December 01, 2011

Buddha Buzz: Honesty, Poetry, and Exile

Barbara O'Brien's post on Tuesday, "Deep Honesty," made me think about all of honesty's different forms: honesty as a precept, honesty as a worldview, honesty as a tool for empowerment...and its less welcome forms too, like honesty as an unwelcome guest knocking on your door in the middle of the night when you're not quite ready to receive it. On all of these O'Brien writes,

Speaking truth comes from a practice of truthfulness, or deep honesty. One of the things I first appreciated about Zen practice is that it requires self-honesty. Whatever shtick has gotten you through life is revealed to be a hindrance instead of a crutch, and the myriad little lies and rationalizations we tell ourselves about ourselves fall away. (And they're still falling away.)

Another aspect of deep honesty is remaining open to truth. So often we "make up our minds" about the way things are, and then we are closed. Certitude is a dead end.

Always leave room for new understanding, even if you like your current understanding. Especially if you like your current understanding. Be particularly mistrustful of "facts" that fit too neatly into your worldview. Stay open to the realization that your worldview is an illusion, even if it doesn't seem to be an illusion.

That last pithy sentence made me think of Hafiz, one of my favorite poets, and his poem called "Forgive the Dream." Hafiz was a Sufi mystic, but I think that a lot of his teachings contain Buddhist elements. I'm not sure if I'm a proponent of religious perennialism, but I do think that it's easy to get stuck on certain labels (like "Buddhist" versus "Muslim") and forget that teachers who belong to another religion besides our own have just as much wisdom to impart. So let's give ol' Hafiz a try...:

All your images of winter
I see against your sky.

I understand the wounds

that have not healed in you.



They exist because

God and Love
have not yet become real enough
to allow you
to forgive the dream.



You still listen to an old alley song
that brings your body pain;
now chain your ears

to his pacing flute and drum

Fix your eyes upon the magnificent arch of his brow
that supports and allows
this universe to expand.

We can drink wine from a gourd I hollowed
and dried on the roof of your house.
I will bring bread I have kneaded

that contains my own divine genes
and cheese from a calf I have raised.

My love for your master

is such
you can just lean back

and I will feed you this truth:



Your wounds of love can only heal

when you can forgive this dream.

You can buy Hafiz poetry books here (personally I prefer the translations of Daniel Ladinsky) and read some more of his work for free here.

And in yet another form of honesty, The Dukar Project, developed by the International Center for Mental Health and Human Rights, the Tibetan government in exile Ministry of Health, and the Tibetan Women's Association, in collaboration with Kestrel Films, is coming out with a new short film series called Living in Exile: New Stories from the Tibetan Experience (we found out about this on Full Contact Enlightenment). The Dukar Project is working with Tibetan refugees in India to treat PSTD resulting from their exile and human rights abuses within Tibet, using a combination of Eastern and Western techniques (for instance, Tibetan medicine as well as group therapy). The series will have 25 films, each featuring a Tibetan in exile. Kestrel Films put the first one up about two weeks ago, called "The Monastery Cook." Watch the heartwarming video below.

And last, it would be great to hear anyone's thoughts about honesty. Is honesty always the best policy? How can we live both honestly and compassionately (and are they always mutually inclusive)? What does it mean to you to be truly honest?

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