Thursday, January 8, 2009

Death Comes

Last night, as I wrote about savasana (corpse pose) some of my very dear friends were with their congregation, wailing in sorrow over the loss of their teacher, Rabbi Aryeh Hirschfield. I saw one of them briefly this evening before going to the Dharma Center. We talked a little about how he and his community, P'nai Or, are doing; this is a time of what feels to be inconsolable grief. An agonizing sorrow compounded by uncertainty as to when the funeral will take place. In a religion where tradition asks that ceremonies are to be performed within specific time frames, this uncertainty only brings further sadness.

This is a terrible blow to many, many people. Reb Aryeh was a voice for inner-faith dialog, peace, music, and teaching. I said to one of my friends, when she'd confirmed the news I'd read, that I believed that we as humanity are lessened when we lose teachers like this. At times I feel as if there are so many voices of division, difference, negativity, and hatred, that the silencing of a voice of Love is particularly sad.

There is a terrible, sharp brilliance to the uncertainty, to those changes that surprise us in ways that bring us suffering. These moments stand out, cause our breath to catch in our throats, tears to spring to the eyes, and a rock of grief to settle in the belly. I could not help reflect on what it would feel if ZCO were to suddenly loose Chozen or Hogen. I thought about my teachers who also faced the unexpected news of the death of their teacher, Maezumi.

In Zen we reflect on the fact that it is only in the absolute truth of uncertainty that we can truly take refuge. To return again and again to rest in the constancy of change is all we can do. Even when, especially when it feels as though there is nothing to offer in the face of inconsolable grief or when sorrow feels unending.

Hogen was reminding of this in a Dharma talk after zazen. During the times when we most want to withdraw, become small and tight around our pain, we need to keep reaching out of the hardness of it and know that it will change. Just as we can reassure ourselves during the dark and cold of winter, that spring will surely come.

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