Sunday Sermon
"Celtic Bushido"

I know that many of you have been lost without my guidance recently. For those of you keeping score at home, it's been 68 days since a proper sermon; a problem soon remedied.

I have been a blue salmon,
I have been a wild dog,
I have been a cautious stag,
I have been a deer on the mountain,
and a stump of a tree on a shovel.
I have been an axe in the hand,
A pin in a pair of tongs,
A stallion in stud,
A bull in anger,
A grain in the growing,
I have been dead, I have been alive,
I am a composer of songs,
for I am Taliesin.

-Taliesin, 6th Century A.D.

A dear friend from my sword-slinging past coined the phrase 'Celtic Bushido' - she defined it as "long periods of deprivation and training, followed by intense bursts of passionate self-abuse."

I tucked that seemingly incongrous little gem away in a dark recess of my mind, and it has bubbled to the surface periodically over the years. Each time it comes out of the depths, I refine my understanding of it. It used to mean weeks or months of sweating in hot armor before a big tournament or war, then drowning myself in women and alcohol for a night or three when the fighting was done. Oh, thank goodness those days are over (sniffle...whimper).

Over the last few years, it has come to operate on a semester schedule. I work and struggle and immerse myself in school, then try to kill time and brain cells with visiting family and (a tiny bit of) alcohol during the breaks.

During such a time recently, Celtic Bushido emerged once again, and shook like a wet dog all over me. A few days into the trip I sat eating dinner at O'Neils, a wonderful old pub in Dublin. Well into my third pint of Bulmers, with a steaming plate of colcannon before me, something subtle shifted. The work and love and lust and worry and joy and death all coalesced in robust concert. The times of training and the times of passion took their places, and I could hate neither, for I was both. The truth of Taliesin's verse became clear to me, as it became clear to Master Hakuin some 1200 years later...

All sentient beings are essentially Buddhas.
As with water and ice, there is no ice without water;
apart from sentient beings, there are no Buddhas.
Not knowing how close the truth is,
we seek it far away
--what a pity!

-from 'Song of Zazen' by Hakuin Ekaku Zenji, 18th Century A.D.

The truth is with you at all times - in fact, you ARE the truth. Take the time to know that.

If you understand, things are just as they are...
if you do not understand, things are just as they are.

-Zen Proverb

Go in Peace.


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