“Stop the War”

A few years ago, I had an experience coming back from an annual visit to Japan that involved the international date line. I had left Japan at 6 in the evening on Wednesday, I had arrived in San Francisco at 10 in the morning on Wednesday after a 10-hour flight. That was due to the international dateline and something I had experienced many times. But that time, it turned my world upside down as the phrase “I arrived before I left” reverberated through my life.

When I noticed that our next gathering was on the 8th of December, I remembered that it was Bodhi Day, the day the Buddha’s enlightenment is traditionally celebrated around the world. I also remembered that return trip from Japan and that December 7th in Pearl Harbor is December 8th in Tokyo. Then this koan, ‘Stop the War’, came along to keep me company.

Another koan that came along to keep me company were the lyrics of Bob Dylan’s song, “With God on Our Side”. Particularly the various situations and consequences of “Having God on Our Side”. Like when “… that land that I live in has God on its side” it leads to “with guns in their hands” “you don’t count the dead” “and you never ask questions”. All hazards of thinking you have God on your side, or Buddha.

I also remembered being part of a work crew that was removing the roof of the KoKo-An Zendo in Honolulu when a canvas bag containing over $20,000 wrapped in old newspaper was found in the rafters. Those old newspapers predated the attack on Pearl Harbor by some time, yet the money was all stamped ‘For Use in Hawaii Only’, because…well…it wasn’t exactly a ‘sneak attack’ was it? “You don’t count the dead” “with guns in your hands” “with God on our side”. You don’t count the dead on either side. A day that will go down in infamy for many reasons.

So, what’s all this got to do with my meditation practice and stopping the war? As I asked myself that question, I remembered that “You never ask questions, with God on your side.” And then I knew what it had to do with my meditation practice, as well as answering the final question in Dylan’s song, “Whether Judas Iscariot had God on his side?”

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