An apology without amends is no apology at all. To acknowledge causing harm while offering no atonement or explanation is to deliver a taunt. “I'm sorry” is only an apology if it is followed by a comma, not a period.
Some people in the Buddhist world like to talk of “noble silence,” or, even, “Noble Silence.” Silence is neither noble nor ignoble; it's silence. If we try to make it more than it is, we make it less than it is, by imposing our small story on it, so that we experience not the silence, but our ideas about the silence.
Once in a saintly passion
I cried with desperate grief,
“O Lord, my heart is black with guile,
Of sinners I am chief.”
Then stooped my guardian angel
And whispered from behind,
“Vanity, my little man,
You're nothing of the kind.”
— James Thomson
Self-loathing is the same narcissism as self-adoration. Vanity prefers to be Satan than just another ordinary sinner. Contemplative practice is not about learning to love, or accept, ourself, but getting over ourself.
More than ten years ago, I realised I had never seen a good English translation of The Kannon Sutra, a.k.a. Enmei Jukku Kannon Gyo, so I decided to attempt one that was both accurate and easy to chant. This is the result, Romaji followed by English. (Note: in our sangha, we still chant it in Japanese.)
ENMEI JUKKU KANNON GYO
KAN ZE ON
NA MU BUTSU
YO BUTSU U IN
YO BUTSU U EN
BUP PO SO EN
JO RAKU GA JO
CHO NEN KAN ZE ON
BO NEN KAN ZE ON
NEN NEN JU SHIN KI
NEN NEN FU RI SHIN
TEN-LINE LIFE-PROLONGING KANNON SUTRA
Veneration to the Buddha
The Buddha is my origin
The Buddha and me — no separation
The Three Treasures and me — no separation
Bliss outside of time, pure freedom from self
First morning thought: Kanzeon
Last nighttime thought: Kanzeon
Thoughts, thoughts arise from the mind
Thoughts, thoughts are nothing but the mind
Our weekly online sangha meetings have been going very well, with — thus far — people in Scotland, Cornwall, Italy, Croatia, France, and various American states doing zazen together. Our little group ranges from newcomers to people who're in their second decade of practicing together. It's been going so well, I think this ought to be the future, or at least a large part of the future, of Zen practice.
Of course, it's good for people who live near one another to practice together in the same physical space. But so much of Buddhist practice in the west has involved flying hundreds, or thousands, of miles to sit together in meditation or visit teachers. I knew an American monk who made an annual flight from the American Southwest to the Netherlands... to sit in a zendo for a week. Not only is this the practice of the affluent (what some of us call The Upper Middle Way), its contribution to global heating is unconscionable.
Some of the ways we've been living during lockdown should be continued when the pandemic is over. Frivolous air travel should not resume. Buddhist practitioners who don't have a local sangha can practice together virtually, and local sanghas can also be part of the international sangha. Jikan, daishin and I plan to open a zendo near Garelochhead in Scotland, where we'll hold sesshin (meditation retreats), and we plan to stream those online. Dokusan can be done by a video phone call.