"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

Saturday, December 29, 2018

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"

Country Joe McDonald
I swear.  Sometimes a lot.  It can be embarrassing. 

Although I usually (not always) refrain from allowing "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.  

For sure, the language that I used freely on the streets on the south side of Chicago as a child was certainly ladden with a lot of expletives to be deleted in "polite company." Yet, the ubiquitous use of the F bomb really didn't develop in my life until the late 60's.  By then, a whole bunch of us were was using it quite freely.  Depending on the context, it functioned as a noun, a verb, an adjective, or an adverb.  

Although I began practicing yoga and meditation during my senior year of college in 1969, becoming "spiritual" didn't seem to effect the language that had become part of my normal vocabulary.  Moments of Awe and Wonder could and would still elicit an exuberant "Far F***ing Out!"

Telling It Like It Is

In the "youth culture" of that era, a whole bunch of us came to see what Jesus and Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. and countless others had seen: War is blasphemy.  Using napalm is a profanity.  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 monochromatic norms of a mainstream society that worshiped the false gods of white supremacy, materialism, competition, environmental degradation and warfare.  We rejected the norms of a "polite society" that was praising Jesus in one breath and supporting the extermination of people halfway around the planet with the other.  

Killing innocent children to "preserve our way of life?"  I mean, like WTF!?

We chose, instead,  to try to pursue a life based on the values of freedom, peace and love.  "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 the life of love and compassion that Jesus lived.

And sometimes that just didn't look or sound like we had learned in "polite society." Like the medieval Zen monk Guishan, we knew that kicking over the water jug and stomping out of the temple was sometimes the appropriate move. Rather than live a life of hypocritical piety, we were intent on having some serious fun.   

Country Joe McDonald's infamous call and response introduction to "I Feel Like I'm Fixin' to Die Rag" (Give me an F -- Give me a U...) exhibited the spirit of the times.  His"foul mouth" not only spiced things up, it got to the heart of the matter.  The iconoclastic spirit of Zen was in the air.  As one of my guiding lights, the late Hippy Guru, 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 a profanity on the one hand, or doing its exact opposite -- taking a sacred oath!  We can swear with one hand on the Bible, or one finger extended in the air.  The very same word spans the conceptual chasm that seems to separate the Sacred and the Profane.  WTF?

I swear!  How cool is that? Take a look at the dictionary. 

Mission Impossible

Sitting here a half century later, it's true that I may have mellowed a bit.  I haven't kicked over a water jug in quite a while.  Yet, I still swear, quite intentionally, most every day. 

How so?

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, to engage our lives with an open heart and an open mind.  

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 serve them
Blind passions are inexhaustible, I vow to transform them
Dharma gates are boundless, I vow to open them
The Way of Awakening is unsurpassable, I vow to practice it.

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

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