Through my years at Suan Mokkh, as well as travels as Buddhist monk and teacher, I’ve been blessed to meet many outstanding examples of our bizarre species. Each in their particular ways bring Dhamma alive for us. Two are Mary and Everett Gendler, who made multiple visits to Suan Mokkh during their trips through Asia in the early 90s. I was also fortunate to visit them in Massachusetts a number of times. Everett just sent me his first book, published at the youthful age of 88, Judaism for Universalists. Among the gems are essays that explore the meaning of Psalm 148. Here’s a translation by Everett:
Praise God, sun and moon;
Praise God, all you shining stars!
Praise God, you highest heavens,
And you waters above the heavens! …
Praise the Lord from the earth,
You sea monsters and all deeps;
Fire and hail, snow and frost,
Stormy wind fulfilling God’s command!
Mountains and all hills,
Fruit trees and all cedars!
Wild animals and all cattle,
Creeping things and flying birds!
Kings of the earth and all peoples,
Princes and all rulers of the earth!
Young men and women alike,
Old and young together!
Let them praise the name of the Lord …
I recommend his essay “Sentient Universe” for reflections on these verses. Everett’s writing is beautiful and his thought lucidly provocative, as well as inspiring. He emphasizes that all things are instructed to praise; humans are not unique in this. Yet we so often flounder. So, today, let us praise what is worthy of praise.
I’m reminded of an early Buddhist verse:
Buddhas of the past and future,
As well as the Buddha dispelling the sorrow of our era,
All such Buddhas honor the Dhamma,
Simply because that is the nature of Awakened Ones.
I read, reread, and ponder these words after being bombarded by emails from all the non-profits doing good work and seeking funds. A far less offensive bombardment than what takes place on TV. Without taking away from the good these groups do, I am saddened how many of them draw on fear to get support. We are used to the seedier politicians provoking and feeding upon certain fears in certain parts of the citizenry. What a shame that the good progressives (I mean that sincerely) have somehow gotten trapped in the same cultural myopia, manipulation, and distress. Sure, fear and anger are great for getting the adrenaline pumping. But are they what’s needed? No!
As for the egoism that praises only itself:
Don’t let it infect you!
Praise what is bigger & better.