"Mindfulness and Meditation allow us to open our hearts, relax our bodies, and clear our minds enough to experience the vast, mysterious, sacred reality of life directly. With Practice we come to know for ourselves that eternity is available in each moment.

Your MMM Courtesy Wake Up Call:
Musings on Life and Practice
by a Longtime Student of Meditation

Sunday, July 24, 2016

I Swear

"I vow to understand living beings and their suffering, 
to cultivate compassion and loving kindness,
and to practice joy and equanimity."
Thich Nhat Hanh, from "Refuge Poem"

"Give me an F.....
Give me a U.............."
Country Joe McDonald, Introduction to "I Feel Like I'm Fixin' To Die Rag"

I swear.  Sometimes a lot.  It can be embarrassing. 

Although I usually refrain from allowing those "four letter words" to roll out of my mouth when I'm upset, the closer I get to a spontaneous expression of awe and joy and gratitude for the Absolute Wonder of Life, the more likely am I to launch forth an "F bomb" -- usually in its forms as an adjective or adverb. 
(For example: How F***ing cool is that?)

I guess, more than anything, this tendency to be somewhat foul-mouthed shows my true colors.  I am the prototypical product of the 1960's.  I was a high school freshman in 1960 and I graduated from college in 1969.  Words that burned my ears at age 13 rolled out of my mouth freely when I was 23.  Although I began practicing yoga and meditation during that final year of the decade, it didn't seem to effect the language that had become part of my normal vocabulary during my years in college.

To a whole bunch of us back then, napalm seemed profane and obscene.  Launching F bombs?  Not so much.  

In fact, "colorful" language, like colorful clothing, long hair,  and psychotropic drugs, was an integral part of the youth culture.  We were intent on breaking the monochrome norms of a mainstream society that appeared to be worshipping the false gods of materialism, competition, consumerism, environmental degradation and warfare.  So called "polite society" was praising Jesus in one breath and supporting the extermination of people halfway around the planet with the other.  


We chose, instead,  to pursue a life based on the values of freedom, peace and love.  For many of us, "Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven" wasn't just something that folks were supposed to recite in church on Sunday.  We believed we were supposed to be living that way every day as best we could!   

And, as opposed to those folks who we saw as the purveyors of hypocritical peity,  we were intent on having some serious fun along the way.  A bit of "foul mouth" sometimes spiced things up.  As one of my guiding lights, the late Stephen Gaskin, put it at the time: "We're out to raise hell -- in the Bodhisattvic sense."  

So, how does swearing fit into this picture?
In the English language, it really isn't such a leap, actually.  The verb "to swear" itself takes us to the Gates of Zen, where words and concepts have only a minimal utility and irreverence can be the highest form of reverence.   

How so?  

By definition, swearing can involve either uttering an utter profanity or doing what could be considered its exact opposite -- taking a sacred oath!  WTF? One word spans the conceptual chasm that seems to separate the Sacred and the Profane.  

I swear!  Take a look at the dictionary. 

Mission Impossible

Nowadays, even when I avoid foul mouth, I still swear a lot.  I recite the Bodhisattva vow at the end of  my (almost) daily morning meditation practice.  It is the foundation of my life. 
The first time I read the Bodhisattva Vow I was hooked.  It's been reeling me in ever since.  
Although the translations of the four basic tenets of this traditional Zen Buddhist pledge vary, the central meaning is pretty clear:  I vow to get my act together well enough to be able to help out.  

Of course,  I still space out and stumble all too often.  Yet my intention is clear, my aspiration is ongoing. Each day provides any number of opportunities to again vow to get my act together: to breathe, open my heart, let go of what "I" think -- and meet the next moment with great care and kindness.  It's a Ceaseless Practice.

The fundamental foundation of the Bodhisattva Vow is, I think, quite clear.  Yogi Jesus -- and the Beatles --  identified the bottom line.  Our task here on this planet is to cultivate a special quality of consciousness.   One name for that mode of being is also a four letter word:
I can't think of anything better to do.  How about you? 

*  Here is one translation of the Bodhisattva Vow:
Beings are numberless, I vow to free them
Desires are inexhaustible, I vow to transform them
Dharma gates are boundless, I vow to enter them
Buddha's way is unsurpassable, I vow to embody it.

Originally posted as "#@&*%!!?", July 18, 2014.  Revised.


Lori Knutson said...

Great post - succinct and clear, a reminder of what's important. Thanks!

Ronald Rybacki said...

My long, poetic comments were lost?