Lecture on the Lotus Sutra Now Available

Now available "Lecture on the Lotus Sutra"

Now available “Lecture on the Lotus Sutra”

Now available on Amazon “Lecture on the Lotus Sutra” (click the link to open Amazon). You can now purchase a copy of my completed lecture on the Lotus Sutra. This book contains all of the serialized postings that appeared here in the Fall of last year. Those posts were edited and new material was added to the book which was not posted on the blog. I hope you will consider purchasing a copy for your own study and understanding of the Lotus Sutra. Frequently Amazon has the book discounted. The book will not be available in digital format.

Thank you for your support.

With Gassho,
Ryusho Jeffus

Posted in Basics, Buddhism, by Ryusho 龍昇, Dharma Talks, Good Things, Lotus Sutra, Myosho-ji Temple, Nichiren Shu | Leave a comment

Physician’s Good Medicine #8 – Inertia

In other words after an easy assent to some experience the reality of a life of hard work ahead to maintain or even re-experience this is required. It all seems now to be much harder than one expected. How many of us expect some fantastical spiritual awakening and are disappointed when the results seem mundane at best or even unnoticeable?

Physical illness is much the same. All too often people come to the hospital to be cured or repaired and then once they are feeling better return to the old habits that got them ill in the first place because when faced with the reality of change it is much easier to fall back into old patterns. This is one of the reasons why I try not to cast moral judgments on those with addictions to alcohol or drugs. Their basic behavior is mimicked in all places in society and when we look at basic behaviors we might even see ourselves doing the same sorts of things but with different ‘drugs’. Yes drugs are harmful, yet so too is the lack of exercise or poor eating.

The person in detox getting clean is not much different from the person who comes in because their blood sugar is all out of whack because they failed to monitor their blood sugar or refused to modify their diet. The feel better, promise to make changes, then when faced with the hard reality of what that actually means find the challenge more than they can endure. Those addicted to stress or to an inactive lifestyle also find making changes difficult. Heck we all, if we are honest find making changes difficult.

In our Buddhist practice we may experience the overcoming of some great obstacle and feel a certain amount of satisfaction at the accomplishment. Then not too long afterwards we wake up to the reality that it was just one of a series of life events that we will continue to confront in one form or another. Our choice at this point is the same for the addict, or the diabetic, or the heart patient. What will we do going forward? What means more to us the goal of enlightenment, the goal of good health, or the easy way of returning to old patterns and behaviors.

The practice of Buddhism is not a guarantee of a life of complete ease and trouble free living. To believe this is to believe in a fantasy. Buddhism is a constant application of a life of spiritual practice, and awakening by degrees, obstacles that test us and push us to make changes we would otherwise overlook. This is why the medicine of the Lotus Sutra sometimes does not appear to be of good flavor. The taste of practice and devotion is not always sweet, even though the outcome is certainly the taste of nectar.

Another aspect of inertia in life is the notion that what one experiences within oneself is somehow more real than the things that are manifest outside of our lives. In other words the inertia that our interpretation of events is the truth and reality and that we are somehow seeking to detach ourselves from the physical plane of existence. I believe nothing could be further from the truth. I wrote about this in the Acedia chapter, however there are some additional points I think are worth mentioning under Inertia.

Posted in Basics, Buddhism, by Ryusho 龍昇, chaplain, compassion, concentration, death, Dharma Talks, dying, education, focus, Good Things, healthcare, Hope, lgbt, Lotus Sutra, mind, mindfulness, Myosho-ji Temple, Nichiren, Nichiren Shu, Pastoral Care, peace, Prayer | Leave a comment

Physician’s Good Medicine #7 – Inertia – with French Translation

French translation appears following the English

As you may now be deducing the chapters are dealing with illness of the mind that can inhibit or prevent our attainment of enlightenment. In the parable the children have lost their minds and some take the cure while others refuse. Those who have refused claim the medicine is not suitable and will do nothing to make them better in spite of evidence that it had indeed cured their brothers.

In my work in the hospital I frequently am with patients who have lived much of their lives with no concern for their health until they suddenly become ill. Perhaps they smoked for much of their lives, or perhaps they had no regard for the foods they ate. They may have overlooked exercise as an important proactive healthy activity. There are many things that may have been done in the course of one’s life that on a day to day basis seem to have no negative impact, yet over an accumulation of time do indeed produce negative results.

The same can be said of our spiritual development. Perhaps for some no consideration has been given for much of a lifetime to adjusting the spiritual or moral principals which have guided one’s life. Sometimes a health crisis can awaken one to the need to not only adjust their health related lifestyle but also make changes in the spiritual aspect.

Yet all too often making the necessary changes proves to be very difficult. We develop habitual ways in our lives. In my life this looks like someone who is not very adventurous in eating. I admit that I am a lazy eater, preferring the things that are familiar to me and avoiding those things I am not familiar with. Even when I eat a new food and I like it I still find it is easier to fall back to my familiar and customary food choices. Fortunately in my case the foods I generally eat are not so terribly bad for me, though they may not be the best. I have always tended to not eat much meat, and so high fat foods have not been an important part of my diet.

I will admit that I am especially spoiled when it comes to fruits. I generally only eat bananas or blueberries. Silly I know, but those are the things that I prefer. Several months ago I bought a food processor/juicer that literally tuns the fruit or vegetable into a liquid; stem, skin, seed, the whole thing. Because I have this I now consume many more fruits and vegetables I would never eat otherwise. I have always like most green vegetables but not the yellow ones. My partner was just the opposite, he didn’t like the greens but preferred the yellows.

So we all have our favorites and preferences. For many of us this doesn’t seem to matter for most of our lives. Yet unseen by us is an accumulation of all of these causes, or lack of causes. Over the years a lack of exercise takes a toll because our muscles, joints, and bones, as well as our mind make it more difficult to engage in very needed exercise as we age. The pounds add on, the change seems more difficult, and the cycle keeps repeating itself.

The more we continue to do something the harder it becomes to change.

In physics inertia is defined as a body in motion tends to remain in motion and a body at rest tends to remain at rest. And so it is with our lives; physical, mental, and spiritual.

In our spiritual practice inertia can manifest in several ways and because of several conditions. One such condition can be a type of inner confusion or even a hardening of attitude in spirit because of a let down after one begins to practice. Perhaps some ‘spiritual high’ was achieved at some activity or even from personal practice and then the high goes away and once again the practitioner is faced with the reality of the hard work ahead to make significant changes in ones life.

———–French translation by Luca Guccione———–
Le médecin expert – #7

Vous l’aurez compris: ces pages parlent des trappes mentales qui peuvent empêcher (ou du moins retarder) notre illumination. Dans la parabole les enfants perdent la raison: d’aucuns prennent le remède, d’autres s’y refusent sous prétexte que ça ne sert à rien, malgré l’évidence contraire de leurs frères qui ont guéri.

Lors de ma fonction à l’hôpital, j’ai pu souvent entrer en contact avec des gens qui ne s’étaient guère soucié de leur santé durant leur vie jusqu’à ce que la maladie les rattrape. De gros fumeurs, des mangeurs compulsifs qui ne pratiquaient pas d’exercices physiques de manière préventive. Or, il y a beaucoup de choses que nous pouvons faire au jour le jour afin d’éviter que l’accumulation de petites négligences ne se transforment en une masse écrasante de problèmes.

Il en va de même pour notre évolution spirituelle. Certains se retiendront invulnérables et n’y porteront aucune attention jusqu’à ce qu’ils soient dans le besoin; alors seulement ils essayeront d’adapter leur vie et leur comportement à de saines valeurs morales.

Et même si l’on en est conscient, changer peut s’avérer vraiment difficile à cause des habitudes qui nous régissent. En ce qui me concerne, par exemple, je suis un peureux en matière d’alimentation: j’ai du mal à manger ce que je ne connais pas. Et même si je peux m’enthousiasmer pour de nouvelles cuisines, je reviens toujours à mes bonnes vieilles habitudes culinaires. Heureusement que je ne mange pas de cochonneries! Pas trop de graisses, donc, mais pas de fruits non plus: que des bananes ou des myrtilles. Je sais, je sais ce que vous allez me dire: ça n’a aucun sens. Pourtant, je m’emploie à changer. En effet, j’ai récemment acheté un extracteur de jus où je peux tout mettre (trognon, peau, pépins, etc.) et qui me force bon an mal an à consommer beaucoup plus de fruits et de légumes (légumes verts: les jaunes ne passeront jamais. Mon copain, lui, avait des goûts opposés).

Nos préférences, donc, n’ont pas trop l’air d’avoir un impact sur notre vie. Or, nous l’avons vu, l’accumulation d’habitudes engendrent des causes (ou un manque de causes) à long terme. Ainsi, ne pas faire du sport, causera plus tard des problèmes aux articulations, aux muscles, aux os, sans parler des dommages causés à notre esprit qui aura du mal à accepter un effort de changement survenu à l’improviste. Nous serons alors condamnés à prendre du poids, aggravant encore plus la spirale inlassable de notre tourment.

La morale de l’histoire est que plus nous persistons dans nos habitudes, plus elles seront difficilement modifiables.

L’inertie est un terme utilisé en physique qui veut dire qu’un corps qui se meut, tend à continuer sur sa lancée tandis qu’un corps à l’arrêt ne bougera pas. Ce concept s’applique aussi à notre vie: on parlera alors d’inertie physique, mentale ou spirituelle. En ce qui concerne notre pratique, l’inertie se manifestera de différentes manières, selon les conditions qui l’ont engendrée. Nous aurons, par exemple, l’égarement spirituel; ou le rejet absolu dû à l’abandon perduré trop longtemps; ou encore l’attachement à un idéal que nous pensons avoir atteint au début de notre aventure et qui ne se représente plus. Cela ne tient qu’à nous: la réalité de la pratique dépend exclusivement de notre engagement et de notre travail au quotidien, incessant, dur parfois, mais si significatif au bout de toute une vie.

Posted in Basics, Buddhism, by Ryusho 龍昇, chaplain, compassion, concentration, death, Dharma Talks, dying, education, focus, Good Things, healthcare, Hope, lgbt, Lotus Sutra, mind, mindfulness, Myosho-ji Temple, Nichiren, Nichiren Shu, Pastoral Care, peace | Leave a comment

Physician’s Good Medicine #6 – Acedia with French Translation

French translation appears following English

I do believe that as we grow in our faith and its application to our lives that we gain a certain amount of inner wisdom which we can use to guide us to making wise choices in life. This does require however a greater integration of Buddhism and the Lotus Sutra into our lives. The more moments that are lived in principal of the Lotus Sutra the more our every moment will be infused with the innate Buddha wisdom residing at the core of our lives. Acedia the idea of not caring or being curious about one’s situation in life is one of the ills that can be cured by our faith in and practice of the Lotus Sutra, but only if we actually are willing to dig deep into our lives with honesty.

What does this kind of honesty look like in real life? It means looking at your own life to see how you are contributing in either a positive or negative way to the things you experience and your understanding of them. Is your impatience influencing how you view the performance of the clerk who is checking out your groceries? Is you self-importance contributing to the way you interpret the driving of others, or even your own sense of infallibility and perfection? Does your own idea of how things should be or should not be actually enhance or cloud your understanding of the nature of the problem? Is it possible that your actions and thoughts are in fact sometimes your own worst enemy? These are a few of the kinds of questions to engage your own self in.

I should make very clear that finding ways of improving your life does not mean that somehow you are defective or that you are a bad person. Looking deep into your life needs to be balanced with a gentle touch. Rather than cast yourself as a bad person try considering that you have discovered a way in which you might be able to make improvements to enable your life to be more of what you really at your core self want it to be.

If we are stuck in acedia then we never look at the first source available to us where we can make the most effective change. Unless you believe in completely dominating someone and coercing them into conforming to your way of life then it must be admitted that implementing change in someone else’s life is going to be the most difficult and yield the least amount of improvement in your circumstances. The place where you have the most leverage and effectiveness for making change lies solely within your own life.

One of the messages from my parents as I was growing up was “you’re not good enough”. At some point I realized, perhaps around the same time as I claimed my name, that I was indeed good enough. It wasn’t a statement that I was perfect but that I was the one who decides if I am good enough. In fact one of the questions asked of me at my committee was what does ‘good enough’ look like. My response was, it looks like me. Of course there are things I wish to improve, and saying that ‘I am good enough’ does not also mean that I am perfect.

Over the years my Buddhist practice has given me the tools to change and the direction in which to make the changes. The Lotus Sutra has been the key. The Buddha doesn’t preach to the many in the congregation that they are somehow defective. He doesn’t tell them the reason why you will not attain enlightenment in this Saha world is because they were broken or bad in some way. He simply points out that after certain lengths of time and after certain practice they will certainly attain enlightenment. None of this is punishment.

Can we also be as kind and gentle with ourselves even while constantly striving for making changes in our lives that will certainly guarantee our own enlightenment and lives free of suffering?

Chapter XIV warns us to not accept our observations of this world being a terrible place raging with fire and suffering. There are not two worlds that exist independently of each other, both exist at the same time the difference lies in the mind of the viewer; how we interpret the phenomena we observe and experience. The Buddha did not simply die some time in the past. The Buddha and his teachings are just as real and alive today as they were when the Lotus Sutra was taught. Again the way we choose to live determines the reality we experience, and either reality is possible depending upon our minds.

————French translation by Luca Guccione———–
Le médecin expert – #6
Chapitre I – L’acédie
Je crois sincèrement que notre cheminement de foi et sa mise en application dans la vie courante nous conduisent à une certaine sagesse. Pour l’accroitre, il faut néanmoins intégrer encore plus le Bouddhisme et le Sûtra du lotus. Plus nous vivrons en accord avec les principes qui s’en inspirent, plus nous nous rapprocherons de notre sagesse de bouddha innée. L’acédie – l’indolence envers sa propre condition ou celle des autres – peut être soignée par la foi et la pratique du Sûtra du lotus au prix, toutefois, d’une quête sincère.
Que doit-on entendre par sincérité? J’entends par là que nous devons scruter à la loupe nos actions pour définir quelle est notre part de responsabilité dans ce qui nous arrive tant de positif que de négatif, et comprendre ainsi les mécanismes que nous enclenchons. Dans la vie courante, ceci peut se traduire par exemple par se poser la question si notre impatience dans une fille d’attente est vraiment due à l’incompétence du commis vendeur; si notre énervement en voiture ne relate que de la conduite des autres ou plutôt de l’idée excessive de perfection que nous nous faisons de nous-mêmes; si notre supposée “infaillibilité” nous sert ou nous dessert dans l’analyse des problèmes. Ne serait-ce plutôt que nos actions (qui ne sont souvent que des réactions) et nos pensées sont parfois nos pires ennemis ? Voilà ce qui s’appelle “une quête sincère”.
Ne vous méprenez pas sur mes paroles: se trouver des défauts ne fait pas de vous une mauvaise personne. Toute quête, si dure soit-elle, doit être accompagnée d’un regard tendre et bienveillant. Si vous êtes amenés à découvrir vos failles, considérez-les comme des découvertes inestimables qui vous ferons avancer vers votre propre vraie nature plutôt que des fautes immondes.
Ne laissez pas l’acédie demeurer en vous car elle obnubilera votre but et vous empêtrera dans une stabilité commode. Œuvrer ces changements sur soi-même et dans sa vie est un sale boulot et nul ne peut vous y contraindre sinon par la force (de toute manière, si ce n’est pas ce que l’on souhaite vraiment, aucune coercition n’aura d’effet). Il incombe à vous seulement de mettre en route ce processus bouleversant.
Mes parents me rappelaient sans cesse que «je n’étais pas à la hauteur». J’y avais cru jusqu’au jour où, décidant de me faire appeler George – changeant ainsi l’attitude de mes compagnons d’école – je compris qu’il ne tenait qu’à moi de le croire ou non et, qu’en réalité, bien que loin de la perfection, j’étais assurément à la hauteur.
L’interviewer continua:«Qu’est-ce “être à la hauteur” pour vous?».«C’est être tel que je suis vraiment, avec certes des aspects à améliorer, mais avec un profond respect de ma personne».
Les années passant, la pratique bouddhique m’a enseigné les outils nécessaires pour changer et pour prendre d’autres directions. Le secret est toujours le même: le Sûtra du lotus. Le Bouddha n’y prêche pas à l’auditoire qu’il est imparfait, qu’il n’aura pas d’illumination dans ce bas monde à cause de son passé fautif: au contraire, la seule chose qu’il dit est que, grâce à la pratique, nous pouvons tous atteindre l’Éveil. Rien à voir donc avec la notion de punition.

Mais comment être bienveillants et épris de gentillesse envers nous-mêmes alors que nous traversons la rudesse de cette vie-ci?
Le Chapitre XIV du Sûtra du lotus nous donne la réponse: ne pensez pas que ce monde est un endroit terrible où ne règne que la souffrance. La non-dualité nous enseigne qu’il y a toujours un revers de la médaille et qu’il ne tient qu’à nous d’interpréter les phénomènes et nos expériences d’une manière plutôt que de l’autre. L’observateur a toujours la main.
Le Bouddha n’est pas mort il y a très longtemps. Il vit encore à travers ses enseignements qui sont d’actualité aujourd’hui comme ils l’étaient déjà à son époque. Et il nous répète sans cesse déjà comme à l’époque, que notre manière de vivre détermine notre réalité et que nos pensées seules peuvent choisir le monde où nous vivons.

Posted in Basics, Buddhism, by Ryusho 龍昇, chaplain, compassion, concentration, death, Dharma Talks, dying, education, focus, Good Things, healthcare, Hope, language, Lotus Sutra, mind, mindfulness, Myosho-ji Temple, Nichiren, Nichiren Shu, Pastoral Care, peace | 2 Comments

Physician’s Good Medicine #5 – Acedia with French Translation

French translation appears following the English

After a delay due to surgery and recovery I am resuming my writing. Because of the break in writing my continuity may be off and at final publication some of this may change. Thank you for you patience and understanding.

In our own lives this might look like not being satisfied with our results so far and looking for other ways in which we might be able to change our lives.

I can’t say that I understood this principal in my life early on but as I look back on events it certainly seems to have been manifest. In fact on my recent certification committee to become a chaplain one of the interviewers said to me that it seems as if I have been Buddhist my whole life. He had asked me to share with him the background around my name change.

When I was very young, ages 5-7, I was teased quite a lot. I was bullied in school so much that for me going to school was one of the most scary things I could think of, and going to the bathroom was even more scary. The kids, especially the older ones in school would follow me and call me names and make fun of the name my parents called me. They would follow me into the bathroom and tease me and I would cry. I was so afraid.

One day in second grade while out playing on the play ground a group of the boys got together and somehow got ahold of a rope. They used the rope to tie me up and hang me from the tree on the playground. I had to be cut down and taken to the emergency room as a result. My parents reaction was that somehow I had caused this to happen and that it was my fault. The system was broken and had failed me.

During the summer before third grade my father was transferred to New Orleans where I entered a new and different school. At this school no one knew me or what I was called, they only had my first, middle and last names. So after practicing all summer long all of the possible ways I could be teased by my first name I told them to call me George. I didn’t really change my name so much as I claimed my first name.

My parents were not at all pleased, to put it mildly and in fact until they died they continued to use the nickname they had devised.

I can’t claim to have been so clever at the time but I do recall understanding that if I wanted things to change then the person responsible for that had to be me. There were a few instances of people trying to tease me with the name George however in all instances I just would sing along and they would stop.

After I related my story to the committee the Baptist minister who had asked the question said; “you were a Buddhist back then.” I had never really thought of it that way, I was just desperate and afraid. I wanted the bullying and teasing to stop, that was all I wanted. I wasn’t thinking of any grand philosophical act or even anything that would as it turns out be a defining moment in my life.

I am realistic enough to know that I had circumstances available to me that don’t often occur and so I hope no one takes my story as being any gospel about how they should or should not solve their own unique life problems. My point is simply to encourage each of us, myself included, to not be complacent in our suffering or in our happiness. We each are challenged to constantly strive towards our best. And if we are complacent or smug in our examination then we will almost certainly miss the very opportunities that can enable us to change in significant ways.

———-French translation by Luca Guccione————–
Le médecin expert – 5
Chapitre I – L’acédie

À cause d’une opération et de la convalescence, j’ai dû malheureusement m’arrêter d’écrire un certain temps. Me voilà de retour. Merci pour votre comprehension.

[cont.]: ceci peut s’apparenter à un abandon pour certains qui cherchent alors d’autres issues de sortie.

Moi-même j’ai mis du temps à le comprendre. Aujourd’hui, avec le recul, je conçois ces doutes comme une partie intégrante de mon processus bouddhiste. C’est d’ailleurs lors de mon entretien pour devenir aumônier, que l’on me fit remarquer que «on aurait dit que j’étais un bouddhiste depuis ma tendre enfance».

Et c’est lors de ce colloque même, que je dus expliquer l’origine de mon nom d’emprunt.

Vers l’âge de 5-7 ans, on me taquinait souvent. On me tyrannisait tellement qu’aller à l’école était devenu un vrai calvaire: pis encore, aller aux toilettes! Les “anciens” m’insultaient de tous les noms possibles sans répit et se moquaient même du surnom que m’avaient donné mes parents. Cela provoquait des pleurs que je ne parvenais plus à contrôler.

Un jour, en deuxième primaire, tandis que j’étais en train de jouer dans la cour, un groupe d’enfants réussit à s’emparer d’une corde. Bien tôt, je fus ligoté et suspendu à un arbre et je fus si gravement affecté qu’on dut m’amener aux urgences. Quelle ne fut la réaction de mes parents qui s’en prirent à moi: selon eux, tout ce qui m’arrivait n’était que de ma faut! Après ce jour là, le système scolaire avait perdu toute crédibilité à mes yeux car il m’avait fortement déçu.

Un été, avant la rentrée de troisième, mon père fut transféré à New Orleans où je fus inscrit dans une nouvelle école. Personne savait qui j’étais ni connaissait mes sobriquets: je décidais donc de repartir à zéro et de me faire appeler tout simplement George (mon vrai prénom), ce qui ne ravissait pas du tout mes parents qui, jusqu’à leur mort, m’appelèrent par le surnom qu’ils m’avaient affublé.

Je compris après coup (hélas! Pas tout de suite) que si je voulais que les choses changeassent, c’est moi qui aurait dû modifier mon comportement. D’ailleurs, les seules fois où on essaya de se moquer de George, je les ignorai en sifflotant (ce qui arrêta net la moquerie).

C’est après ce récit que mon interviewer me dit que «c’est à ce moment précis, en sifflant, que j’étais devenu bouddhiste». Une révélation! Moi qui n’y avais vu qu’une période sombre et effrayante, moi qui ne désirais rien d’autre que d’en finir avec mes persécutions, je n’avais jamais envisagé l’aspect philosophique ni l’importance fondatrice de ces événements.

Certes, je m’en saurais passé volontiers: que ceci ne soit pas un modèle pour vous! Chacun a son histoire et sa façon de la vivre. Mais l’enseignement que je voudrais que vous reteigniez (et que je me répète sans cesse), est que jamais il ne faut se décourager, jamais il ne faut se laisser engloutir dans ses propres souffrances (ni dans ses propres extases, d’ailleurs). Chaque jour qui passe, nous ne devons avoir de cesse de lutter pour ne pas nous laisser abattre par la situation et pour éviter de nous y complaire mollement. C’est à ce prix que d’innombrables opportunités se manifesteront alors à nous.

Posted in Basics, Buddhism, by Ryusho 龍昇, chaplain, compassion, concentration, death, Dharma Talks, dying, education, focus, Good Things, healthcare, Hope, lgbt, Lotus Sutra, mind, mindfulness, Myosho-ji Temple, Nichiren, Nichiren Shu, Pastoral Care, peace | 2 Comments

Physician’s Good Medicine #4 – Acedia with French Translation

French translation appears following the English

In the parable in the Sutra we are told that after the return of the father to his home and upon discovering his children had taken some poison he then compounds some beneficial medication for his children. We are told that some of the children took the medicine right away and became cured and their right mind was restored. Yet others of the children refused to take the good medicine and continued to suffer in agony as their minds were affected by the poison they had taken.

In spite of overwhelming evidence which they had witnessed by their very own eyes there were some of the children who were not capable of believing the medicine could cure them. That is one way of looking at these events. I believe there is yet another way to view the story and that is the children in spite of knowing they had taken poison and even knowing that their brothers had been cured where not strongly enough self motivated to truly seek out or be interested in taking the good medicine.

This word acedia is perhaps a word we could use more frequently in our vocabulary, though no one would have the foggiest idea what were talking about.

To not be interested or concerned about one’s condition, in other words to not looking at one’s own problems and seeing the work that needs to be done at home, is acedia. Since it is much easier to look at other people’s problems than one’s own this implies a certain laziness and certainly arrogance. This is the terminal uniqueness I mentioned above, the thought that I am different from the person I am criticizing. Or for the addict looking at others and saying I’m not like them, and then saying I don’t need your tool, whether it is AA or meditation, or rehab. I’m not like that.

Of course the ‘I’m not like them’ syndrome is just as easy to identify in the spiritual community and it practitioners who assume airs of self-righteousness. The notion that I as a practitioner of Buddhism have somehow figured out life and therefore am above the troubles that plague others is foolish, arrogant and perfectly describes the trouble with acedia in our lives.

For Buddhists perhaps the problem is doubly compounded because our teachings are some times interpreted to call on us to remove ourselves from society or to somehow rise above it all. Mindfulness becomes stoic detachment which is absurd because know where else do the solutions for eliminating suffering lie than in the very reality of life. Eliminating suffering and avoiding suffering are not the same thing.

While it is true on the one hand that the elimination of suffering does not lie in the acquisition of more material things it also does not lie simply in the abhorrence or avoidance of the material. The middle path, the one chosen by the Buddha that turned away from strictly asceticism and also from hedonism, the path of finding the way between without ignoring either is our challenge.

The physician father in this parable neither rejoices over the curing of some of his ill children nor laments into inaction the refusal of others to take the medicine and cure themselves. And indeed the cure does lie within the control of each child, the father merely provides that which they can take as a cure. Rather than celebrating his success or being satisfied with the results as they stood, in other words not giving up on finding a solution, the father continues to search for a solution that will accomplish his goal.

———-French translation by Luca Guccione————–
Chapitre I – L’acédie

Continuant la parabole, on apprend que le père, de retour à la maison, découvre que ses enfants ont pris du poison et tout de suite il leur concocte un remède. Quelques uns le prennent immédiatement guérissant instantanément et retrouvant du coup un esprit sain (le poison les ayant obnubilés). D’autres, au contraire, refusent le médicament et continuent d’agoniser.

Malgré l’évidence même (leur frères et sœur déjà guéris), ceux-ci sont incapables de croire que pour eux le remède pourrait marcher. Ou alors, autre hypothèse, ils désirent carrément persister dans leur état et ne sont guère intéressés à en sortir.

C’est l’acédie, mot qui devrait être utilisé plus fréquemment (même si notre interlocuteur n’aurait sans doute pas la moindre idée de quoi il s’agit). Voyons donc sa signification première: ne pas s’intéresser à son propre état d’âme. Ceci nous pousse à regarder promptement les problèmes et fautes des autres plus volontiers et nous plonge de ce fait dans une paresse et une arrogance aveugles. C‘est ce que j’entendais auparavant par “unicité terminale”: l’idée que je sois complètement différent de celui que je critique [NdT du grec KRINO, je sépare] et, pour les gens souffrant de dépendance, l’idée que je ne sois pas comme le reste de la planète, que moi je n’ai pas besoin de remède (qu’il s’agisse de méthadone ou de méditation). Tous, sauf moi.

Ce syndrome que j’appellerais “jnesuipakomeu”, se vérifie aussi dans les communautés spirituelles où l’on repère tout de suite ceux qui se croient “dans le droit chemin”, au-dessus du lot. Je l’ai constaté souvent: nombre de Bouddhistes croient tout avoir compris à la vie grâce aux enseignements, et se pensent donc immunisés contre les fléaux qui affligent les gens communs. Cette vraie arrogance leur vient de l’acédie.

Ces Bouddhistes ont alors un double problème: ils pensent que les enseignements leur demandent de s’extraire de la société, de “léviter” au-dessus d’elle en quelque sorte. Rien de plus faux. Être pleinement conscient ne veut pas dire se détacher stoïquement de la vie, car seule la réalité nous offre les moyens d’éliminer la souffrance. Une chose c’est d’éviter la souffrance, l’autre de l’éliminer!

Pour ce faire, pas besoin de se débarrasser de tous ses biens matériels (comme l’aurait fait un stoïque). La voie médiane préconisée par le Bouddha – à mi-chemin entre l’hédonisme et l’ascétisme – n’ignore pas les extrêmes dont elle tient compte précisément pour trouver la juste approche.

Le médecin de la parabole ne se réjouit pas d’avoir sauvé quelques uns des siens, tout comme il ne regrette pas que les autres aient refusé ses soins. Certes, il aimerait que chacun puisse se soigner mais, en tant que père, son rôle est de continuer à chercher la solution finale qui accomplira finalement sa mission.

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Physician’s Good Medicine #3 – Acedia with French Translation

French translation appears following the English

Until a person is ready and willing to delve into their own weaknesses and troubles and leave the troubles and weaknesses of others alone then the real benefit of Buddhist practice will continually remain elusive. Certainly it is much easier to spend our time fixing the problems of others, providing expert advice on how their lives could be infinitely better if they only made certain critical changes. Buddhism though is at the core not a religious doctrine which subscribes to the practices of judgement, so none need apply.

Until a person is practicing for their own enlightenment and their own self improvement then the ability to fulfill our vow to enable countless others to also attain enlightenment will always be just out of reach.

There is a term my therapist uses to describe people who fail to see themselves and their behaviors when looking at their environment. She calls it suffering from terminal uniqueness. I see this exhibited frequently in patients of all types, however it is seems especially prevalent in the detox unit. Folks there will frequently express the sentiment that they aren’t like those other people. And in a way this is something we all, I believe have said at one time or another. I’m not like that person, or I’m better than that, or I would never do something like that. All the while refusing to look deeply into their own lives and seeing that while circumstances may be slightly different it is the core behavior that is the same.

When I work with folks in the detox unit or other places who have addictions they wish to overcome, whether drugs or anything, what I am most focused on is the behavior that is manifesting either because of the addiction or that lead to the addiction. I am not an expert or even highly skilled at treating anyone with any addiction, yet my belief is that we all have addictions to something and the degree to which we are aware of the addiction and the degree to which it impacts our ability to function is the place where Buddhism can have the greatest impact.

Setting aside any moral judgments and delving into what we are trying to run away from or what we are trying to run towards is a good place for Buddhism to start. But we have to be willing to delve deep and that isn’t always easy and almost certainly isn’t painless.

Acedia is Latin which has many different meanings such as torpor, listless, not caring or being concerned about one’s condition. I thought this was a good word with many rich meanings very appropriate to this work on the Physician and his Children parable from the Lotus Sutra.

————-French translation by Luca Guccione————–
Le médecin expert – 3
Chapitre I L’acédie

Si nous n’avons pas la volonté ferme d’analyser nos propres faiblesses et notre insatisfaction laissant pour un instant de côté les problèmes qui proviennent soi-disant de l’extérieur, nous ne pourrons pas bénéficier réellement de la pratique bouddhique. Très souvent, en effet, il est plus facile de régler les problèmes des autres sur lesquels nous pontifions en grands experts, détenteurs comme nous sommes de la conduite parfaite, plutôt que de faire de l’introspection. Or le bouddhisme, contrairement à d’autres religions, ne se base pas sur les jugements.
Si nous voulons accomplir le vœu de tout bouddhiste, celui de sauver un nombre incalculable d’êtres, nous devons auparavant travailler à notre propre illumination.
Pour parler de ce type de personnes qui regardent la paille dans les yeux de leurs voisins plutôt que la poutre dans les leurs, mon médecin utilise le terme de “unicité terminale” [NdT. ils se croient uniques dans leur misère ou dans leur supériorité, non reliés au reste du monde, le terminus d’une vie accomplie pour certains, les vieux rails abandonnés d’une destination non plus desservie d’un réseau ferré pour d’autres]. Cette pathologie est plus fréquemment constatable parmi les patients dont je m’occupe dans le centre de désintoxication. Ce sont eux les premiers qui diront qu’ils ne sont pas comme tous les autres gens, phrase – j’en suis sûr – que nous aurons tous crue à un moment ou à un autre de notre vie:«Je n’est rien à voir avec celui-là»,«je vaux bien mieux»,«jamais je n’oserais faire une chose pareille»… Refuser de regarder au fond de soi, c’est ignorer que, même si les circonstances sont différentes, le problème est le même pour tous.
Quand je travaille avec ces personnes qui veulent se sortir de tout type de dépendance, la chose qui m’importe le plus est d’analyser le comportement qu’elles manifestent soit sous l’emprise, soit celui qui les y conduit. Et bien que je ne sois pas un expert ni aie les diplômes pour, je crois fermement que nous sommes tous à un degré ou à un autre dépendant d’une habitude; ce qui compte, c’est en quelle mesure nous en sommes conscients et c’est là que le bouddhisme déploie sa grande utilité.
Mis à part tout jugement moral, si nous nous décidons à fouiller en nous pour chercher ce que nous fuyons ou, au contraire, ce qui nous excite, alors le bouddhisme est l’outil qu’il nous faut pour entamer cette démarche. Il faudra néanmoins creuser très profondément, et ça ne sera pas sans peine.
“Acédie” vient du latin et peut être traduit de différentes manières, toutes valables: torpeur, apathie, indolence envers soi ou les autres. Voilà donc le mot que je cherchais pour débuter ma conférence sur la parabole du Médecin expert et de ses fils contée dans le Sûtra du lotus!

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Physician’s Good Medicine #2 – Acedia with French Translation

The French translation follows the English

Chapter I – Acedia

While away the children of the good physician get a tad bit overly curious or else mischievous and get into some things they should not have gotten in to and become poisoned. There are a couple of ways of looking at this, one is they were doing something they should not have been doing and two they did not experience a desirable outcome from their actions.

I’ve never had children, however I have raised puppies and I know all about them getting into things they should not. Often times they are simply exploring their environment and also looking for things to eat. They are unaware of the dangers, especially the dangers of modern homes with electrical cords and household cleaners. My current dog is the first one I have ever raised by myself, all the others I had my partner share the burden.

For the first 6 months practically, the only place in the house she was able to be in was the kitchen. I had put child locks on all the cupboard doors and it was already a space that had no exposed electrical cords. The floor was linoleum and so there was nothing she could do to harm it or herself. When I wasn’t home or with her she was in her crate. This made things a lot less stressful for me. All of these precautions though only got her through the chewing phase. Dogs always remain curious to things in their environment, and so it is with here.

When we are young we lack the capacity to make rational decisions and are also unaware of the dangers that exist in our environments. These two factors are important to consider and actually are never far away even as we age, as aging is no guarantee that one knows all things. The children may have been hoping for some fun when they took the medicine, that certainly is the case today with some youth who take various medicines or even household substances so they can become high, transporting them away to some different mental experience. Of course this is dangerous yet the risk seems worth it and so the activity is engaged in.

One day a week I spend time teaching meditation to patients who are in the detox unit in the hospital where I work. I have had the opportunity to speak with many people who struggle with addictions to either drugs or alcohol or both. Some are poly-substance abusers, this is the classification given to those people who are addicted to many drugs both legal and illegal which makes recovery and treatment for overdose a complicated process.

Frequently when people talk about addictions one comment I hear over and over is ‘they are running from pain’, a phrase I think does more harm than good and is highly dismissive of those with addictions.

Guess what, we all have addictions. And this is where I transition the subject to speaking directly in a rather blunt way. We are all addicts and if any addict is morally deficient then we all are. While it might be argued that there are harmful addictions and others which are not harmful, that is only a device employed to rationalize one’s own behavior and hide from the truth.

——–French translation by Luca Guccione————–
Chapitre I – L’acédie*

Alors qu’il s’est absenté, les enfants du médecin un tantinet curieux et espiègles commettent malheureusement une bêtise. Qui sait? Peut-être ont-ils transgressé une règle ou n’ont-ils pas évalué les conséquences de leur acte: le fait est qu’ils tombent empoisonnés.

Moi-même n’ayant jamais eu d’enfants, j’ai pu toutefois constater le pétrin où se fourrent les chiots dans leur soif de découvrir le monde et dans leur quête de bouffe: ils ne se rendent pas compte des dangers qui emplissent nos maisons (les produits ménagers toxiques, le réseau électrique, etc.).

Or, pour la première fois j’ai une chienne que j’ai élevée tout seul (pour les précédents, on se partageait les tâches moi et mon partenaire). Et bien: les six premiers mois de son existence j’ai dû mettre des cadenas à toutes les portes et cacher toutes les prises et câbles électriques car sa curiosité n’avait de cesse! Et malgré le fait qu’elle fût ainsi apparemment protégée de tout incident possible, mon stress ne diminuait pas lorsque je devais la laisser seule à la maison, conscient que sa nature lui aurait causé des problèmes.

Les jeunes en général n’utilisent pas leur capacité rationnelle pour prendre des décisions et sont inconscients des dangers qui nous entourent. Malheureusement, beaucoup de gens ne murissent pas avec l’âge et continuent d’être tout aussi imprudents. Ainsi ces enfants de la parabole croyaient-ils sans doute augmenter leur amusement en avalant des médicaments (c’est ce qui se passe de nos jours avec les substances psychotropes) qui leur auraient fait vivre, pensaient-ils, une expérience “hors du commun”: ils n’avaient pas pu, de toute évidence, évaluer le risque qu’ils auraient encouru.

Un jour par semaine j’enseigne la méditation aux patients d’un centre de désintoxication, ce qui m’a permis de connaître leurs motivations de fond (il y a vraiment de tout: du consommateur d’alcool, au “multiutilisateur” qui se concocte des mélanges compliqués). Ce que les gens en pensent généralement est que ces personnes essayent de fuir la douleur, chose qui est loin d’être vraie et qui ne les aide sûrement pas.

Car, le savez-vous? Nous sommes tous drogués d’une façon ou d’une autre, dépendants de ceci ou de cela. Certes, vous pourriez objecter qu’il y a des dépendances délétères et d’autres qui sont juste futiles, mais ce ne serait qu’une tentative de rationaliser ces manquements et de cacher la vérité à vous-mêmes.

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Physician’s Good Medicine – #1 – Introduction with French Translation

French translation by Luca Guddione appears after the English

The other day in an exchange of email correspondences with the current Bishop of Nichiren Order of North Carolina (NONA) about traveling to Las Vegas in December we were deciding what I would speak about when I was there. In one of those emails he had suggested that I give a short lecture on either the Parable of the Magic City or on the parable of the Physician and his Sick Children. Since I recently wrote on the Magic City I already have material for a lecture on that.

While this was going on I had been mulling over which of the parables I would like to tackle next in my writing. I had begun gathering information on the two parables that mention gems, those being Gem in the Robe and Gem in the Topknot. I even was planning a trip to some of the areas around Charlotte where people actively mine and search for gems in our area. I was going to do this to perhaps get some photos as well as get an idea of how gems are found and cut. I wanted to get a good idea of the process of gem work and perhaps understand why some things found in the ground are valuable and others are not.

As it turns out the area around Charlotte has quite a reputation in the gemstone industry as producing some record setting gems. In this area and surrounding counties can be found many precious and semi-precious gems. But with the Bishop’s suggestion and also requests from readers to share more about my work in the hospitals and being a Chaplain as well as some wanting to know more about me personally I have decided that perhaps at this time the better choice would be to delve into the Physician and His Sick Children.

This parable is interesting in that there is no gatha or verse equivalent of the telling of this parable. It is only found in the prose section of Chapter XVI towards the end of that section before we get to the Buddha revealing the Eternal aspect of Buddha. Perhaps the individual who was responsible for writing down Chapter XVI became so excited about the revelations of the Buddha that he didn’t get around to revisiting the Parable of the Physician. If you know me you already know that I am open to speculating any possibility lacking firm evidence.

There is also something else interesting in the suggestion by the Bishop, and that is timing. Besides being open to speculating wildly and widely I also believe in listening to intuition and part of that is tuning into timing. As it so happens at this particular time in my life I am preparing to have surgery done to make some repairs to some internal organs. I can say it isn’t anything major, yet every surgery is major especially if they are working on internal organs. It goes without saying that death is always a possibility. Yet, I do ask myself it there is any greater risk of death during surgery than in not having the surgery and the answer to that is it is the most risky not having the surgery. And too, there is always a risk of death in living, in fact it isn’t a risk at all it is a certainty.

And so with that I changed course and set aside the gem work and am looking into the medicine of the Lotus Sutra. Everywhere I go when I am in the hospital I carry an amulet with the phrase ““this sūtra is a good medicine for the diseases of the people of the Jambudvīpa” Lotus Sutra, Chapter XXIII and “Take it! Do not be afraid that you will not be cured!’ ” Lotus Sutra, Chapter XVI. I do this as my constant prayer both for the curing of the illness that afflict the patients in the hospital and also as my prayer for their eventual faith in the Lotus Sutra.

As I have in previous writings I will draw upon my personal history, though perhaps more so than in previous writings. I also will be looking at some mystic writers from other traditions such as Islam and Christianity and Earth based practices. I hope you will find this writing helpful as you deal with the various illness of your own life however they manifest. Illness is not simply the kind of sickness that tradtionally lead us to medical practitioners but also the many illnesses that rob us of the joy that is innately possible in each of our lives.

———French Translation—-by Luca Guccione———–
Le médecin expert – Introduction

Il y a quelques jours de cela, j’échangeais des courriels avec le Supérieur de l’École de Nichiren de Caroline du Nord (NONA) à propos du sujet que j’aurais dû aborder en décembre lors de ma visite à Las Vegas. Il me suggérait de parler soit de la parabole de la Ville fantôme soit de celle du Médecin expert et de ses fils malades. Le sujet semblait vite trouvé car j’avais déjà bossé sur la première des deux.

Ceci dit, j’hésitais encore: ne serait-ce pas plutôt la parabole sur le Joyau caché dans le revers de la robe ou celle de la Perle royale? Les deux m’intéressant beaucoup, j’aurais pu même prévoir un voyage dans la région minière de Charlotte pour me documenter (région qui est toujours active), où j’aurais pu prendre des photos, me renseigner sur les techniques d’extraction et apprendre à distinguer les gemmes des pierrailles.

Or, le Supérieur, m’incitant à parler surtout de mon expérience de chapelain dans les hôpitaux qui suscite toujours beaucoup d’intérêt, j’optai finalement pour la parabole du Médecin expert. Cette parabole a la particularité de n’être pas résumée en vers; elle n’est contée qu’en prose à la fin du chapitre XVI, avant que le Bouddha ne révèle son aspect Éternel (je suspecte le scribe de ce chapitre d’avoir voulu goulument arriver à cette révélation tellement importante et d’avoir ainsi sauté la versification mnémonique de la parabole. Pure spéculation, mais sait-on jamais…).

Croyant fermement à l’intuition, un fait synchronique me poussa encore plus à explorer ce thème . Il se trouve en effet qu’à cette période de ma vie je dois affronter des opérations chirurgicales et, même si elles ne sont pas lourdes au sens propre, un risque létal (voire un risque certain!) existe toujours.

Ces coïncidences s’imbriquant petit à petit, je pris la décision finalement de tout laisser tomber pour ne me concentrer que sur la médecine du Sûtra du lotus. Partout où j’aille dans les hôpitaux, je trimballe toujours avec moi une amulette où est inscrit: “Ce sûtra est un bon médicament pour les maladies des peuples de Jambudvīpa” (Sûtra du lotus, XXIII) et “Prends-le! N’aie de crainte quant à la guérison!” (Sûtra du lotus, XVI). C’est un geste conjuratoire, une sorte de prière constante qui me suit adressée à la fois au corps du patient (afin qu’il guérisse) et à son esprit (afin qu’il puisse entrevoir la beauté du Sûtra du lotus).

Cette fois encore, comme dans mes écrits précédents (voire même plus), je consacrerai une partie de mon enseignement à mes expériences personnelles car elles sont une vérification probantes de mes propos. Je parlerai aussi de mystiques d’autres religions pour que vous puissiez vous en inspirer et en bénéficier lors de votre maladie. Entendons-nous bien: la maladie n’est pas que physique; c’est celle aussi qui pourrit notre joie innée à laquelle nous avons tous droit.

Posted in Buddhism, by Ryusho 龍昇, chaplain, death, Dharma Talks, dying, Good Things, healthcare, Hope, Lotus Sutra, mindfulness, Myosho-ji Temple, Nichiren Shu, Pastoral Care | 4 Comments

The Magic City: Studying the Lotus Sutra

The Magic City front cover

The Magic City front cover

My latest book “The Magic City: Studying the Lotus Sutra” is now available through Amazon. In this book I explore some of the profound meanings of this major parable found in the Lotus Sutra and the applications to modern life. Employing spiritual practices such as Midrash from Judaism and Lectio Divina from Christianity as well as labyrinths I take you on a spiritual journey into and along the road to the Magic City in your own life. Reading this parable not as a story about someone else’s life but as the story of your life I invite you to take a journey into your own life towards your own Magic City.

I hope you will find this book meaningful and inspiring.

With Gassho,
Ryusho Jeffus

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Most Famous Mother in the Lotus Sutra – May 11, 2014 Dharma Talk

Good morning to all who are present either here at the temple or viewing the live stream or even those who only read this blog. Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there, and Happy Mother’s Day to my mother who died in 2002.

The most famous mother in the Lotus Sutra is actually a demon. Kishimojin is not the only mother in the Lotus Sutra, she is however the most famous one and a statue of her is usually present in Nichiren Shu temple, ours is on a side altar left of the main altar. Kishimojin is a manifestation of Hariti from India who is the deity representing fertility, childbirth, and childhood diseases. She has both a positive attribute and a negative one as well.

In Eastern mythology just as in Greek mythology the deities were not always without some negative characteristics. The deities were not simple beings who only represent good or evil as is the case later on in Western European mythology where many of the lesser qualities are frequently ignored or not spoken of.

This is actually rather fitting to consider as we celebrate this special day we set aside to celebrate our mothers. Every one of us has a mother, but not all of us are comfortable celebrating our mothers. For many the relationship with their mother is complicated, encompassing both good and bad emotions. Over time some come to a greater appreciation of their mother as they learn to set aside the negative memories. And over time some never reach that healing and continue holding a negative image of their mother.

Mother’s too frequently have complicated relationships with their children. It isn’t always that a child brings joy to the life of the mother.

Relationships are always complicated though we may wish them to be simple.

Kishimojin is portrayed as an ogress or a non-human in Japanese iconography. Throughout the ages in her various representations in different cultures she is not always depicted as such. The influence of the Lotus Sutra on Japan and Japanese culture perhaps is the reason why Kishimojin is depicted in such a way.

According to mythology Kishimojin is the mother of many children, the number varying in different tellings, but in the Lotus Sutra she has 10 children who are raksasa, or devil, and they receive their nourishment by their mother stealing human babies to feed them with.

I had often wondered how this negative image of Kishimojin stealing human babies came about, there must have been some reason for this idea. As it turns out it is the negative aspect of childhood disease that is the root of the idea of Kishimojin stealing human babies.

In the story the humans make pleas to Shakyamuni Buddha to do something to save the children. The Buddha steals one of Kishimojin’s babies and hides it under his robe. When Kishimojin discovers her missing baby and after looking everywhere she goes to the Buddha greatly distraught. The Buddha produces the baby and explains that while she has so many children humans usually only have one or two babies so as much as she missed one of many so too humans miss even more the loss of one of so few.

Repenting her ways Kishimojin then vows to protect practitioners of the Lotus Sutra and to no longer steal babies to feed her own. In Chapter XXVI Kishimojin and her children make vows to protect those who uphold the Lotus Sutra. This is why we set aside a special place for a statue of her.

“Anyone who does not keep our spells
But troubles the expounder of the Dharma
Shall have his head split into seven pieces
Just as the branches of the arjaka-tree [are split].

Anyone who attacks this teacher of the Dharma
Will receive the same retribution
As to be received by the person who kills his parents,
Or who makes [sesame] oil without taking out worms [from the sesame],
Or who deceives others by using wrong measures and scales,
Or by Devadatta who split the Saṃgha.”
(Lotus Sutra, Chapter XXVI)

As I mentioned in the beginning not everyone has a good relationship with their mother, there may be many complicating factors in our memories of our mother. Not everyone has had a good experience with their mother through their lifetime. And not every mother had good experiences with their children. It may not be possible to forgive either our mother or for mothers their children. The hurts may be too deep and too severe.

My own relationship with my mother both when she was alive and even in death is one of those complicated ones. Neither she nor I were perfect in any way. We were neither all good nor all bad. That is most commonly the way of much of our lives. Yet what are we to do with the negative stuff, for the good stuff is usually easy to accept.

I believe that no matter what it is possible to shift our thinking to one of possibilities. Through our practice of Buddhism and the Lotus Sutra it is possible to change our lives in such a way as to open up new ways of either viewing the past or of reinterpreting previous experiences. For some whose mother is no longer living it can be difficult, that is the case with me. There is no one living to sort things out with, and so the work is left to the individual.

Sometimes we are left only with the possibility of moving on, of not being help captive by the past. Sometimes we may be able to come to a realization that no thing is either all good or all bad, even though is it frequently easier to hold on to the bad stuff. It may take learning how to less tightly hold on to the negative and more firmly grasp the sometimes tiny bits of good.

Today on this Mother’s Day it is my prayer that we can all come to celebrate our complicated relationships with our mothers while also realizing that we too are complicated individuals and our mothers may have also complicated relationships with us.

I cannot imagine the difficulty of nor the joy of motherhood. I can only be in awe of the efforts of being a mother. Even my mother showed devotion to being a mother even if it manifest in ways that were sometimes hurtful to me. Today I would like to remember those efforts of nurturing, rearing, providing, protecting, sacrifice, pain, and suffering that my mother gave.

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