At a meeting with Gil Fronsdal, a friend and colleague who knows Pali, the language of the ancient Buddhist texts he said what the Buddha taught is often not conveyed in its full richness with the translations we currently have. For example, the word “kalyana”, good, can also be translated as beautiful. Teachers in the Thai Forest tradition translate “kalyana mitta”, spiritual friend, as friendship with the lovely.
When I say beautiful friend, or friendship with that which is beautiful, it sounds different from the word good. Good is a good word! Yet, beautiful is exceptional, even exquisite. Once I was asked to sum up my current understanding of the teachings in four words. I chose trust, love, beauty and vastness. They could be a teaching in themselves: “Trust love, vast beauty”. What words might you pick?
This morning I listened to Lee Horton reflecting on what it’s like for him and his brother to be freed, to have their prison sentences commuted after 25 years behind bars. In just four minutes, Mr. Horton expresses a profound and moving truth that parallels a core teaching in the ancient Buddhist texts, “The Dharma is good (kalyana) in the beginning, good in the middle, good in the end”. This can also be translated, “The Dharma is beautiful in the beginning, beautiful in the middle, beautiful in the end.”
My first teacher, the Korean Zen Master Dae Soen Sa Nim always asked us, “How are you keeping your mind right now?” Listen to Mr. Horton’s answer to this question here: Lee Horton Reflects On Coming Home After Years In Prison
Forced to let go of everything, he knows how to receive and appreciate each moment, each relationship, and life itself in all its beauty. As he says, “Everything becomes beautiful.”
With tears in my eyes, I celebrate Mr. Horton’s freedom and awakening. This way of being is possible for you, for me, for each one of us.
On may 4th, there will be a National Buddhist Memorial Ceremony for Asian American Ancestors. www.maywegather.org You can add your name as an ally and supporter.