Saturday, March 12, 2011

Another Question

Last week the gentleman asked if zen would make him a better parent. Today, sitting on the same cushion, a man asked why is sitting worth it when other activities seem to be more profitable considering the time involved.

We used to call these teachable moments. Luckily, I was not the teacher. There wasn't time to discuss my ideas of profit, and a quote from the Bible "what shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul" would not work since you lose your soul in Zen, discovering that the soul (called "self") does not exist.

The teacher did mention that Zen is not a gaining activity (my words). The problem with saying that "sitting will do this for you" is that if people sit for that benefit they might miss the experience while waiting for the award to come. Doing things for the result never work out too well. And if the result doesn't come, we live the rest of life dressed in bitterness.

Then the teacher said that dana (donations) was important). The next thing I know is that a basket was being passed. That didn't feel good to me, especially at a beginners' class. I think we ought to get drug pushers to teach classes in hooking customers. They give the product away until the customer is hooked... and then they start charging—or so I've heard.

In any case, I politely took the basket and passed it on.

What will next week bring?


Chris Lance said...

Why was a basket passed around as opposed to the usual verbal request for dana? Do you know?

Kim Mosley said...

I'm not sure if the teacher had requested it... or if the person sitting next to the basket passed it around on their own. I'm not comfortable with the coercion of a passed basket. It doesn't seem kind because it shames people who don't want to give, or who can't give. I'll never give to a passed basket in support of those others who don't/won't/can't give.

Kate Freeman said...

One time in church, they passed around a basket to collect money in order to rent a bus to take pro-life protestors to Washington. The basket was gingerly passed to my aunt who smiled politely at the woman handing it to her. Then my aunt rolled her eyes and in dramatic fashion hurled the basket down the length of the pew.

As we walked to the car after the mass, she told me, “I ain’t giving no God Damned money to a God Damned anti-abortion bus going to the God Damned White House.”

I love my Aunt.

Buddhism has this strong symbol of the begging bowl; it being one of the few positions a monk can have. And yet the basket freaks you out. Baskets and bowls are not that different. How do you view the begging bowl?

Kim Mosley said...

I love your aunt too... not that I share her persuasion (though I'm surprised abortion is a liberal cause). I felt embarrassed for those that gave just because they thought it was rude not to give, and more embarrassed for those who could not give. The begging bowl takes place in a culture that thinks it is a privilege to give. As well, I understand that in Burma the monks have certain patrons who give over and over again. Dana is a practice that people choose to participate in, or not.

Kate Freeman said...

My aunt is of a generation of women that were often forced to marry if they got pregnant and yet they were discouraged from using birth control. It’s not a liberal or conservative thing in her context.

I just wanted to point out in a humorous way that you might not have to worry about the pressure the other people feel about putting money in a basket. I think most people know how to pass that basket along empty when they want to.

If it is true that the Buddhist culture views giving as a privilege, how might this be different from the Christian concept of charity as a duty?

Kim Mosley said...

Like all generalizations I suspect that how one feels about giving is dependent on the person as well as the religion. If one gives for improved karma then they are mistaken. If one give for a better eternal life... well, that could work. Assuming, that is, that there is an all-knowing God with a good staff of bookkeepers.

It is surprising that many speak of birth control and abortion as brother and sister, when they might be of different parents.

Kate Freeman said...

Like all generalizations I suspect that how one feels about giving is dependent on the person as well as the religion. --- Mr. Kim

I give money to organizations I feel have merit. I gave to monks now and again. I never did it to build up karma or buy a place in heaven or because I felt guilty or shamed. I did it or I do it because I feel their efforts benefit me and the people around me.

As often as you speak about the merits of your practice, it does surprise me that you would pass an empty basket. And your comparison of a drug dealer giving product for free and getting people hooked so one has to start paying for it. . . It doesn’t really work. At the mediation practice, they passed it around at a beginner’s class. It seems to me like they are letting the new people know right up front that they would like to be valued with money. Those beginners are not hooked yet.

It is surprising that many speak of birth control and abortion as brother and sister, when they might be of different parents. --- Mr. Kim

A guy on the bus last week talked about how our society was become worse. He pointed out that AIDS was rampant in the school and the teachers just hand out condoms telling kids it’s ok to have sex.

I don’t know if I believe that AIDS is rampant in schools. But if it is. . . wouldn’t it be smart to tell them kids they need to put a bag around it.

Aids and birth control might be treated as bother and sister even if they are from different parents, but the access to one generally does affect the other.

Kim Mosley said...

I didn't address "why I didn't give." Today I gave most of the day to the Zen center. I did things that others can't or won't do. That has become the nature of my giving. I'm less enthusiastic about giving money. I suppose it was the way I was raised.

Kim Mosley said...

Birth control seems a necessity in a world with not enough resources, parents short on the ability to care or the desire to love more kids, and STDs. I have problems with abortion because I see the embryo as a "kid" and want to protect him or her. Sometimes the mom (or parents) need(s) protection, too, so the decision becomes a balancing act. Abortion shouldn't be a right, rather it should be a last resort, recognizing that one is taking a life (as we do in war). There is the moral dilemma of switching a train track to save 7 people instead of 1 person. The lesser of two evils. Is it right? No, just better.

Kate Freeman said...

The Spanish Lake Community Association held a trivia night to raise money for the Twillman House; my communities future community center. I believe this is a positive project. I don’t really have a whole evening to sit around and play a game that makes me feel ignorant while I drink cheep beer. I am willing however to quickly scribble some words down on a check and move on with my life. Time is money. Sometimes it’s easier to give cash than it is to donate time.

I would agree with what you said about abortion. And though she’s not here for me to ask, I would guess that my aunt would too.

What I ask you too try to understand about my aunt throwing that charity basket. . . When (supposedly) celibate men organized to restrict women’s access to birth control (or just tell them that birth control is a sin) and then later want a woman’s money so they can drive up to DC and give congress a piece of their mind about abortion. . . Someone had to throw the collection basket.

Kim Mosley said...

I agree with your aunt for throwing the basket. I got upset tonight because one of the priests said something like, "if you are new here, this is the dana box and this is the membership form." What a welcome that was... or maybe I'm overly sensitive or something.

Melanie G from AZC said...

Passing the basket may turn off a newcomer for whom the practice of meditation or dana has no meaning or context yet. For me, it has a churchy feel. Some of us come to Buddhism having left the Christian church after a variety of unhappy and even damaging experiences. Usually, a newcomer doesn't have a connection to the people of AZC or what it offers. Maybe AZC is trying to help people establish a regular habit of contributing in a culture that has no habit of completely supporting their Buddhist priests/nuns. They need the money; I can understand that. I just think the timing is off. The AZC Development Committee did a great job last year of focusing on gratitude, not guilt. From a foundation of gratitude, generosity comes more freely. I think it would be hard to establish gratitude for AZC and the people of AZC at a beginners class. Other than giving an explanation of dana, I would refrain from asking for a donation at all at a person's first visit to the *free* class-- a class which introduces "no gaining idea". That's my two cents!


I told my grandson Charlie what my teacher told me 60 years ago... that a work of art is finished when none of the original idea remains. So...