Friday, September 21, 2007
It's Always Brightest Just Before Dusk
Everyone here in Nashville knows that the 2007 Nashville Buddhist Festival was a huge success. I'm really only announcing that here for those of you who follow this blog from out of the area, so you aren't left hanging by all the build-up. Likewise, I'm not going to recap all the mutual congratulation that's been going on; our shoulders are dislocated from slapping ourselves on the back.
In truth, I think it's quite possible that this year's Festival may be a watershed for the Buddhist community in Nashville. You can check out lots of pics on our website, and you can still buy a t-shirt; likewise, the new NBF Yahoo group has, in Lisa's words, populated quickly and is becoming active. All the existing groups are reporting spikes in membership, attendance and activity, and I think the two newest ones, One Dharma and the Nashville Mindfulness Center, are going to explode. The Nashville Zen Center will probably continue to consist of grumpy old farts, for the most part.
What interested me the most about this years's Festival was the edge of darkness I heard in some of the dharma presentations. From the Venerable Bhante Nyanasobhano, we heard the Buddhist version of fire and brimstone (you don't want to be on your deathbed having failed to strive for enlightenment, and I paraphrase both these teachers). The most interesting moment of the Festival to me occurred when my own Zen teacher, Rev. Taiun Michael Elliston was asked what he thought of "human advancement". His response was "Human advancement? I don't see much human advancement going on today. It appears at this point that humanity is a virus which is killing its host, which makes what we are doing with our Zen practice all the most important. It is important that we strive with our practice to deal with this reality, and that we do it quickly."
That's not exactly what he said; someone has a tape, but I don't, and I don't have that kind of memory. But the key moments in my Zen practice, especially these last three years, is that I keep hearing things from the mouths of my teachers that correspond exactly to what I have perceived to be true through my own practice and understanding, and which makes it obvious to me, that for me, I have found the right practice, and the right teachers.
The morning before the Festival, I read a news article that informed me that the fabled Northwest Passage, a myth which inspired much of the early exploration of this continent five hundred years ago, is now a reality. You can now sail between the Atlantic and the Pacific through the polar waters. Guess why. Some fool will probably think this is a boon for shipping and commercial mankind. Read my lips people, this is indeed the Kali Yuga, and it's going to be shorter than we thought.
Yes, in the backlash from the Festival of Goodness and Light, Ratzaz is stirring. Those of you who have become fans of this blog may not remembers its early days, almost two years ago; the archives are still there.
Someone on the new NBF board just posted that they were afraid that their meditation practice would piss off Jesus. Ratzaz, the true Dark Lord, is shimmering in the depths.
Thanks to Allison Stillwell for the excellent photograph of Michael Elliston. More of her beautiful work can be found on the NBF website.