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An Applicable Response – The 4 Dignities — Zen Life & Meditation Middle, Chicago

At present, confronted with a looming environmental disaster of huge proportions, social injustices and a rising white-nationalist motion with robust authoritarian and anti-democratic impulses, what’s an applicable response?


There isn’t any simple or proper reply right here, nevertheless it’s vital to have the ability to sincerely ask the query and let it work on us. In my custom we worth the three tenets of a Zen Peacemaker as a method to method this query. We start with not understanding. We start by letting go of our assumptions, expectations, judgments and opinions. And most significantly, we let go of no matter consequence we expect ought to happen. This permits us a means in; a method to be with the query with endurance and openness. And as Shunryu Suzuki mentioned, “Within the newbie’s thoughts there are a lot of potentialities. Within the knowledgeable’s thoughts there are few.” As we are going to see, the qualities embodied within the 4 Dignities and the Six Paramitas shall be invaluable on our journey. 


If we now have the braveness to open to not understanding, then what follows is the second tenet of bearing witness which is the place a lot of our work will happen. This may require extra braveness. Grief is more likely to come up as we witness the numerous ways in which our earth’s dwelling ecosystems are dying and being destroyed. Emotions of overwhelm, despair and outrage can cease us earlier than we start. However let’s be clear. These emotions aren’t the top of the journey. They’re just the start. 


If we now have the dedication to stick with these first two practices then what follows is a response–an applicable response that’s linked extra precisely to the scenario at hand. The responses shall be as diverse and various as humanity itself. There isn’t any one response that’s proper or unsuitable.


I wish to inform you how I discovered about this via my very own observe. In 1996, on the finish of a 7-day interfaith bearing witness retreat with the Zen Peacemakers in Auschwitz, Poland all of us gathered for a ultimate assembly. Bernie Glassman Roshi requested us what we’d do now. How may I reply that query? It could take me years to seek out the reply. 

I returned from Europe to the Massive Island of Hawaii, my residence on the time. It was alive in me after I wakened every day and it was current with me after I went to sleep at night time. Slowly a solution started to emerge. I had skilled a lot darkness and demise at Auschwitz. I wished to be near life. I wished to nurture seeds and develop one thing. I didn’t wish to protest something or march and carry indicators.I wished to retrieve an intimate relationship to mom earth which was lacking in my life.

I made a decision one of the simplest ways to do that can be to start out a group backyard. The backyard needs to be within the heart of our city of Waimea (Kamuela) to assist strengthen and nourish my group. 

Parker College was positioned within the heart of Waimea and had a big piece of land that was un-used and overgrown. I went to their board of administrators and made a proposal to let our Zen Middle of Hawaii create a group backyard on their property. And to my shock, they mentioned sure. 

It took us months simply to clear the land however ultimately a lovely backyard emerged referred to as I Ka Pono which in Hawaiian means domesticate the goodness. For the subsequent three years I had my arms within the earth nearly day by day. We had a farmers market there each weekend that bought produce to the group to assist assist the mission. We fulfilled our mission:

  • To mannequin sustainable agriculture by training bio-intensive farming.

  • To have a good time organic and cultural variety.

  • To nurture and assist our group.

After three years, I found I had answered Bernie’s query. I found a way of place and an intimate, alive relationship with mom earth.


Within the Buddhist custom, the trail of the Bodhisattva is effectively laid out. Within the Shambhala teachings Chogyam Trungpa spoke of this as the trail of a  religious warrior. A part of this observe makes use of 4 metaphors generally known as the 4 Dignities. These are the Tiger of Meekness, the Snow Lion of Perkiness, the Garuda of Outrageousness and the Dragon of Inscrutability. These 4 metaphors might help information us in discerning an applicable response. 

In Mahayana Buddhism the standard qualities and practices of a Bodhisattva are generally known as the six paramitas1 of generosity, self-discipline, endurance, exertion, meditation and knowledge. These resonate and interweave with the teachings on the 4 Dignities. 

Whereas a typical stereotype of the Bodhisattva could be an individual who’s peaceable and sort, which is actually true, we may additionally re-imagine such an individual as a religious warrior, in a position to stand as much as conditions which may require lively non-violent resistance or advocating for saner insurance policies that contribute to the earth’s wellness or work to extend social justice. 

In these instances of uncertainty, worry, and disruption we’d like these teachings greater than ever. They’re superior Buddhist teachings. They require that the practitioner see via the phantasm of ego. And it goes with out saying that appreciating one’s unconditional worthiness and a gradual weight loss program of meditation are foundational. 

I’ll tackle every of those 4 Dignities with a separate article for every accompanied by a portray I’ve performed for every. 

  1. The Zen Life & Meditation Middle, Chicago teaches the six paramitas as the trail and observe of a Bodhisattva within the Zen Life Sequence.

Roshi Robert Joshin Althouse is the Abbot of the Zen Life & Meditation Middle. He has been educating for over 30 years and training for 50 years. He’s additionally an artist and painter. He’s been doing digital work on his laptop for the final 10 years. You’ll be able to view his work at his web site for Robert Althouse Superb Arts at www.althouseart.com.


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