- Bamboo shadows sweep the stairs,
Yet not a mote of dust is stirred;
Moonbeams pierce to the bottom of the pool,
Yet in the water not a trace remains.
--from 'The Zenrinkushu
What Karma possibly exists on a national, or international level, among so many various nationalities, races, classes that would be engraved upon the earth like this tsunami from Sumatra?
We can only ask deeply what exergue encrypted somewhere, (where?), upon this colossal work of nature could possibly open the door to understanding "why?" We look for a signature; we look for signs and explanations for this mysterious world-shaking movement of mountains and oceans.
Rather than the mountains walking above the ocean, deep cavernous terrains moved and the ocean walked.
Suffering. After the day of dying of so many, after the initial wave of death had passed, a question formed in my mind: "Can it be that since so many precious human bodies gave up their life spirit, could it be possible for us to sense or feel, know or intuit something grand? Wouldn't this be a time of great awakening for some? Wouldn't it be that some would turn towards the dying and similarly to the practice of Tonglin, breathing in the suffering and death, and breath out light and life?
The answer that keeps coming to me is "yes." It is possible to feel the suffering, loss, and deaths, but from my comfortable western milieu I don't smell the stench of decomposing bodies. However I do see the bodies in photographs. I do not see the signature of a great wisdom hidden on the secret side of the tsunami, the great death; but, I see the moon over the land. In the sunlight the ocean sprang up and scrubbed out lives in the tens of thousands, but by night, there were many grievers, orphans, widows, widowers, stunned and lost persons-all-looking out at the devastation of the tsunami under the moonlight.
I give up trying to find the secret inscription that would give access to the karmic mystery. Instead, I ask myself, what can I do to ease human suffering?
In addition to the obvious prayers, donations, and material things I can provide to the people under this grieving moon, I know this isn't what I'm asking of myself. I am asking of myself to wake up and stop delaying, to be awake to my essential Buddha-nature, and out of that realization, ask, "What can I do?"
I am mystified. I cannot "crack this koan" nor can I find myself a young man, able to fly to Phuket, or Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, anywhere-I'm old, recovering from surgery, home-bound. What can I do? I keep thinking of this "most hidden" and the "finding and realization of that which is hidden which is most precious of all." Where does this come from? Why do I want to uncover the hidden mysterious element of this disaster and grand death?
It is on the Internet that I find I can follow the unfolding of the day, and then the sunset, the devastation under the tsunami moon, and on the Internet I learned early one morning, perhaps 2 or 3 a.m., that there had been an earthquake and 300 persons were thought dead. I knew, intuitively, at that instant, that the death toll would be astronomical-why did I know, I can't say. I followed the Internet readers' "votes" for "how much did you like this article?" to move from 2.3 on a scale of 5 when the death toll was 300 to 3.9 when the death toll was 70,000. I couldn't understand why no one was giving this amazing story a 5? I did. I began to realize that lethargy, boredom, habit, and insensitivity to suffering, was more tragic than their loss. Insensitivity is a very real and tragic consequence of material attachment.
So, trapped in my materialistic western (luxurious middle class home) I took my "search for the hidden" my detective-work to find the exergue, the signature of the smith engraved on the flip side of the world.
I found a site where the AP (Associated Press) posted hundreds of photographs. Amazing photos of women bowing down so low to the ground that their breasts were pressed against the earth between their squatting legs, and their hands turned up, open palmed, to the sky, crying for mercy from god. I found pictures of mass graves. I found photos of boats pilled upon buildings, and saw walls of photographs of the dead posted so their mourning families could learn whether they were known dead or alive.
It was the sight of so many men in Thailand out in the water, after the tsunami had run it's course, that caught my eye, first. Why were these men swimming? Then, I saw one man's face as he bobbed up from the shallow water off Patong beach: he was looking for the body of his beloved who had been washed away. There was not one man like this bobbing for bodies, but hundreds. I began to feel that I needed to be involved.
I kept looking through the photographs online studying the suffering faces and looking at the debris from so many lost lives. Then I saw a boy, about 8 or 9, perhaps older, holding up a sheet of paper with his hometown and his parents' names on it. He had a stoic, sucked-in and tight-lipped, countenance that betrayed his total loneliness, shock and fear. He had lost his parents and his brothers. A photographer acted as his bodhisattva for a moment, letting this blond boy from Sweeden get his message out to the world. And here was his face with his message, posted for all to see on the Internet.
I saved his photo. I had saved many, thinking I would study this later and try to find the meaning of suffering, the meaning of the secret hand inscribing this tragedy upon mankind, later…yes, I'd study later. Then my Chan training kicked in and shouted to me, "NOW!"
I went back to the picture. The boy's name was Karl Nillson. His home was written as Lulo, Sweden. I decided that this was enough of a hidden mystery for me to enter into the work of solving it. I still am working on it, but I am sharing this now. Who knows, someone in Sweden will perhaps come by our Internet sangha.
An Internet search didn't yield a "Lulo" Sweden, but I finally found that there was a similar name, and so I began searching for embassies, and aide organizations. In the 1960's many refugees from Tibet, fleeing China's fist, settled in Switzerland and Sweden - about 40 Tibetan's in Sweden make up the TCS, Tibetan Community Sweden. I sent email out to the Swedish embassy, and to volunteer Swede groups, announcing this boy's particular suffering, his need. I checked off "send receipt when email is read" so I'd know when it was received. Only one person replied so far: That person was Chuan Zhi.
So, I ask you, as a friend along the way, do you see the need to respond to this human suffering? I can only see how to help one person at a time. I'm afraid that the emphasis on massive relief operations, massive shipments, and massive bank deposits won't reach the orphan. I ask that we all think how he saw Phuket, Thailand under the moon after the tsunami passed? He had seen the truth of suffering, and impermanence: Annica.
Will Karl Nillson, and so many of the other orphans be forgotten while the giant planes land and take off, while the nations sprinkle a few million dollars on this scene? Can money alone solve the problem of mankind's plight?
Can one person, through compassion focused on relieving the suffering of this boy, manifest Buddha-nature in an instant? Through the unified good will of us all, can we help this boy's tsunami moon become the light of enlightenment?
Or shall he perish?
We go through life in small steps. I am now going to return to my emailing of anyone who might be able to touch this child's life. I will begin searching through the other faces, the individual faces on the Internet and try to bring these children home. I'll let you know if I get any replies to the emails.
Latest developments: 12-30-04
I posted a message on a Phuket website ( http://www.p-h-u-k-e-t.com/ ) that I was trying to locate Karl Nillson to help unite him with his family. A dear native of Sweden posted a reply that he had been returned to Sweden to his grandfather. There is an article in the Swedish press at http://expressen.se/index.jsp?a=223426.
If we are all One, then the tsunami didn't just wash natives and tourists out to sea. The suffering of strangers is no different from our own suffering in samsara. The tsunami washed us all together, as One, out to sea.
What will become of us next in this vast ocean of life and death?
- No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.
John Donne, from Meditation #17