Posted inHenry's Messages

Message from Henry: Belated Solstice/Christmas Message

January 17, 2022

Okay, this message is late. But on the other hand, it’s truly not.

At this time of year, that often brings pain and poignancy with it, when perhaps dear loved ones are gone, or unable to be with us, we can take a collective pause, which allows us to reflect.

At this special time, I want to make a plea for the infinite value of our life. No matter what challenges, sorrows and frustrations we may face, there is always a bigger picture. What Zen insists on pointing us to is precisely that bigger picture.

Zen treasures the human heart – the true, infinitely variable and capacious human heart.

Why does it treasure it? Because it’s the one instrument that we know of in the whole of creation that is capable of discovering, knowing and coming to awareness of its real nature — which is none other than the core nature of all created things.

This may sound abstract, or highfalutin, or daunting in some way. But it’s not, when we actually experience it for ourselves. Then we discover the bigger picture, the picture that is in fact boundless, and always wide open, and utterly free and includes everything and banishes all fear.

It’s then that we discover we are held, most perfectly held, and all our sorrows and challenges and fears are also held. They don’t exist as they seem to, as difficulties and fears in isolation. Instead each one is part of a general wave. Nothing is separate. All is held. And because of that, all is safe and we are safe.

Yes, some of us have known tragedies. We’ve seen children go before their time. Or loved ones lost in other ways. And older loved ones losing their capacities. The whole range of human sorrows. We know that entire populations have lived for multiple generations under regimes of appalling cruelty, and that while some of us have been of the races that suffered discrimination, and “legalized brutality” for centuries, some of us face the horrifying truth that we have been of the races that perpetrated generations of cruelty, and continue to endorse oppression of great sectors of the population.

And in the midst of these shames and sorrows, of seemingly endless violence, there is still a reality that holds it all. That will grant us the power and the space to face these horrors. That can give us the forgiveness that allows us to face what needs to be done to bring systemic violence to an end.

Courage, forgiveness, and the clear-seeing of the broken-open heart. The boundless human heart that can rise to the hardest challenges and face into them.

“There is a reality even prior to heaven and earth,” as Daio Kokushi says, in which all is forgiven, if we only face it, and which gives us the strength and courage to make a better world, one breath at a time.

The idea that there’s a special, fixed day when goodness was born into the world — whether in a certain cattle shed, or for that matter under a particular tree on a particular day — is on the one hand a fairytale, perhaps one that may warm our hearts. But on the other hand, the notion that there is indeed a special day when our hearts can become whole, when we can let our griefs open in a wider love, and when that love can inspire us to do our part to heal this broken, beautiful world – that is no fantasy at all. That special day, that most special day, is today. And any story which reminds us of it is something to cherish. 

So Christmas may have happened three weeks ago (and Buddha’s enlightenment day, Rohatsu, some two weeks earlier), but this message really isn’t late at all. It can’t be (though I’m still sorry I’m late with it…)

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