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  • Dharma Talk with Kanho Chris Burkhart : Declaration of Interdependence

Dharma Talk with Kanho Chris Burkhart : Declaration of Interdependence

  • Thursday, April 11, 2024
  • Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship / Zoom Zendo

Kanho Chris offers a reflection on our interdependence and connectedness with all that is, and how this unfolds in our day-to-day, moment-to-moment, practice.  

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Talk Notes

May we release the myth of independence and make a declaration to embrace and nourish our interdependence

May we pledge allegiance to the land, to the waters, to our human and nonhuman kin, to the earth-body we call home

May we find our house of worship in the trees, the sky, the dirt, the mountains, in our own bodies

May we find new places of power, shimmering along the edges of what we think is the only way forward

May we love each other and honor life more than we love guns, oil, money, power, control, or the written word of hungry ghosts

May we midwife systems of harm to die with grace, and compost them into new ways of caring for each other
May we honor our grief, make space for deep rest, find pleasure in our pursuit for justice, and ignite transformation with our holy rage

Poem by Gina Puorro

Good evening!

How are you tonight? I, I am happy to see you. Last week I was in California, sitting sesshin with the Everyday Zen Community, led by my teacher Norman Fischer. It was really wonderful at Santa Sabina. No need to say or do, roll out of bed when you hear the wake-up bell and just be. Follow the schedule to sit and walk and listen, sit some more eat, and sleep. Finding freedom while sitting and thoughts, some deep, some silly, arise and fall away.

Much of my meditation circled around interdependence and as Thich Nhat Hanh called It, Interbeing. Holding the thought of interbeing, the circle continuously changed and widened. Breathing with and for all beings. Slowly counting my exhales from one to ten until there is some stability. Living for and with all beings. In the room and in the world. What is world? What is I?

Connections. Connections. Dependent co-arising. Walking into a Zen hall and falling into Indra's net. Nothing to hold on and everything changing, we are supported by everything. Instead of being held by the solid we are carried through birth and life and death by impermanence. Wen I let go of fear, the experience can inform me “just as it is.” When I let go of fixed ideas, I am free to experience anew.

Oh, she does not like me, what did I do wrong? Can turn into “hello old friend? How have you been?” Because. Because, in the end there is only love and consciousness that bind our universe together. Likes and dislikes become stronger in isolation, when one feels alone, not a member of a tribe. It is hard to let dislike grow when I lie on the grass with the the sun in my face. With outstretched arms, I meditate that I am the sky, the sun, the rain, loving and blessing all equally. Living life fully, loving as hard as I can, saying “yes, this too” to love, to pain, to sorrow, to saying hello, and to saying good bye.

Have you ever tried to return something to its origin? It can't be done. The plums I just ate were a gift from my neighbors, maybe a thank you for some fresh bread I shared? Well, they, the plums I mean, were flown in from Chile. The tree also won't take them back, the plums time as part of the tree has passed or is yet to come. How can I return sun and rain to their source?

Also, the pig did not need any lipstick to begin with. It was perfectly fine in its piggishness. It's only when the outsider looks in, they may think the lipstick was necessary. The pig is happy doing pig things and its snout is fine: it can find truffles better than any dog. It does not need the lipstick to disguise its failings because the pig has never tried to be other than a pig. Piggishness is not a failing, it is what it was meant to be.

I don't need any lipstick either, well, that is unless my lips are chapped. I am my age and getting older and neither lipstick nor make-up will change that fact. And it is with deep gratitude that I spend this life. I am grateful to my sangha in the traditional sense, the fellowship of Buddhist practitioners.I am grateful that my parents did their best. I am grateful to my sangha in the wider sense: to all living beings, the trees, and the rocks. I am grateful to all my teachers. I am grateful that there is food and a safe place to sleep. I am grateful for warmth and clean water. I am grateful.

How will I return all the aggregates to their source? Every seven years all my body has been replaced, little bit by little bit. And yet all this time I thought there was an I, a self. I believed that there were big changes over the years, a broken this or that, slow changes. A different me in a day? Nah, not so much. Each perceptibly small moment dying to itself? No way. Until we look closely. Until we let our self become bigger than it can possibly be, so it can include the flower falling from the tree and the new shoot grow into the sun.

Maybe each one of us is a nerve ending through which the universe, god, buddha nature, consciousness, Big Self experiences itself? The same story observed through eyes as numerous as the sand of the Ganges. And like all good stories, one day it ends. Causes and conditions, interdependence, and interbeing have nourished me so far and continue to support my life. I am 100% certain that at some point in the future that will change. This too is just as it is.

Death asked me to join him for dinner
so I slipped into my favorite black dress
that I had been saving for a special occasion
and let him walk me to our candlelit tryst.
He ordered a ribeye, extra rare
I ordered two desserts and red wine
and then I sipped
and wondered
why he looked so familiar
and smelled like earth and memory.
He felt like a place both faraway
and deep within my body
A place that whispers to me
on the crisp autumn breeze
along the liminal edges of dusk and dawn
somewhere between dancing
and stillness.
He looked at me
with the endless night sky in his eyes
and asked
‘Did you live your life, my love?’
As I swirled my wine in its glass
I wondered If I understood the thread I wove into the greater fabric
If I loved in a way that was deep and freeing
If I let pain and grief carve me into something more grateful
If I made enough space to be in awe that flowers exist
and take the time to watch the honeybees
drink their sweet nectar
I wondered what the riddles of regret and longing
had taught me
and if I realized just how
beautiful and insignificant and monstrous and small we are
for the brief moment that we are here
before we all melt back down
into ancestors of the land.
Death watched me lick buttercream from my fingers
As he leaned in close and said
‘My darling, it’s time.’
So I slipped my hand into his
as he slowly walked me home.
I took a deep breath as he leaned in close
for the long kiss goodnight
and I felt a soft laugh leave my lips
as his mouth met mine
because I never could resist a man
with the lust for my soul in his eyes
and a kiss that makes my heart stop.

~ Gina Puorro: 

Author's note: A playful love poem to Death, because I want to remember to relate to it as a part of life, and in ways that exist outside of violence and brutality. 

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