Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The glass is already broken

I went to Mt. Palgongsan again today, this time with Joanna and Leo (rhymes with Mayo), a new arrival from Ontario at the Samduk school. The weather was glorious, aside from some serious smog that eventually burned off, and the cherry trees lining much of the route were gorgeous.

Donghwasa Temple, near the base of Palgongsan, reminds me of two tenets of Buddhism that resonate with me. The first is compassion for all beings, which is what I decided to seek 18 years ago when I went vegetarian. The average Buddhist (at least around here) doesn't try very hard, as only the priests pursue a vegetarian diet. But compassion is a natural companion to the knowledge that we are all one, that (as somebody said) "There's only one of us here." And that's what I (who for so long believed nothing, really) believe.

The other is detachment, of letting go of desire. This has been a hard lesson for me; I've always been a grasping person, and I've hated goodbyes worse than just about anything. A couple of years ago, I read somewhere "The glass is already broken," that is, that eventually we lose everything physical: our belongings, the people we love, even our own bodies. Loss is inevitable. But if we see everything as only on loan to us-- like a drinking glass we love that, because it will be broken sooner or later, is in its essence broken already-- then we can appreciate whatever or whoever it is while we have it and not grieve when it's gone. This concept has brought a great deal of peace of mind to me.

Ironically, it was tested today. First, my aluminum hiking stick fell apart. Longtime readers of this blog (that is, me) may remember that in September I said I couldn't see much difference between the eight-buck sticks and the eighty-buck sticks. I guess I see one now. Anyway, I survived the hike without it. But I took a couple dozen gorgeous pictures only to find when I got home that my camera was on permanent strike, nothing working but the on/off button and the display permanently stuck in op-art mode. So I lost all the photos and a good camera. Here's the point: rather than cursing and stomping around, I said "Huh." So Not the Drama, as my friend Kim Possible says.

I've already replaced the eight-buck hiking stick with a nine-buck hiking stick and I'll have to find a bargain on a new camera even though I don't want to spend any more money, but the thing is, I feel free. Freer, anyway. It's the end of the glass as we know it, and I feel fine.

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