"Don't Ask Me What I'm Doing Here..."

- Ellis Windham

I have never felt as if I belonged on this planet. I was born into a Reform Jewish family who did not practice Judaism but was violently prejudiced against any group that was not Jewish. My father, my sister and myself, however, (re) married non-Jews. I went to an Episcopalian prep school and was terrified that God would strike me dead for singing "Fairest Lord Jesus" and Christmas carols. In comparative religion class a totally mad Congregationalist by the name of Hal Lingerman (I think one of his books is called something like "Music of the Soul") introduced me to Buddhism, and something clicked in the corner of my brain. I understood without understanding. When I read Nargajuna on emptiness, I nodded. I had always believed in reincarnation--as a matter of fact I had a difficulty in that I related better to people who were no longer on the planet, i.e., dead historical characters such as Abraham Lincoln. The whole idea of detachment, transcendence, present moment, etc., was something I lived with every day. The compassion thing, however, was unfortunately all too foreign to my nature.

I related well to Zen because something in my urban outlaw being identified with the banging immediacy of enlightenment combined with the its ordinariness. However, I have never taken the BIG STEP to get into zerious (I'll let that stand) zazen, because then I would be Joining a Group, and I loathe the very thought of that since it reminds me of that most exclusive club, Judaism, to say nothing of "Christianity" or the other organized religions. I have trouble "Taking Refuge" in anything but the rarified benevolence of the Universe. I have a problem in that I believe the basic truths of ALL RELIGIONS TO BE EQUALLY VALID, because, if they are not all equally valid, then none of them are. I think that Jesus Christ is the second greatest Buddha of all time, second only to The Boy himself.

I read the FAQlet about "kensho" from the kid looking for a teacher. I don't know what the hell it is, but I had two experiences. When I was recovering from an accident in 1992 (was run over by a truck while walking), I saw one of those Civil War things on TV and a photograph of Lincoln came on the screen, and in the face I saw roughly the same expression as one of your contributors saw on the Buddha statues (I guess the universe tailors its messages to icons each nationality can fully appreciate). I said, "whatever is in that face is necessary for human existence." I am still searching for that peace, and that calm.

Onward. I mentioned that I have never felt at home on this planet, and that to my infinite regret I have been a cold, compassionless (or not enough compassion) creature. In April of this year I was looking at a photograph of the person accused of being the Unabomber, and suddenly, instaneously, I felt as if I were looking at my own face, into my own heart, into my own brain. What happened after that was better expressed by Thich Nhat Hanh:

"Looking deeply" means observing something or someone with so much concentration that the distinction between the observer and the observed disappears. The result is insight into the true nature of the object. When we see the nature of interbeing, barriers between ourselves and others are dissolved, and peace, love and understanding are possible. Whenever there is understanding, compassion is born.

He got that right.

At that moment, I felt the universe's connections, and truly understood that love was the web of the universe, so to speak. I felt maternal for the first time in my life. I understood the Dalai Lama's comment that everyone is our father and mother.

I can not say that I have achieved happiness and peace, but I now know the reason for the journey.


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