Zen, Compassion and the Ocean
I came upon a beautiful story. A well to do individual managed to get an audience with the Dalai Lama. He asked the Lama how to become a Buddhist as the individual wanted to become a practitioner. The Dalai Lama gave him an amazing answer that informs me to this day. He stated “We don’t need any more Buddhists, we need more compassionate people". I think this is key to understanding any tradition including Zen Buddhism. In the end, with Zen Buddhism, there really is not too much to talk about. I believe that the Dalai Lama was indicating that we don’t necessarily need more Buddhists or Zen folks,or whatever religion may manifest. What we do need is more kind and compassionate people to solve the problems of our being and the horrendous thing we are doing to the physical and social environment.
An incident reminded me of the need for more kind folks in the world. In our current social state, many people are concerned only about their selves. It is very difficult to come across a truly compassionate person. When I do run in to a wonderful being like this I really take time out to see how they are helping the world. This should be one of the inspirations of any person who is studying the Zen path, as Zen done for one’s own self benefit exclusively is akin to drinking the worst poison to destroy your life. Therefore, If we are on the Zen path, let us become filled with compassion and dedicate ourselves to the others wellbeing in the fashion of a bodhisattva, or being of great compassion.
The following story is a wonderful vision that I had some time ago which involved a very ill girl and a kind man. My observation of this behavior filled me with joy. It was as if I was watching a saint or bodhisattva at work. This is how the experience played out.
One day recently, a woman asked me if I worked with Na Kama Kai (A Foundation to promote Hawaiian culture and ocean awareness and safety). She said that I looked familiar. I quickly remembered that she was the mother of a severely ill and handicapped girl of about 10. She had come to NaKamaKai as no one would take her child into the water due to liability/fear or what have you. No School, no one. The child really wanted to get into the water. Despite her illness she was very bright minded and sought Duane Desoto out as she was determined to attain her goal. The little girl literally asked Duane if she could take her out into the water. Without hesitation, Duane quickly responded “of course” and grabbed a large board. He gently placed her on the board and began paddling with one hand. She sat securely with Duane holding on to her with his right arm as he used his left arm to paddle the board. I was watching intently at Duane’s behavior and I was delighted by it. I observed him quietly teaching her about the ocean in a soft tone of voice. They went out quite a distance in Moanalua bay. It was so beautiful that it happily brought tears to my eyes.
The mother has since told me that her daughter was unfortunately quite ill and in hospice. But she told her mother something wonderful and this is the message that she wanted me to convey to Duane Desoto. The mother said that,Duane taking her into the water was a changing point in her life. She told her mother “I was never able to walk, I was never able to stand up, but I got to be in the beautiful ocean thanks to that nice man.” Duane, you are a saint, bodhisattva or what have you.
It really does not matter what religion you are. Again as the Dalai Lama said, we don’t need any more Buddhists (or what have you) we need more compassionate people. Right on Duane. Let’s all take a little time to go out of our way and consider the other that is less fortunate than us, and follow the examples that kind people set all over the world. Let us make this one of the foundations of our precious life. I believe that this is one of the keys to Zen.
My father’s last words: “You find the truth in yourself, kindness and compassion”. We will all be on our deathbeds. Let us live well so we may manifest the seeds of kindness beyond death. It is really quite simple.