Sunday, October 18, 2009

Dharmakaya

My mother died on this day 13 years ago.  I woke up this morning before dawn—spontaneously—at the exact time she passed over. For an hour I lay awake thinking of her, her death, and the difficult weeks and months that followed. I thought of the many more people who have died in these thirteen years. My mom was the first of our parents to die. We didn't know it then, but within 7 years the remaining three of our parents would be buried. In that same interval I lost my first Buddhist teacher, Kobun Chino Otogawa, and my closest mentor in education, Don Ryckman. Lots of difficult loss. At breakfast I talked with Sarah about all this; she said I was sounding depressed, that I should do something to get out of my funk.

I went sailing today on my little sailboat on my favorite body of water, Tomales Bay. No activity I know...well no activity that can be discussed in polite company—and I'm still old-fashioned enough to prefer polite company—is so completely engrossing for me as is sailing a small boat on open water.

Here's a picture of my father and mother taken on their wedding day on August 24, 1948.



Just before he passed away, the Buddha said to his disciples, "Only my physical body will pass away. My Dharma body [Dharmakaya] will remain with you."

By dying, my mother taught me the meaning of this teaching very clearly. Her body's gone. But important parts of my mother's energy live on in me and in my brothers and sisters. She's still here with me in countless ways. She gave me the gift of music, a gift for which I am deeply grateful. Each time I hear Bach's Italian Sonata or "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" I think of my mom; she used to play both of these Bach compositions on her baby grand piano when I was a little boy.

Mom was by no means perfect; she transmitted much of the suffering she endured. That's been part of her teaching, too. When I first heard the Buddha's Noble Truths, the First Noble Truth, the truth of suffering, rang loudly throughout my mind and body with undeniable and convincing veracity. Thanks to my mother and father, I was receptive soil for the Buddha's seeds of wisdom.

As the years have passed I've grown more and more forgiving of Mom's shortcomings. I've grown more appreciative of the simple fact she brought us, my brothers and sisters and me, into this world and got us through childhood.

So here's to you mom!

May you be safe, happy, and loving wherever you are.

23 comments:

Dayne Gingrich said...

Great post! I've always been very interested in Buddhism, and may actually begin looking at it more seriously.

Peace, harmony and wisdom.

Dan Gurney said...

Thanks, Dayne. Buddhism's been around for 2,500 plus years. With staying power like that, there's got to be a reason.

Dayne Gingrich said...

Thanks for your visit to Coach Your Mind.

As you said, "just sitting" is definitely important, but I battle between "doing" and "not doing" on an every day basis.

A huge part of my teaching is taking action, but at the same time learning when to just sit still, allowing clarity to show it's face.

Very difficult to learn when to do what, given the specific moment.

mothersalways said...

This is interesting, makes sense , good to know too that my energy will live on in our children.
BM

steven said...

blessings dan. steven

Bonnie, Original Art Studio said...

Dan, what a lovely tribute to your mother. I appreciate how you seamlessly weave life lessons from a buddhist perspective into this piece. I leave with something precious to think about.
Thank you.

Dan Gurney said...

Mothersalways, yes you'll live on in your children and in many other people, too.

Dan Gurney said...

Thank you Steven. Have a peaceful day in your autumnal turning leafy world.

Dan Gurney said...

Hi, Bonnie. Yes. Buddhist, but not exclusive to Buddhism. You can find similar teachings in other traditions. Buddhism happens to be where I found them.

Jenny Stevning said...

I had a good friend die this summer from bone cancer. He was not perfect either, and sometimes drove me crazy, but death is just an ugly mask; underneath is pure beauty. In watching the dying we decide how it is we truly want to live. Love to you. Love to your mama...as you said...wherever she is.

Ribbon said...

I enjoyed reading this.
You have described your understanding of your mother beautifully.
A lovely tribute.

best wishes
Ribbon

Dan Gurney said...

Jenny, thank you! I appreciate your sending love.

I'm sorry that you lost a good friend this summer.

Dan Gurney said...

Ribbon, thank you. I am glad you enjoyed reading it.

Delwyn said...

Hi Dan

I like your balanced story of your mother and her influence on you and the life you chose. It does pay to remember the gifts of our parents and appreciate their parenting and love because it makes us more mindful of the legacy we are leaving our children...
I hope that as I age I become more open minded and embrace the changes that are inevitable. I hope to become more patient and less rigid in my thinking...I want to be a happy old fart!

Happy days

Rita said...

Beautiful tribute to your mom, love the photo of your mom and dad.
Forgiveness and appreciation are both beautiful sentiments that we all need to think more about in our every day life.
I wish you peace, love and laughter
Rita

jinksy said...

I like the way you admit to still learning, we should all strive to do the same, no?

Margaret Pangert said...

Hi Dan~ Your parents look so vivacious in this picture. What a happy day! Your Mom was stunning--looks like Donna Reid. And your Dad reminds me of the senior Kennedy when he was ambassador to Great Britain. There is something about a cycle of seven years, how one's body completely regenerates in that time. Your mother is definitely still here with you. The way you sing and play the guitar has to reflect her presence.

Dan Gurney said...

Hi, Delwyn... you seem to be already patient, flexible, and happy, so keep on the path my pollen friend.

Dan Gurney said...

Thank you Rita!

Dan Gurney said...

Hi Jinksy, Oh my! Still learning? Yes indeedy. The farther I travel the more mysterious life seems to me. I don't feel like I need answers, just good questions and the ability to pay attention.

Dan Gurney said...

Hi, Margaret, yes, as you say, my parents (dad, too) are still very much with me. When I clear my throat I sound just like he did. I'll bet it's the same way my grandfather and greatgrandfather cleared their throats. We must hold our parents' LOVE and cherish it, enhance it if we can, and pass LOVE along to our children and grandchildren. Life's about that simple.

Alden Smith said...

Sailing for me is in a certain sense a kind of meditation Dan, seems like it is this for you as well - there is something about being propelled by the wind, being embraced by elemental forces that brings us closer to the heart of things.

Dan Gurney said...

Alden— for me sailing is definitely a form of meditation. It's just as you say, elemental, pure, and in the small boats I sail, it concentrates the mind.