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A flickering light

April 23, 2012

By Stephen Damon

While I was walking my dog in the predawn fog and chill, I noticed a flickering light coming through the side window of a house. I wondered if it was a candle on an ancestor altar that many Chinese have to honor their ancestors who, they believe, take an active part in the lives of the living. Or I thought it might be a candle on a Soto Zen Altar like the one I have at home, that helps practitioners remember buddhas and ancestors and most important, themselves. I wondered how many others were getting ready for the day by sitting quietly in the candlelit darkness of the early hour.

Keeping this in mind, I began to silently recite the mantra at the end of the Heart Sutra the way I always do on my early morning walks: Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate, Bodhi Svaha! I could sense that there were others in the neighborhood who had gotten up early to either pray or chant or sit quietly. I couldn’t see them or hear them, but I could feel a presence in the heavy fog. It was unmistakable. The sidewalk was empty and the street was quiet, but I did not feel alone. 

Scientists say that some of the calcium in our bones can be traced back to the Big Bang. I wondered how far back they could trace a molecule or two of the flickering light that I saw on 27th avenue. As the darkness faded, I found myself giving thanks to our ancestors from Shakyamuni Buddha through Bodhiharma and Dogen to the founder of our lineage, Ji Kai Dainin and finally to the unknown person who had lit a candle at 5 a.m. on April 23, 2012.  The world felt very old and very new. 

Gone, gone, gone beyond, gone altogether beyond, oh what an awakening, yes!



From → Zen Buddhism

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