August, 2015 – Summer Days of a Buddhist Recluse

Posted by on August 25, 2015


I remain fastened to steadiness. I stay connected to something bigger than the usual stories, to the usual desires to repair the apparent broken limbs of being alive. It is to be with what is given and to stay with it. This is practice.

The weather change of spring began in May with a departure through the doorway of death. My old friend Henry left suddenly. In the middle of his disappearance Bear was diagnosed with a life killing heart disease followed by an astonishing emergence of another dog, Harald Godwin, a 10 week old standard poodle.

In mid-July my young grand-niece was struck with a massive middle cerebral arterial stroke and was in ICU for 24 days. She suffered further complications with staphloccocus aureus pneumonia (MRSA), sudden diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes, and heart failure. Day 22 she woke up. She is soon to be transferred to an LTAC (long-term acute care) with an unknown prognosis.

In late August another niece celebrated the upcoming birth of her son with a lovely high tea ceremony in a restored Victorian mansion. As we drove the 87 miles to the event I watched the speed of the cars zig zag across four lanes between other cars in a cutthroat spirit to get somewhere.

I edit a first novel and revise a web page. I contemplate this practice and devote myself to it.

It’s been a cool summer. Cloud bursts of water and big banging thunder together with startling lightning come and cool the trees and flowers. Sections of the backyard 6’ fence blew down in a microburst chipping off bits and pieces of the zendo siding and leaving a grand gaping hole into our displeasd neighbor’s yard.

The last edge of summer promises an early frost with her breezy, chilly air. Everything seems fresh and unruffled as it gets ready to turn and leave.

My health wobbles as I make changes to stabilize it. I consider the word refuge and find myself laughing. Refuge, a shelter of safety?  I cannot fathom such a place, except to stay connected to something bigger than the usual stories and the usual desires to repair the apparent broken world. When I am not stumbling around in ignorance I take refuge in God, in the ability to stay fastened to something bigger, and to relinquish my usual stories and my usual desires. I understand the emptiness of promises for anything else and return to the bigger something that cannot be expressed in words.

I am reminded of two Jewish teachings, tikkun olam, repair the world and Psalm 139. I find comfort in the truth of them.

 Tikkun Olam – Repair the World

Before a baby is born…the angels hold the baby and give instructions…

“When you are born, please do good to repair the world.”


As the baby is about to be born, the angels say, “Wait! We need to know if you understood our instruction.”


The baby, nods, “Yes, yes. I understand.”


“Ok, let us see?” say the angels. “When you do good works in the world and others praise you for it, take delight in the good you do and tell you how good you are, what do you do?”


“Oh!” says the baby. “I say thank you.” “No! No!” say the angels. The baby tries again. “Ok. I guess I say, I did a good job! Yippee!” “No! No!” repeat the angels. The little baby is confused and asks, “What do I say?” “You say, I am still a failure.”


Suddenly the baby screams and is born.

Psalm 139

You formed my inmost being;

You knit me in my mother’s womb.

I praise you, because I am wonderfully made;

Wonderful are your works! My very self you know.

My bones are not hidden from you,

when I was being made in secret,

fashioned in the depths of the earth.

Your eyes saw me unformed;

in your book all are written down;

my days were shaped before one came to be.


Today the sky darkens with the anticipation of recurring thunder and lightning. I watch the wind blow itself out over the Great Lake under the darkened heavens and remind myself of my promise to work for peace with the restless mind, the wild impulses and rash words.  It’s practice with Buddha eyes.


Written by Yao Xiang Shakya ©

Photo and art credit:Yao Xiang Shakya 2015©

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