You are Life and Death



Tesshin started his talk this week by recounting how he brought his children to a farm stand so that they could “adopt” some pet chicks.  The idea was to teach the children the responsibility for caring for another living being.  The children were very excited and named each chick and then played with them for the entire day.  After a day or two, the children got bored with the chicks and went on to other things.  On the fourth day, Tesshin noticed that one of the chicks had died due to lack of food and water.  He gathered up the children and showed them the dead chick.  What is the lesson here?  Of all the children, his eight year daughter cried but then had a realization.  She was a part of the cycle of life and death.  Her actions could cause life or death and that she was not separated from the death of the chick.  According to Tesshin, this is the moment of opening and the moment of realization for his daughter!


Tesshin was born Jewish and he celebrates Passover with his family.  In the Jewish tradition, during the Seder ceremony, there is the parable of the Four Sons.  There is the Wise, Evil, Simple, and Infant sons.  The main difference between the wise and evil sons is how they inquire about Passover ceremony …

“What is the meaning of this ceremony WE do?”

While the evil son asks…

“What is the meaning of this ceremony YOU do?”

Do you see the difference?  The second question exposes the evil nature of the second son because he separates himself from everything and everyone.  In Buddhism, we believe this separation is the greatest delusion and one of the key sources of suffering.  When we say there is no “self” it is this disconnection from everything that we are trying to get at.  It is a reminder that one is not really separate from the world around us.  Like when Tesshin’s daughter realized that she was part of the cycle of life and death and that her actions mattered.  “Non Duality” stopped becoming an intellectual concept and became REAL for her.


Today, we see all around us the effects of this separation.  We see this when we judge others without trying to understand and help.  We see this when we stop listening to people we disagree with.  We see this when we attempt to “signal our virtue” with simple slogans rather than digging into the complicated issues of the day.  Lastly, we see this when we simply abandon challenges and look for ease and pleasure.  Our practice is one of enlightenment or coming face to face with reality.  It is never about what “YOU out there” think, rather it is about what WE must do together in the single unified world we inhabit to alleviate suffering of all beings.    Your actions matter – and they can have huge effects on others.  Evil is tuning your eyes away and thinking that this is someone else’s problem.


Tesshin wrapped up by wishing everyone a happy Easter and Passover.