Thursday, December 29, 2011

Step 12 and Christmas

Continuing on the topic of the twelfth month and Step Twelve, the holiday season is drawing to a close. Holiday season? It's Christmastime for most people in the U.S.. There, I said it in a Zen blog. Christmas ... which fits quite nicely into the scheme of things. Here is a message that one of our PZi teachers (David Weinstein) posted online:

The first time that Christmas ever meant anything to me, other than the popular culture meaning of gift giving and having parties, was the Christmas I spent at the Kopan Monastery outside of Kathmandu, on a hill overlooking Bodhnath, the largest stupa in Nepal. When the Lamas were asked why they celebrated Christmas, complete with a tsampa nativity scene, they said, 'Jesus was a great bodhisattva, why wouldn't you celebrate his birthday?' I think of it as a way of celebrating the diversity of the manifestations of awakening. Merry Awakening! -- David

Jesus as a great bodhisattva ... sounds quite reasonable to me. And what did he teach? Good will to all; love thy neighbor as thyself; do unto others as you would have them do unto you. These sound like bodhisattva features. The Buddha's teachings can be condensed down to three words, "Do no harm". And Step 12 can easily take its place in this setting, where we find our freedom by helping others. By working the Steps a transformation takes place. We learn that it is "better to understand than to be understood." We learn to give more of ourselves and take less for ourselves.

Here is the other koan that we apply to Step 12, Case 8. Entangling Vines:

Lingyun Zhiqin of Fuzhou was enlightened upon seeing the blossoms of a peach tree. In a verse he said: For thirty years I sought a sword-master How many times have leaves fallen and new buds appeared? But since having seen the peach blossoms, I have never doubted again!

"Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps..." is no different from Lingyun's experience upon seeing the peach blossoms. He didn't set out by saying that when he sees some peach blossoms that he would be awakened. But at that moment he was not thinking of himself.
He was completely open to whatever came next. At that moment he was peach blossoms.

So yes, Jesus, Buddha, Christmas, bodhisattvas, Step Twelve, and koans seem right for each other.

Bill K.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Step 12, Saving All Beings

We have the Four Boundless Vows, the first being "to save all beings." Appearing in different translations, "Beings are numberless" I vow to save them, I vow to liberate them, I vow to be one of them, I vow to wake them. Really now? It's easy to save all puppies; but for one person to save all beings? Impossible. But we do.

Step 12: "Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and practice these principles in all our affairs."

To carry our message, our truth, our principles, isn't this how we save others? It's not about rescuing or propping them up in a codependent sort of way, it's about attraction rather than promotion. An attraction of how we live our lives. By practicing the 12 Steps the best I can, is to save all beings. By practicing my Zen the best I can, is to save all beings. It's not to be thought of in a quantitative way either, as in "I saved so-and-so 10% today. The operative words of Step 12 are to carry and practice. If we are carrying, if we are practicing -- we are saving.

We just had our monthly 12 & Zen gathering a few days ago. This being December, we were doing a koan with Step 12.

Chao Chou, teaching the assembly, said, “The Ultimate Path is without difficulty; just avoid picking and choosing.”

Merrily along I went throughout the week carrying this koan with Step 12, only to eventually realize that I had copied the koan we use for Step 2 instead of the one for Step 12. But it was working for me! The breadth of a koan's workability never ceases to amaze me. Our evening went well using this koan.

It's probably not a surprise to you that "awakening" arrives from within. It's available to us any time, any place, still we think it's elsewhere and attempt to grasp for it outside ourselves. Just try to pick your next awakening experience. There's no way we can pick and choose our awakenings; but we try nonetheless.

Step 12 is about our own awakening having worked the Steps with our sponsor. Of course we aren't done with it all ... it's the beginning of our journey of helping (saving) others. We've become givers instead of takers, giving of ourselves, by practicing " ...these principles in all our affairs." When our words and thoughts and actions reflect the 12 Steps, we save all beings, including ourself.

Bill K.