Mirror of Zen Blog

Cutting the Masters of War

This picture expresses the background reason why I am using trains only for my upcoming teaching schedule, and as much as it is possible, going forward from that.

Wild this is by no means a new decision, it is something that feels so much more compelling to sharpen into a more resolute, livable ethos of destroying less than what we give back.

We living here in Europe are now brought into an energy war which means an increase in prices for everyone involved in our community and beyond. Some Korean Buddhists in London told me recently that their fuel bill will be in the area of the equivalent of $5000. We are combatants in hostage-taking, human shields like the Ukrainians, but still some sense of normalcy here and none of their moment-to-moment hell and grievous loss, of course.

For anyone who calls themselves a student of the Buddha, or a believer in science, and accepts the total interconnectedness of all substance, all relations, this is a total no-brainer. Where your thoughts go, your life goes; where your money goes, that’s the world you build. Free or fascist, of whatever state or religion.

I have nearly always favored public transportation to do this work, but now a greater determination is arising to make a stronger break. And it seemed appropriate to share this little private movement, in the hopes of spreading a seed. All we can do with each other now is communicate better our best ideas and real efforts to do something practical and real, and hopefully do something(s) a little radical, though we need the most radical solutions available! And we need to live the solutions, each one of us, and live them NOW.

Since the war in Ukraine, something inside has snapped, and in a positive direction. There is a sharper lens now for considering requests or invitations to go here or there for practice and teaching. Since the three month retreat ended in August, I have used long, beautiful train connections for reaching cities that were reachable quicker by plane. The flight I took once was to London matching someone else’s tight schedule, making it so impractical from every angle otherwise that it couldn’t have happened.

Now the current trip can be rail-only: from Regensburg to western Germany to Zürich to Budapest and back to Regensburg. It is about 24 hours in trains (two are overnighters: one without bunk, another the top-most of three). I’m looking forward to the mantra intimacy while gazing out of windows at unfamiliar scenery and cities. Just there is some concern about the lower back handling this. (I guess that’s why we prefer the shorter leg of easy flight!)

The flights for this current itinerary would come out to nothing more than four hours, max. And I have done such a hopscotch, in a tight schedule, maybe one or two times in the past. Very easy to do, “to be where I need to be”, for some effort or a thing or whatever. I can see, on one level, why busy yoga teachers and internationally-known speakers would feel the ease of moving through space so tersely as what flying provides. To get shit done and meet commitments, and to fulfill our passions and maybe Great Vow.

Yet enough is more than enough (as we see in the CGI-seeming flooding of Pakistan this week, or the continued funding of Ukrainian slaughter). As someone who is attempting to teach “Dharma“, it is unconscionable for me to build (or maintain, out of habit) a lifestyle centered on those old ways of living-by-the-plane. We can go a step farther: Anyone teaching truth, or meditation and its related cousins, should always make drastic efforts to keep this usage to an absolute minimum, if not eliminate it entirely. After all, Zen Master Seung Sahn used to say, joking also about himself, “A high-class Zen Master only stays in one place, all people coming to him. A low-class Zen Master always around around, around around, around around.”

I am trying to find a life which could cancel flying all together, except for some extreme circumstance. Anyway, this is what I am moving towards. If anyone has any suggestions about strategies for handling this, that would fit the job of a meditation teacher, please feel free to send something to the Zen Center Regensburg email. I’m open to ideas and assistance.

I am sharing these private reflections and movements publicly because there are friends in the meditation community who check in on this blog (toilet reading, it is), and hopefully might get some small inspiration from it to reflect more deeply on their own involvement in this economic vote of ours for endless war. The precept of “ahimsa“ can never be maintained optimally when we blindly follow a lifestyle based on such votes for more bombing and more murder/suicide-by-climate.

Whether it is into the hands of Russian fascists, or Islamo-fascists, or American Christo-fascists (empowered by conservative think tanks and right wing media outlets), every dollar or euro used for this toxic black juice is our vote for which kind of power we wish to have endless war from. And the worst war we are helping them with is the mass-suicidal war against the biosphere which sustains us.

More chest-out sharing, it might seem, but this is just by way of deep-background of my intuitions, for whatever it’s worth: I have never owned a car, nor will I ever own one, for the simple reason that I found something dark in the car culture of America in which I was raised. Highways and exits, bridges and tunnels without end. Growing up in the shadow of the Bayway Refinery, I hated our dependency on the petroleum whose processing often wafted through my bedroom windows on a summer morning — crisper in winter. An early way-way-pre- “Juraissic Park” fascination with dinosaurs, in the household of a PhD in biochemistry (where basic scienctific literacy was the lingua franca of the conversations), there was, one day, this grieving question in my head: “Why are we burning the dinosaurs to go to baseball practice? What’s it all for?”

And that Bayway Refinery, it loomed menacingly in the back of one’s consciousness. Our local river — the Rahway River — sometimes had little colorful slicks or strange colors when we swim in them. According to Wikipedia,

The refinery has consistently been ranked among the worst polluters in the nation, and has been cited almost 200 times since 2005 for violation of state environmental laws. It is also ranked as the 32nd worst water polluter in the country.

This unbelievably massive refinery of petroleum products — its vast tanks, and the convoluted piping churning toxic haze from his belly several miles from home — the largest on the US east coast for many years, was a top primary target for any incoming Soviet nuclear missile strike on nearby Manhattan, we learned in our local schools. (I accidentally discovered the deep fallout shelter in our Catholic grammar school, was shocked to see the food stacked there for a nightmare future of pure radioactive ash, thanks to the targeted refinery..)

The wedding of satanic petroleum and a suicidal nihilism visible in the human mind, was burned deeply in my brain from early on. Petroleum’s most abundant reserves are controlled by people representing the most hideous philosophical and moral ideas. (And that includes some oil-producing regions and cultures of the US.) The war in Ukraine, if it does any kind of good, is blowing wide open how this toxic substance is the blood of the heart of darkness.

I shudder to acknowledge how much I continue to support a life based on this product. One way I have been abusive with this privilege is in the use of airplanes to conduct this practice and teaching work. Even just two or three trips a year to teach or visit (sometimes less), that is really a limit-space that is already too much. One of the reasons I stopped actively teaching Koreans is because teaching relationships inexoranly led to requests to come more often to Korea to teach. Or to appear at some event. This is why I have not traveled there in nearly seven years. And if I visit there soon, it would be the last wrapping up of things.

In Ukraine, as in the Middle East, and in the election-denying pro-gun mentalities of the US, democracy’s only enemy – – nay, the enemy of wisdom, freedom, and of life itself – is petroleum power. It is insane to keep serving this master so mindlessly.

The argument comes, sometimes when considering request for a retreat in some other country, “If you fly to our city to lead a retreat, it saves four or five people flying to Regensburg to sit there, right?“ And this is something that gets wrestled with a little bit. But are there ever that many who come for retreat? Maybe this is a filter, a natural sifting out, for the souls who are serious about making true effort for this work, and not just easily having a retreat for psychological “maintenance“. Does that sound really arrogant? It seems to be where my intuitions are trending, anyway.

But I guess what I am just digesting out to, is merely to try not to expand the field of activity, as much as possible. And remain in the Zen Center, because I hate leaving there anyway.

The optimal space for any human flourishing is, of course, the monastery. But in the world of human relations, down in society, the only space that serves Waking Up and service to others, is democracy. And the very existence of true freedom, through democracy, is ensured only by the way we live, the way we restless creatures move. If we do not make true sacrifice (and the choices I’ve been making are quite minor), Then we are destined to be the slaves of the masters of

Maybe these useless reflections will give some direction to someone who lives a similarly itinerant lifestyle like my own, or is a ”digital nomad” or influencer-aspirant.

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