Saturday, November 7, 2009

Taking the Time to Discern

On my way to Honolulu, sitting in the plane, I start thinking about the powerful photographs of hospice patients, we were shown yesterday. Image of myself caring for one of them. Quickly followed by thought of me as good person, doing good deeds. Awareness gets called upon, to examine what may be questionable intention. Up close, I can see desire to be good, to be perceived as a good person, is all about my need to be loved, and respected. Yet another craving, to be rendered harmless, through the power of attention.

I wonder, what other intentions lurk, behind my wish to do hospice work? First, is the desire to serve, and to carry out my Buddhist practice into the world. Being mindful is wonderful, but what good is it, if it does not translate into action? Second, is the conviction that serving the dying, can be a great gift to me. I can't think of a better way to be reminded, in no uncertain terms, of impermanence. Third, is my desire to be challenged, and not shy away from difficulties. Only, then, can I live out my passionate self.

Discernment. I was first introduced to the task, by Sister Irene Dugan, a wise old nun from the Cenacle order. To be clear about one's intentions can save one so much trouble. I know so, from the many occasions when I rushed to action, without the benefit of prior discernment. This time, I feel clear, and hence more free to pursue the good work I plan to do.


  1. The first paragraph is indeed seeing the tracks of an ox or deer.

    The second paragraph is without flaw.

    The third is about mounting and learning to ride the oxen. We are learning this together.

    I love the story where a monk by the water side, rescues the scorpion from drowning. As the monk places it down, the scorpion stings him. Moments later it runs back into the water, sure to drown. The monk again saves him, setting him down. But once again he is stung. The scorpion stings him again and runs to the water once more. The monk repeats the process of saving him and is stung.

    A boy sitting nearby watching what seems to be a worthless process asks the monk, "Why do you keep saving him, since he seems intent on killing himself and hurting you?" The monk replied, "Just like it is in the nature of the scorpion to stink, it is in the nature of human beings to save."

    With Deep Bow,


  2. Thank you Seiho, and deep bow. Thank you for the gift of story about the monk and the scorpion. The same sister I refer to in my post, used to make a big deal about humans' urge to love . . .