Dharma, it is not just being on the cushion and being cut off from everyone. And I think that those are good tools, they’re good modalities to learn and discover your own path, what your path that works for. You may not work for me and vice versa. So you follow your path, I believe it was the Dalai Lama that even said that Buddhism can just make you be a better whatever you are . So if you’re a Christian? Even just understanding Buddhism may make you be a better Christian, you don’t have to be Buddhist at all, but you may go, Oh, and it resonates with you. Take that on another tradition. He wrote a book called Living Buddha Living Christ, which talks about the overlap and comparisons. And I think if we can start to come to understand that we’re all human beings and be excellent to each other kind of sums up that. And I’m going to say that the sonder that I’ve had even all the different songs that I’ve been part of it when everyone was excellent to each other and cared for each other. That, I think was the essence of Buddhism as it pertains in my understanding.