Prajnaparamita. The Four Noble Truths. There is Cessation of Suffering.

Dear Friends,

Sometimes it is just better to not try to place concepts on prajnaparamita like:

  • the art and wisdom of being human
  • the cessation of suffering
  • non-discriminating wisdom
  • the absence of mental meddling 
  • the gap
  • before naming

It’s just best to read a poem twenty times that reminds us of what we already know. Or write a poem twenty times. Or be a poem in this time. Or just listen to the whippoorwill.

From Randall Mullins.

Today I listened to the song 

of a whippoorwill on my computer. 

I turned the computer off 

and I could hear it even more clearly, 

its haunting sound moving across the Mississippi countryside of our childhood.

It said all I never knew how to say to you.

All our differences dissolved into birdsong that has lasted thousands of years.

We are blended and bonded within it now.

We all come together.

We rest in that song.

Whippoorwill Song.  by Randall Mullins

A calm abiding greets me  

as memory. 

1958 

I’m nine, sitting in the swing 

at dusk on granddaddy’s 

front porch on the farm

in Mississippi 

after supper. 

He’s in his rocking chair 

wearing pin-striped bib overalls, 

his shoulders bare 

after a day of work and sweat. 

He is about to roll his own cigarette, 

sifting a little channel of tobacco 

onto the paper out of the 

red Prince Albert can. 

I’m in the swing,

my easy rocking

offering a rhythmic sound 

of metal on metal. 

Darkness grows in the warm air.

Then a whippoorwill sounds off, 

haunting the countryside, 

holding everything 

within its hearing. 

Trees feel its vibrations. 

A cow in the barn 

raises her head. 

Its haunting sound 

makes a deep imprint 

in all the places 

where memory lives. 

I heard it then, 

and I have never 

stopped hearing it.

It continues to vibrate 

in my bones. 

Grandaddy’s daddy, 

the Confederate soldier 

who got bored with war 

and went awol, 

and grandaddy’s grandaddy 

also must have heard 

the whippoorwill. 

And Aunt Em whom daddy 

barely remembered from 1921, 

she must have heard 

the whippoorwill 

when she was three 

and her frontier father 

held her in his lap at dusk 

in 1838.

And the enslaved people 

that he considered his property, 

had to have heard 

the whippoorwill sing,

and the Chickasaw people 

who were moved west in 1837, 

they must have all heard 

the whippoorwills sing 

for at least a thousand years. 

It has become a rare thing 

to hear one sing, 

their extravagant population 

of billions 

now down to a million 

as insecticides silence insects, 

and silence sounds 

that held everything.

Can birdsong be passed on in our DNA?

Are we destined by grace 

to live on inside 

the perennial sounds 

which hold memory 

and which memory holds?

We still listen at dusk.

We hope.

_________________________

With these words I pay homage to all buddhas, bodhisattvas, sentient beings, and the totality. May these words not confuse, bring doubt, or harm, but bring ease and warmth and an end to suffering for all beings throughout all times and in all directions.

William

Whippoorwill, a painting by T-Marie Nolan © The artist.

______________________________

Practice

Practicing in sangha, even virtually, supports the practice of meditation differently than practicing solitarily. The members of the Sangha of the Pandemic, invite you to practice with us. No experience is required. There is no cost. Everyone is welcome. 

 We practice on ZOOM:

Mornings

  • Mondays – Calm abiding. 6:30 AM Pacific Time
  • Tuesdays – Body awareness. 6:30 AM Pacific Time 
  • Thursdays – Tonglen, 6:30 AM Pacific Time 
  • Wednesdays and Fridays – Zazen Practice 7:00 AM Pacific Time.
  • Sundays – Paramitas. 7 AM Pacific Time 

ZOOM Link:   https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89989680789 

Please feel free to reach out with questions or insights. Please also feel free to forward this post and invite others to join the sangha. You may find more reflections, poetry, art at sanghaofthepandemic.org . If you would like to comment or offer feedback and insight you may do so in the comment section on the website or by email to wrgentner@gmail.com 

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Check-In

If you have questions about meditation practice, or would like to have a conversation about the practice or anything else, you can check in with William by making an appointment. Go to “Check In Appts.”