“The burdensome practice of judging brings annoyance and weariness. What benefit can be derived from distinctions and separations?” is a line from the Faith Verses of the 3rd Zen Patriarch. I love that line, and it supports me especially when I think about friends of mine who teach Dharma who are either in difficult circumstances themselves or teach in difficult places.
My friend Toni Bernhard teaches about living mindfully with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. She has been sick for twelve years and teaches through her books and in her blog in Psychology Today. Her husband Tony Bernhard teaches in a Maximum Security prison where his students are so violent they each sit in locked cages (as does Tony) in a room large enough to hold all the cages. You can read an account of Tony’s circumstance here.
I admire my friend Alex Berzin who, for many years, flew to remote areas of the former Soviet Union to teach people who otherwise would have had no access to the teachings. I remember his accounts of sleeping on the floors of airline terminals between flights and on rickety airplanes that did not have seat belts.
I admire them all, and sometimes I think, “Wow! They are so noble. I teach at Spirit Rock Meditation Center which is absolutely idyllic. These folks are the real heroes.”
That’s when I think about the line in the Faith Verses. Then I remember, “Everyone is being themselves, doing what they are as the best expression of Toni or Tony or Alex or Sylvia.” Everyone is exactly the most heroic expression of who they could be.
I used to have a poster on my wall that read: “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.”