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Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding: 59                               Consecutive Days Blogging: 60

Today’s Mileage: 10                                           Total Trip Mileage: 522

Red line marks our progress.

Holidays and Holy Days on December 8:

Bodhi Day – Buddhist celebration of the time when Prince Gautama took his place under the Bodhi tree, vowing to remain there until he attained supreme enlightenment. Once this state was attained he became the Buddha (the enlightened one).  

Immaculate ConceptionCatholic Christian day of celebrating the belief that Mary, mother of Jesus, was preserved from original sin all of her life.

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As I ride this morning I want to wish a Happy Bodhi Day to all my family, friends, and fellow pilgrims. All of the world wisdom traditions (religions) have their major holidays.  Today represent one of the two most sacred days for followers of the Buddhist faith. 

Bodhi day is celebrated by the majority of Buddhists around the world to commemorate the day that Prince Gautama became The Buddha, “the enlightened one.”

Buddha at the moment of enlightenment surrounded by temptations, desires and demons

the "earth witness" hand jester

The sacred story states that Siddartha Gautama was a prince from a small kingdom in northern India.  After fleeing his palace in search of the true meaning of life, he spent seven years seeking answers with various Hindu holy men (Yogis). Having tried some of the most austere and demanding techniques of the Hindu faith, he is reported to have seated himself under a Bodi tree and committed to stay there until he found his answers.  It was here that he was confronted with all of the desires and temptations the world had to offer.  At one point while being tempted by the demon Mara, he reached his hand down to touch the earth as a means of grounding himself. At that moment he attained enlightenment.

He recognized the true nature of reality as summarized in the Four Noble Truths: Life is suffering; Desire leads to suffering; Cease desire and you cease suffering; the way to do this is through the Eight Fold Path.  He then spent the remainder of his life, close to fifty years, wandering India preaching his wisdom and teaching his followers. Some would go on to attain enlightenment (Buddha hood) themselves.

Buddha displaying the "transmission of teachings" hand jester

His was a radical message within the Hindu world, enlightenment (salvation) within a single lifetime, for everyone regardless of your caste, gender, race or place of origin.  Buddha did not speak of God or the afterlife, he did not see himself as divine, he focused his teaching on the present condition (suffering) and it’s causes (desire and ignorance). His followers turned his teachings into sacred scriptures (the Sutras) and spread his words to the far reaches of the ancient world, becoming the first of the great missionary wisdom traditions.  

How should we in the west approach such teachings which seem so inherently different, using symbolism and faces that appear so foreign? Huston Smith, the well known Comparative Religion scholar, in his book The World’s Religions, argues that it is critically important that we listen to the faith of others.  In our crowded modern world, which technology continues to shrink on a daily basis, he argues that “understanding is the only place where peace can find a home!”

Smith notes that understanding can lead to love, but the reverse is also true. Love brings understanding; the two are reciprocal. It is impossible to love and be compassionate toward another human being, something all of the wisdom traditions espouse, without listening to them! Furthermore: “We must have the graciousness to receive as well as to give, for there is no greater way to de-personalize another than to speak without listening.”  Many people would say that such “de-personalizing of others” is a core pathology of our current culture (e.g. angry talk show hosts, screaming mobs at town hall meetings).

“Where do we find the divine?” asked Thomas Merton, Trappist monk, interfaith pilgrim and author.  God speaks to us in three places he noted: in scriptures, in our deepest selves, and in the voice of the stranger.

When I listen to “the truths” of other faiths and peoples I remind myself that they hear the voice of the divine in their sacred scriptures, that they feel the presence of the divine in their deepest selves, and that they are a mirror for me to see and hear the divine in myself!

Buddha Sunset over Southern California

 The information on holy days and sacred holidays comes from http://www.interfaithcalendar.org.

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Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding: 28                               Consecutive Days Blogging: 29

Today’s Mileage: 10                                             Total Trip Mileage: 265

stage6

       I ride the bike today with a heavy heart!  I often tell my students that one should strive to be certain but humble. Certain in what you believe, but humble in the fact that your beliefs do not fit for everyone else. 

      There is an additional reason to be humble, the fact that none of us knows what the future holds. A phone call, or news story can sometimes knock us back on our heels putting our successes and failures/losses into a wider perspective.

     Someone who I love dearly, someone I helped to bring into this world and guided for the first years of his life, continues to venture farther onto thin ice!  He is either ignorant of or thrilled by the danger signs, the sounds of cracking and the ever-expanding  jagged fingers radiating out with every foot step.  I hold him in my thoughts and carry him in my prayers.  There is nothing else I can do.  My words hold no meaning for him, my love is apparently experienced as a burden.

 

thin-ice-crust

Danger Thin Ice!

 

 His choices are saddening, but I have chosen to not let them be maddening!  I am on a journey, joined by family, friends, students and strangers. I hope and pray that someday my son will walk with me on a somewhat parallel path, but that is his choice alone.  Perhaps he follows a different drummer, perhaps he needs to fall through the ice ! Please hold him in your thoughts and prayers.

helmet and boots

     I also carry a profound sense of sadness for the families and friends of the soldiers killed at Ft. Hood yesterday.  As a veteran myself I know how soldiers and their loved ones must prepare for the possibility of death at the hands of an enemy or a tragic accident.  But when the death is delivered from within their own ranks, from within their brotherhood it is particularly troubling.

      We will hear lots of talk about the motives for this act. Did the Army fail to hear the attacker’s pleas for help with his personal struggles? Was he religiously motivated?  Are his actions indicative of larger problems within our society?  This will become fodder for the Ego inflated talking heads on the radio and TV, whether they are for or against the current wars.  This will be used by the religiously intolerant and ignorant, who will cast it as an “us versus them”, Christian versus Muslim issue. 

     All of that aside, let us not forget the loss and profound sadness of the family, friends, and community during this troubling event. These were our country’s brave sons and daughters, the shooter was American born and raised, he too was one of us!  We will make what sense we can of this, we will visit our churches, mosques and temples, light our candles and incense, say our prayers, shed our tears and “carry on” like good soldiers and citizens. It will be more difficult for those close to the victims and the shooter. Hold them all in your prayers and remember to forgive!

goose

Loner!

     Walking along the shoreline of Lake Hartwell several years ago I wrote the following poem.   Somehow it seems appropriate for today.

Why did he?

A single goose

  moves frantically

    across the water

      crying out

        in a pleading voice

Is he lost

  is he sick

    is he just a late sleeper

      or was he purposely left behind

        by the others

For a cadre

  of his brothers and sisters

    passed this way

      in an orderly fashion

        and leisurely pace

          over a quarter hour ago

****

geese

Gone Before!

 

 I am steering towards the coastline, we will enter Miami from the beach and visit another pilgrimage site this weekend.  Thank you for joining me today!

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