memories

Devotion

By Nanda Currant mb18-Devotion

Greg Keryk took the Fourteen Precepts in May at a ceremony in Santa Cruz. That evening, he became a member of the Order of Interbeing and received the name True Good Birth. Greg was the first person to receive his precept name via fax, and it was the first time the precepts were read by Arnie Kotler and Therese Fitzgerald for Thay. The stability of the practice and the kindness we felt that night guided us in the days and weeks that followed.

Sangha, family, and friends wove a wonderful web of community around the Keryks. The Ulrichs were like guardian angels, bringing food and care daily and postponing a vacation to come and help at the edge of life and death. Irene's coworkers donated some of their sick days so that she could have nearly two months off to be with Greg. Greg gave richly to us with the remaining moments of his life. He watched over his adopted grand-nephew, Matthew Ulrich, with humor and interest. He wanted to know about Matthew's new haircut and complimented him on the fine newsletter he has been doing for us. Matthew is 16 years old going on ancient, so it was fitting that he and Greg found each other at this time in their lives.

Greg came to the Sangha a few more times to sit with us, and then we took turns going to his house to sit with him, sometimes at his bedside. At one point, Irene set up a tent (intended for a summer camping trip) in their backyard and lay by Greg as he rested. We all sat outside and kept watch as the mosquitoes hovered around us.

In Irene's face we saw the hope, resolve, and tenderness it took for her to sit lovingly by her husband's side. He was less here than there, but he touched in with a tiny joke or a little ~ap. Sometimes he wandered around the. one-story house trying to find the "upstairs," or to step In and out of the door to another life.

Irene's devotion to Greg moved me. She was beautiful as she poured through wedding pictures on the living room floor while he rested nearby . Strong feelings intermingled with memories, moments, and plans which would never be met. As she told me about their wedding ceremony, the feeling floated into the ceiling and the walls and was there when Greg woke up and drank some water. She brought the wholeness of their relationship into the moments they had left together. It was a gift to experience that kind of love in a room with two people.

After my mother died when I was in my twenties, I began to work with Turning Point, a support group for children and their families with serious illness. Even though members of our group gradually stopped meeting, the awareness of that work lives on in our lives. My visits with Greo and his wife Irene reminded me of the time with those families . The presence of love was palpable, and the highly charged atmosphere was imbued with light in the midst of suffering. By sustaining love in a tenuous and fragile place in life, a very gentle and subtle quality is generated. It is something felt, not necessarily seen, an open quality that breathes into the atmosphere. Humanity is often at its best when life hangs in the balance. The courage and quiet devotion that pulls a family together, or gives an individual a stronger sense of the heart of his or her life, awakens us to the simple fact of existence.

Greg had a favorite oak tree that he visited throughout his life in both good and hard times. Although I was unable to attend a memorial ceremony held there, I was inspired to draw an oak tree with a seed floating in the sky above it. This seed is planted in all of us through our having known Greg and through our continued friendships with Irene and his lovely daughter Diana. Greg may no longer be with our Sangha, but he will always be a part of us as we breathe and move through the day . I don't know if things turn out the way they should, but I do know that waking up is possible, and if we are lucky we get a glimpse of it now and then. We will miss Greg and his gritty, honest nature, humor, and inspiration.

Nanda Currant, True Good Nature, is an artist and does environmental restoration work with home-school students. She cofounded the Hearth Sangha in Santa Cruz.

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Inner Eyes

By Sister Dang Nghiem Dear Sister,

Before we started our meditation this morning, our sister asked us to send the energy from our meditation and sutra chanting to you. You have been sick, and you have recently lost your vision. In the past, my monastic sister has shared with me about her friendship with you, and she told me of her most recent visit with you . Thus, I feel your presence is quite familiar in me. At the sitting meditation, I decided that I would keep my anatomical eyes completely closed and follow my breathing diligently. I prayed that my inner eyes would reveal to me what I should see, and that I may gain an understanding of you and of what you may be going through.

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I saw myself sitting by the vendor with my mother and younger brother. She took us there to celebrate my successful completion of the fifth grade. I do not remember what kind of sweet soup we ate, or if it was even sweet soup. It could have been a salty dish . However, I do remember how special I felt. My mother worked so hard to provide us with everything we needed. She was always outside of the home working. It was the first time she especially paid attention to my schooling, I felt so special.

I saw my grandmother sitting on the plank bed, silently sewing a pocket, the size of my palm, onto my mother's black pair of underwear. I was to inherit that pair of underwear, and the next day I was to wear it to go to America with my brother. Grandmother put the U.S. five dollar bill in it, so that I could buy some extra food for my brother and me, while we were staying in the refuge camp in Thailand.

I saw myself the next day, when my brother and I crossed the threshold of our house to go to the airport. The palms of my hands were reddened with the juice of the chewed betel nut, which my grandmother had just spit and rubbed onto my palms, saying that it would help me, "not to miss Grandma too much." It was drizzling outside, and the fine particles mixed in with my tears. I walked away, knowing that I would never see my grandma again in flesh and bones.

I saw myself as a college student, sitting alone at the desk on late nights . I studied diligently to be worthy of my grandmother's trust. I studied diligently to prove that I was capable, that I was someone. My eyes were tired, my body was weary, but I would not stop. Raw energy pushed me onward.

I saw myself mesmerized by the mountain range before me. " Purple mountains," my partner said to me softly. They were indeed purple - myriad shades of purple. We stood there, completely present in that moment. I could feel the desert breathing, the mountains stretching, the quiet peace flowing through my partner.

I saw myself watching leaves falling with my loved one. Yellow leaves. Some twirled . Some spinned. Some zigzagged. Some held stillness in their movements. Some zoomed straight down to the ground. They were dancers, proceeding with their own dances as they all returned to Mother Earth.

I saw myself watching a video of Thay's Dharma talk during the Francophone retreat 2000. The camera pointed at the stage, showing also the back of my upper body as I was sitting in the audience. My hair was in a bundle; I had not realized that it was so full and black. Light reflected on it and formed a half white circle around the hair bundle. I was wearing the brown robe of an aspirant - a nun to be. Who was that person? I asked myself, as I was watching the back of my own upper body in that video. Who is this person, whose hair now is completely shaven? Are they different from each other? What has she gone through? I saw the monastic sisters on stage. One looked just like me. I had thought before, how can someone else look like me? However, in that moment, I saw how I could mistake that sister for me. I also saw my face in the face of a Korean sister, in a fifteen year old, in a French sister, in short and tall, in thin and chubby sisters. l saw sadness. I saw faith. I saw a smile of pure joy. I saw restlessness. I saw my faces in their faces. Looking at them. Being them.

I felt warm tear drops rolling down my cheeks throughout this morning's sitting meditation. My eyelids were closed, and light particles could not penetrate them. Yet, my inner eyes revealed to me all of these images, of my childhood, of my young adulthood, of my spirit path . My inner eyes have revealed to me the flow of my life. My inner eyes tell me that I no longer need to hide myself in shame or to show myself in pride. I have never been alone. My faces are the faces of my sisters, of my partners, of my mother, of my grandmother, of leaves, of mountains, of memories, of awakened moments.

My dear sister, may your inner eyes, too, guide you home, to everything that has always been with you, nourishing you, guiding you, carrying you, and uplifting you. May your inner eyes reveal to you the spaciousness of your true existence, where you touch peace and non-fear. Where you can help your loved ones to embrace all that is.

To you, I offer my most sincere faith and support. Your sister, dang nghiem.

Sister Dang Nghiem, True Adornment with Non-Discrimination, ordained in 2000.

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