Let me respectfully remind you:
This gatha is chanted each evening
at Zen Mountain Monastery
Although the Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy that ultimately ended his precious life at age 25 may have limited the freedom of his body, Danny was the quintessential Free Spirit. His creativity, energy, revolutionary zeal, and passion for life appeared to be limitless.
Through his copious artwork, through his unbridled musical expression with the Flaming Dragons of Middle Earth, and, perhaps even more importantly, through his encounters with members of his beloved community, Danny's upbeat exuberance and good will were boundless.
It touched all those knew him.
Chogyam Trungpa once described the "crazy wisdom" that is revered in Tibetan Buddhism as "an innocent state of mind that has the quality of early morning—fresh, sparkling, and completely awake. "
The 10,000 volt sparkle I often saw in Danny's eyes comes to mind.
The fresh, unfiltered honesty and the immensity of Danny's goodwill towards others were extraordinary. Although many of us experienced shock at the suddenness of his death, and grieve the loss of his Presence on this plane of existence, the Generosity of Spirit that Danny exuded freely transcends his death.
It still touches me.
Although I, admittedly, rolled my eyes when Danny described himself as a Zen Master in our first encounter in the Wednesday Mindfulness Circle, I came to appreciate the unique nature of his Mastery. It manifested in his ability to stay positive in the midst of circumstances that would have crushed the spirits of many. It manifested in his unwavering aspiration -- and unparalleled ability -- to Connect with those around him. It manifested in his ability to rise, again and again, to the defense of anyone or anything that had been criticized in his Presence.
Like any Zen Teacher worth his salt, Danny ceaselessly challenged the concepts and attachments that serve to separate us from ourselves, from one another, and from the miracle of the present moment. I learned a lot with Danny in the Circle.
Jai Guru Dev Danny Jai
Healing Into Life and Death
IMHO, there is no greater comfort than True Love, our willingness to allow our hearts to touch and be touched by the fragile majesty of the human condition we share. An Open Heart and a Clear Mind are the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. Through heartbreak held in the embrace of mindful awareness we can find deep comfort -- and deep joy.
Mourning often doesn't come easy, of course -- especially in a society that is extremely death- phobic. Although we may be bombarded with death's "virtual reality" through violent entertainment and the news in the mass media, actual death is most often hidden from view, rarely acknowledged or discussed openly. Most of us scurry ahead assiduously avoiding the topic until we lose a loved one or are directly faced with our mortality through "near misses," injury, or disease.
Yet, the stark truth is that life itself is a terminal condition. As Zen Master Suzuki Roshi once said, " Life is like stepping onto a boat which is about to sail out to sea -- and sink". None of us are going to get outta here alive.
This reality, of course, sucks. It holds great tragedy. Yet, it seems to me, that the greater tragedy is not facing the matter of death squarely when we have the time and capacity to approach it through our Practice. In fully opening to death, we fully open to Love. In opening to Love, we open to the Deathless that exists within and beyond all phenomena.
I am extremely grateful to the Teachers and Teachings that motivated and supported me to begin the exploration of the Grave Matter of Life and Death decades ago. In retreat with Stephen Levine, JoAnna Macy, and others, I was fortunate enough to open my heart more fully to the Grand Mystery of Life/Death. In the past couple of years, I've even begun practicing for my own death bed at times as I go to sleep. I'm still a lightweight, though. I once read that the Dalai Lama practices a Tibetan Death Meditation five times a day.
|My Favorite Flaming Dragon |
Thank You Danny for Your Boundless Heart
At this stage of the journey I've seen for myself that in embracing the reality of this finite existence, the infinite preciousness of life becomes clearer and more vivid as it flows through each moment.
When I'm actually paying attention, the panoramic view of Mindful Awareness that embraces both Life and Death also allows me to stay more deeply in touch with what is important in each moment, to engage life more fully with as much kindness, clarity, and compassion as I can muster. This takes Ceaseless Practice.
I guess can live, and die, with that.