POEM: things the Buddha said

Photo by Jason Crane

things the Buddha said

the Buddha said to thine own self be true
the Buddha said take two of these and call me in the morning
the Buddha said a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush
the Buddha said better dead than red
the Buddha said don’t fire till you see the whites (of their eyes)
the Buddha said we have nothing to fear but fear itself
the Buddha said we didn’t land on Plymouth Rock, Plymouth Rock
            landed on us
the Buddha said outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend
the Buddha paused then said inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read
the Buddha said mourn for the dead and fight like hell for the living
the Buddha said the only way to stop a bad man with a gun is
            a good man with a gun
the Buddha said no puppet, no puppet, you’re the puppet
the Buddha said one of these days I’m going to cut you into little pieces
the Buddha said come with me if you want to live
the Buddha said the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice
the Buddha said these prices are insane
the Buddha said get away from me kid, you’re bothering me
the Buddha said this could be the start of a beautiful friendship
the Buddha said where’s the beef
the Buddha said taste the rainbow
the Buddha said a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle
the Buddha said only you can prevent forest fires
the Buddha said one and one-half wandering Jews
the Buddha said ancient Chinese secret
the Buddha said I never met a man I didn’t like
the Buddha said don’t look back, something might be gaining on you
the Buddha said I stop somewhere waiting for you
the Buddha said put a tiger in your tank
the Buddha said god does not play dice with the universe
the Buddha said Mister Gorbachev, tear down this wall
the Buddha said ich bin ein Berliner
the Buddha said freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose
the Buddha said the brown acid that is circulating around us
            is not specifically too good
the Buddha said when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro
the Buddha said I am everyday people
the Buddha said but wait there’s more

/ / /

Jason Crane
20 March 2018
Butler, PA

Morning epiphany

Had a big epiphany this morning. The religious zeal and calling I feel is directed toward the creation of an intentional community. I also feel a very strong love and gratitude for Buddhism. My Buddhism has been a solitary practice for so long that I’ve tended to dissociate the religious/community calling from Buddhism. With the recent creation of an evening meditation group, and a planned trip to the local Zen center this weekend, I feel a merging of my calling and my Buddhist practice. Maybe I’m finally finding my path.

Smashing bodhisattvas

The other day I wrote a poem called “the bodhisattva of Prospect Ave (all praise to Jah)” after a walk I took around town. Today I took another walk and discovered two things: (1) the statue is on Hamilton Ave, not Prospect; and (2) someone smashed it in the four days since I wrote the poem.

I discovered it had been smashed because I stopped by to pay my respects on my walk. I was very sad and very angry to see it lying there. I know it’s not mine, and it’s an ephemeral object, like all objects, but it still just felt … wrong. I also felt a little relief that I had placed it on the wrong street in my poem, meaning it’s unlikely someone read the poem and decided, “Hey, I dislike Jason, I’m going to go kick over that statue.”

I live in a conservative, wealth-obsessed town full of drunk college kids, and at the moment I saw the statue it was pretty easy to hate this town. That’s not a particularly Buddhist attitude, but it was my honest reaction. It’s been about 20 minutes and I’m back home, sweaty from the walk, but writing before the emotions pass, which they will. I was thinking I might knock on the door of the house with the statue and offer to help them get it fixed, as a way to turn this into something positive.

Brad Warner on Zen Buddhism as a communal practice

I finished Brad Warner’s Don’t Be A Jerk today for the second time, in preparation for reading his follow-up, It Came From Beyond Zen! Don’t Be A Jerk is described as a “radical but reverent paraphrasing of Dogen’s Treasury of the True Dharma Eye.” That pretty much sums it up. Warner goes through chapters from Dogen’s 800-year-old Zen classic and tries to put them into accessible modern language while not diluting their meaning or impact. You can hear me interview him about this book in the video below:

I thoroughly enjoyed Warner’s paraphrasing of Dogen, but on my second reading I found myself most moved by the final chapter, “Dogen’s Zen In The Twenty-First Century,” in which Warner not only brings Dogen into the present, but also movingly depicts his own current view of Zen after several decades of practice. Rather than paraphrase Warner’s writing, I thought I’d just quote him. (I’ve skipped some bits. Missing bits are replaced by an ellipsis. Also note that “zazen” is seated silent meditation.)

“To me Zen is communal practice of individual deep inquiry. … Throughout human history people have been concerned about the deeper meaning of existence. They wanted to understand who and what they actually were and how they fit into the world. … Among those seekers, there is a certain class of people who try to understand the human condition by sitting very quietly and simply observing themselves in action (even sitting still for long periods is a kind of action; try it sometime if you have any doubts). … Buddhism started not when Shakyamuni had his great revelation by himself. Lots of people had done that before. It began when he made his first efforts to transform that into a communal practice. Although you can – and I think you should – do zazen by yourself, that larger thing we call Zen Buddhism is not something you do by yourself. You can do zazen by yourself. You do Zen Buddhism with other people.”

I think that’s one of the most beautiful summations of Zen Buddhism I’ve read. As someone whose practice has primarily been solitary, it also served as the kick in the pants I needed to find some other folks to sit with. Read the book. You won’t be disappointed.