Bob Schwartz

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Martin Luther King Jr.: The Poor People’s Campaign

Participants in the Poor People’s Campaign walk peacefully toward the Capitol in Washington, June 24, 1968.

“We are coming to Washington in a Poor People’s Campaign. Yes, we are going to bring the tired, the poor, the huddled masses. … We are coming to demand government address itself to the problem of poverty.”
Martin Luther King Jr.

Late in his too-brief life, Martin Luther King Jr. expanded his powerful focus from the inequities of race in America to the inequities of class. In December 1967, he announced the plan to bring together poor people from across the country for a new march on Washington, to demand better jobs, homes, education. It was to be the Poor People’s Campaign.

In March 1968, King went to Memphis to support striking sanitation workers. He addressed those workers on March 18:


And I come by here to say that America too is going to hell if she doesn’t use her wealth. If America does not use her vast resources of wealth to end poverty and make it possible for all of God’s children to have the basic necessities of life, she too will go to hell. I will hear America through her historians, years and generations to come, saying, “We built gigantic buildings to kiss the skies. We built gargantuan bridges to span the seas. Through our space ships we were able to carve highways through the stratosphere. Through our submarines we were able to penetrate oceanic depths.” It seems that I can hear the God of the universe saying, “Even though you have done all of that, I was hungry and you fed me not. I was naked and you clothed me not. The children of my sons and daughters were in need of economic security and you didn’t provide it for them. And so you cannot enter the kingdom of greatness.” This may well be the indictment on America. And that same voice says in Memphis to the mayor, to the power structure, “If you do it unto the least of these of my children you do it unto me.
Martin Luther King Jr., March 18, 1968


King did not live to see the campaign begin in May 1968. He was assassinated on April 4. His inspired message and activism is as significant as it was more than fifty years ago. The inequities in America transcend identity and race. Addressing those inequities is not just an American or religious ideal—it is a commandment.

I Ching for 2023 (Part 2): The World

If one does something that has long-lasting effects, it is certain to result in achievement. However, there is one essential prerequisite: to be steadfast and upright. Then there will be no fault, and it will be favorable to go anywhere.

The I Ching (aka Yijing) has been consulted and studied for thousands of years. Some use it for divination, some for guidance and insights into current situations. It is as influential as ever.

At this new year, here is what the I Ching says when asked about the world in 2023 (see Part 1: America).


32
Heng • Long Lasting

NAME AND STRUCTURE
Heng means persistence, perseverance, long lasting.

Sequence of the Gua: The union of husband and wife should not be short-lived. Thus, after Mutual Influence, Long Lasting follows.

Heng is translated by Wilhelm as Duration; by Blofeld as The Long enduring. In this book, it is translated as Long Lasting. The structure of the gua is Thunder above, Wind below. It is the inverse of the preceding gua, Xian , or Mutual Influence. The preceding gua symbolizes a new marriage. In the I Ching, Thunder represents an eldest son, and Wind an eldest daughter. Thus, this gua symbolizes the long-term union of an old married couple.

In the preceding gua the youngest son, Mountain, constitutes the lower gua, which is a subordinate position. In courtship, usually the young man tends to subordinate himself to the young woman. Here the lower gua is replaced by Wind, which symbolizes an older woman at a subordinate place. The attribute of Wind is gentleness. The lower gua also represents an inner situation. It suggests that the woman takes more responsibility at home. The attribute of the man, Thunder, is strength and activity. The upper gua is also known as the outer gua, which represents an outer situation. Here it indicates that the man takes more responsibility in the outside world.

There are two horizontal lines in the ideograph of this gua, one at the top and the other at the bottom. These two lines represent the two shores of a river. Between the shores there are two images—a boat on the right, and a heart on the left. Three people are sailing across the river in the boat. In ancient China, crossing a river was not an easy task. An old Chinese saying describes the situation: “People in the same boat share weal and woe.” Sharing weal and woe means working together in full cooperation with a united purpose—with one heart. For this reason, the ancient sage placed a heart beside the boat. Originally, the boat between two shores indicated the distance from this shore to that shore. Later on, the meaning was extended to suggest simply from here to there and, finally, from beginning to end. When the ancient sage drew a heart beside the boat, the meaning was further extended to include everlasting.

The main theme of Zhou is twofold: Follow the Tao of Heaven to establish the Tao of Humanity. To follow the Tao of Heaven, the ancient sage employed Qian and Kun, characterizing the function of Heaven and earth, to open the Upper Canon. To establish the Tao of Humanity, the ancient sage selected Xian and Heng, the prerequisite of a husband and wife, to commence the Lower Canon. The relationship of Heaven and earth is interactive and everlasting. In the same way, the relationship of a husband and wife should have the quality of long-lasting mutual influence.

The union of a man and woman, to the Chinese, is a sacred event. In the ancient ceremony of a wedding, the man and woman made a sacred vow before Heaven and Earth and to the person in charge of the marriage. Qian represented the bridegroom’s side, and Kun stood for the bride’s side. In this way, the union of a man and woman was akin to the union of Heaven and Earth. The message of this gua is that sincerity, purity, and unselfishness are the essential elements of a long-lasting relationship.

DECISION
Long Lasting.
Prosperous and smooth.
No fault.
Favorable to be steadfast and upright.
Favorable to have somewhere to go.

COMMENTARY ON THE DECISION
Heng is Long Lasting.
The firm is above, the gentle below.
Thunder and wind are in mutual support.
Be gentle and in motion,
The firm and the gentle respond.
This signifies Long Lasting.
Long Lasting brings success; there is no fault.
It is favorable to be steadfast and upright.
This indicates that Long Lasting accords with the Tao.
The Tao of Heaven and Earth is long lasting; it never ends.
It is favorable to go somewhere.
An end is always followed by a new beginning.
Sun and moon rely on the Tao of Heaven;
Thus can their shining be long lasting.
The four seasons change and transform;
Thus can their production of beings long endure.
The holy sage remains long lasting in his way of life;
Then all things under Heaven are transformed to completion.
Contemplate the Tao of Long Lasting,
To see the nature of Heaven and Earth and of all beings.

COMMENTARY ON THE SYMBOL
The union of Thunder and Wind. An image of Long Lasting. In correspondence with this, The superior person stands firm without changing his aim.

SIGNIFICANCE
This gua takes the image of the union of Thunder and Wind to display a long-lasting relationship. Thunder and wind correspond to each other as natural phenomena. Thus, the superior person stands firm and does not change his aim. The Chinese believe that the way of Nature is always correct. Because it is always correct, it is long lasting. The Chinese concept of correctness is that it is free from deviation. Any excess or insufficiency represents deviation and is not right. The secret of success is to walk along the central path, that is, never overreact. Whatever is exactly right can be long lasting.

According to the structure, the upper gua, Thunder, is yang, the elder son. The lower gua, Wind, is yin, the eldest daughter. In the Commentary on the Decision, Confucius says, “The firm is above, the gentle below. Thunder and Wind are in mutual support.” This is the typical ancient Chinese concept of marriage—that a husband should take the initiative, and the wife should be subordinate. This is the way of a harmonious marriage. It is also a natural phenomenon that wind and thunder work together in making a thunderstorm. The lower gua, Wind, supports the actions of the upper gua, Thunder. According to the ancient sages, one should follow the natural law. This is the Tao of Heaven and Earth, which is long lasting, never ending. The main theme of this gua is stated by Confucius:

Sun and moon rely on the Tao of Heaven;
Thus can their shining be long lasting.
The four seasons change and transform;
Thus can their production of beings long endure.
The holy sage remains long lasting in his way of life;
Then all things under Heaven are transformed to completion.
Contemplate the Tao of Long Lasting,
To see the nature of Heaven and Earth and of all beings.

In this gua, the first and the fourth lines are complementary yin and yang, as are the fifth and second lines and the sixth and third lines. All six lines are in harmony with their counterparts. This is necessary if something is to endure. If one does something that has long-lasting effects, it is certain to result in achievement. However, there is one essential prerequisite: to be steadfast and upright. Then there will be no fault, and it will be favorable to go anywhere.

The host of the gua is the solid line at the second place. According to the I Ching, only walking in the central path can have enduring effects. There are two central lines in this gua, the solid line at the second place and the yielding line at the fifth place. In most gua the fifth line is the superior position. But here, the line at the fifth place is weak. Although it is central, it is not as firm and strong as the solid line at the second place. Therefore, the solid line at the second place is more suitable to be the host of this gua. For stabilizing the social order and to affect the prevalent social customs, King Wen encouraged people to cultivate the virtue of perseverance and constancy of purpose. In this gua the Duke of Zhou narrates different ways of seeking long-lasting relationships and their results.

The Complete I Ching, Alfred Huang

I Ching for 2023 (Part 1): America

The ancient sages proclaimed that nourishing and nurturing were not a matter reserved for the family but concerned society as a whole. Nourishing and nurturing a family was selfish, nourishing and nurturing a society was selfless. Compared with nourishing one’s virtue, nourishing one’s body was secondary. Thus, the sages were cautious of words and moderate in diet and provided nourishment and nurturing to the people.

The I Ching (aka Yijing) has been consulted and studied for thousands of years. Some use it for divination, some for guidance and insights into current situations. It is as influential as ever.

At this new year, here is what the I Ching says when asked about America in 2023.


27
YI • NOURISHING

NAME AND STRUCTURE
Originally, Yi denoted the chin, the lower jaw. Later its meaning was extended to include nourishing for keeping fit. Wilhelm translates Yi as The Corner of the Mouth (Providing Nourishment). Blofeld translates it as Nourishment (literally Jaws).

Sequence of the Gua: When things are accumulated in great amount, nourishing becomes available. Thus, after Great Accumulation, Nourishing follows.

The ideograph is made up of two parts. The left looks like the side view of an oral cavity with teeth set in the upper and lower jaws. An object is placed between the teeth, symbolizing the food to be eaten for nourishing the body and spirit. The function of the right part of the ideograph is to provide the sound, yi. It is an ancient ideograph representing a head. The image at the top right looks like a head with two horizontal strokes in the middle representing a mouth. Above the head is a kerchief, and underneath two strokes represent two legs. This is, in fact, another ideograph of ren, person.

Undoubtedly King Wen derived Nourishing, the name of the gua, from insight about its shape. Only the top and bottom of the six lines are solid; they represent the jaws. All other lines are broken; they represent the teeth. The shape of the six lines gives us a picture of a mouth, symbolizing the act of eating for nourishment. The structure of the gua is Mountain above, Thunder below. The attribute of Mountain is to stand still and that of Thunder is to move. When we eat, the upper jaw holds still; only the lower jaw moves up and down. The subject of the first three lines is to nourish oneself; that of the next three lines is to nourish others.

Needing, the fifth gua, also covers the subject of nourishing. Needing follows Childhood. The orderly sequence of the gua says, “When things are in their childhood, they should not be neglected without nourishing.” In Needing one nourishes the body for growth. However, the nourishing in this gua is different—it has to do less with the act of eating and drinking, and more with the wisdom of nourishing oneself as well as other people. King Wen’s Decision on the Gua advises to be aware of how you nourish others and pay attention to what you eat and drink.

DECISION
Nourishing.
Being steadfast and upright: good fortune.
Watch your nourishment;
Pay attention to what is in your mouth.

COMMENTARY ON THE DECISION
Nourishing.
Steadfast and upright: good fortune.
When nourishing is right,
Good fortune comes.
Watching how you nourish others;
It is to watch what you provide nourishment for.
Paying attention to what is in your mouth.
It is to pay attention to how you nourish yourself.
Heaven and Earth nourish all beings.
The holy sages nourish the virtuous,
And thus reach all.
Great indeed is nourishing in its time!
Commentary on the Symbol
Thunder beneath Mountain.
An image of Nourishing.
In correspondence with this,
The superior person is careful of his words
And moderate in eating and drinking.

SIGNIFICANCE
This gua outlines the principle of nourishing. In ancient times, the Chinese concept of nourishing included nurturing, especially nurturing one’s virtue. To the ancient Chinese, nourishing without nurturing was the way of animals. The revered sage Mencius says,

Filling with food,
Warming with clothes,
Living leisurely without learning,
It is little short of animals.

The ancient sages proclaimed that nourishing and nurturing were not a matter reserved for the family but concerned society as a whole. Nourishing and nurturing a family was selfish, nourishing and nurturing a society was selfless. Compared with nourishing one’s virtue, nourishing one’s body was secondary. Thus, the sages were cautious of words and moderate in diet and provided nourishment and nurturing to the people.

Either the yielding line at the fifth place or the solid line at the top could be the host of the gua. However, the solid line at the top is the source of nourishment. Confucius’s Commentary on the Decision says, “Heaven and Earth nourish all beings. The holy sages nourish the virtuous, and thus reach all.” The host of the gua refers to the person who is trying to follow in the steps of the sages. The first three lines of the gua refer to nourishing oneself. Either misfortune results or nothing will be favorable. The next three lines have to do with nourishing one’s self as well as others. The results are beneficial.

The gua indicates that after King Wu overthrew the Tyrant of Shang there was a famine in the realm of the Shang dynasty. King Wen instructed the people to nourish the adherents of the Shang dynasty physically as well as spiritually. The Duke of Zhou tells how the adherents of the Shang dynasty put aside their spiritual tortoises and sought physical nourishment from the Zhou dynasty. Normally, the conquered provide sustenance to the conqueror, but here the conqueror nourishes the conquered. If the conqueror were to supply only physical nourishment to the conquered, it would lead to misfortune. Nourishing physical needs and spiritual needs brought good fortune.

The Complete I Ching, Alfred Huang

2023: The Year of Poetry

[The poet’s] role, in short, is to help people to live their lives.
Wallace Stevens

I began this day, new year’s eve morning, thinking about poetry.

Chogyam Trungpa, Buddhist teacher and leader, founded a unique university in Colorado, the Naropa Institute. Among its schools is the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. A school for poets was central to Trungpa’s vision. The story is told that when he arrived after escaping Tibet he said, “Where are your poets? Take me to your poets.”

In 1941, master American poet Wallace Stevens lectured about the role of poetry during an era of crisis. The effect of the depression lingered while a new world war had begun. In “The Noble Rider and the Sound of Words” he said:

For more than ten years now, there has been an extraordinary pressure of news . . . at first, of the collapse of our system, or, call it, of life . . . and finally news of a war. . . . And for more than ten years, the consciousness of the world has concentrated on events which have made the ordinary movement of life seem to be the movement of people in the intervals of a storm. . . . Little of what we have believed has been true. Only the prophecies are true. The present is an opportunity to repent. This is familiar enough. The war is only a part of a war-like whole….

What is [the poet’s] function? Certainly it is not to lead people out of the confusion in which they find themselves. Nor is it, I think, to comfort them while they follow their readers to and fro. I think that his function is to make his imagination theirs and that he fulfills himself only as he sees his imagination become the light in the minds of others. His role, in short, is to help people to live their lives.

All of which is why 2023 should be The Year of Poetry. Maybe you read or write poetry sometimes, maybe frequently, maybe not at all. Those who do know its power. Those who don’t will be enriched by it. Who doesn’t need a little help to live their lives?

New Year 2023: Newer people in a newer world

“’Tis not too late to seek a newer world.”
Alfred Lord Tennyson, Ulysses (1842)


The transformation that is coming invites us to re-examine our own lives. It confronts us with a personal and individual choice: are we satisfied with how we have lived; how would we live differently? It offers us a recovery of self. It faces us with the fact that this choice cannot be evaded, for as the freedom is already there, so must the responsibility be there.

At the heart of everything is what we shall call a change of consciousness. This means a ‘new head’ – a new way of living – a new man. This is what the new generation has been searching for, and what it has started achieving. Industrialism produced a new man, too – one adapted to the demands of the machine. In contrast, today’s emerging consciousness seeks a new knowledge of what it means to be human, in order that the machine, having been built, may now be turned to human ends; in order that man once more can become a creative force, renewing and creating his own life and thus giving life back to his society.

It is essential to place the American crisis and this change within individuals in a philosophic perspective, showing how we got to where we are, and where we are going. Current events are so overwhelming that we only see from day to day, merely responding to each crisis as it comes, seeing only immediate evils, and seeking inadequate solutions such as merely ending the war, or merely changing our domestic priorities. A longer­ range view is necessary.

What is the nature of the present American crisis? Most of us see it as a collection of problems, not necessarily related to each other, and, although profoundly troubling, nevertheless within the reach of reason and reform. But if we list these problems, not according to topic but as elements of larger issues concerning the structure of our society itself, we can see that the present crisis is an organic one, that it arises out of the basic premises by which we live and that no mere reform can touch it.

Charles Reich, The Greening of America (1970)


I look back to the time around the 1960s and 1970s not with nostalgia but with evergreen hope. Things in America, and in other places globally, had lined up to pair suffering and tragedy with the possibility of fundamental change. Barely a generation past the end of World War II, a newer country and a newer world seemed within reach. Not without struggle, not without resistance, not imminent, but soon, maybe within a lifetime.

In the decades since, changes have happened, some of them substantial and much more than mere style. But the point Charles Reich made in his best-selling book The Greening of America remains central. What seemed to be beginning then and what he deemed essential was a change of consciousness, the emergence a new person. Some have, some not.

Hopeful, we are waiting.

© 2022 Bob Schwartz

Coffee meditation: Measuring spoons v. pods

“Just a spoonful of coffee is medicine.”
Mary Poppins?

Early morning means counting out measuring spoons of ground coffee:

One spoon of coffee. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six.

Counting, as of breaths, is a part of some meditation practices. This feels like that.

But what, I wonder, if I was a pod person. That is, someone who made coffee with a pod machine. Which I am not. Would that also be a kind of meditation? Like this:

One pod.

Well, yes, maybe. Whether you are counting to six, or ten (a typical meditation counting number), you are also counting to one. Do you see? So whether it is spoons or pods, six or one, isn’t it all coffee?

If you don’t see now, you will. Good morning. Drink up.

Mitt Romney HAD a beard

I just learned that for a short time recently, Senator Mitt Romney, former (and some say future) Republican presidential nominee, had a beard.

The story is that over the Thanksgiving holiday, Romney didn’t shave, his wife Ann thought he looked “cute” and so he kept it. For a while.

Then Senator Ted Cruz, of all people, convinced Romney to shave it. At least that is Cruz’s story. “Of all people” because Cruz has had a beard for a long while, which some think makes him look like a wolverine or other feral animal. You be the judge.

This led me to wonder about Mormons and beards, which turns out to be a fascinating topic. Early Mormon leaders did have beards, but LDS has since had mixed policies. Brigham Young University, for example, has banned student beards since the 60s and still does.

Even with the current cultural embrace of beards, including at work, they are still rare in Congress, and rarer in the Senate.

As for Romney, I’m not sure about cute, but it did make him look a little rugged and real, counterpoint to his usual impeccable dress. He should have learned by now, as many of us have, never to listen to Ted Cruz.

Miracle lamp, miracle birth. Jews and Christians. What does a Buddhist master say about miracles?

Miracles of Each Moment, Kazuaki Tanahashi

“Even when people do not know that fetching water is a miracle, fetching water is undeniably a miracle.”

It is a week of celebrated miracles. The eight days of oil. The birth of Jesus. So it is appropriate to see what Buddhist teacher and writer Dōgen Zenji (1200 – 1253) said about miracles in his masterpiece the Shōbōgenzō (Treasury of the True Dharma Eye).


26 Miracles

Miracles are practiced three thousand times in the morning and eight hundred times in the evening….

Encompassed by the power of great miracles, minor miracles occur. Great miracles include minor miracles but minor miracles do not know great miracles. Minor miracles are a tuft of hair breathing in the vast ocean, a mustard seed storing Mount Sumeru, the top of the head spouting water, or feet spreading fire….

In the inexhaustible ocean of the world of phenomena, the power of buddha miracles is unchanging. A tuft of hair not only breathes in the great ocean but it maintains, realizes, utilizes, and breathes out the great ocean. When this activity arises, it encompasses all worlds of phenomena. However, do not assume that there are no other activities that encompass all worlds of phenomena.

A mustard seed containing Mount Sumeru is also like this. A mustard seed breathes out Mount Sumeru and actualizes the inexhaustible ocean of the world of phenomena. When a tuft of hair or a mustard seed breathes out a great ocean, breathing out happens in one moment, and it happens in myriad eons. Breathing out myriad eons and breathing out one moment happen simultaneously. How are a tuft of hair and a mustard seed brought forth? They are brought forth by miracles. This bringing forth is miracles. What enables a tuft of hair and a mustard seed to do things like that? Miracles enable them to do so. Miracles bring forth miracles. Do not think that miracles sometimes do and sometimes do not happen in the past, present, or future. Buddhas alone abide in miracles….

Fetching water means drawing and carrying water. Sometimes you do it yourself and sometimes you have others do it. Those who practice this are all miracle buddhas. Although miracles are noticed once in a while, miracles are miracles. It is not that things perish or are eliminated when they are unnoticed. Things are just as they are even when unnoticed. Even when people do not know that fetching water is a miracle, fetching water is undeniably a miracle.

Carrying firewood means doing the labor of hauling, as in the time of Huineng, the Sixth Ancestor. Even if you do not know that miracles happen three thousand times in the morning and eight hundred times in the evening, miracles are actualized. Those who see and hear the wondrous activities of miracles by buddha tathagatas do not fail to attain the way. Attaining the way of all buddhas is always completed by the power of miracles.

Causing water to spout out of the head is a practice of the Lesser Vehicles. It is merely a minor miracle. On the other hand, fetching water is a great miracle. The custom of fetching water and carrying firewood has not declined, as people have not ignored it. It has come down from ancient times to today, and it has been transmitted from there to here. Thus, miracles have not declined even for a moment. Such are great miracles, which are no small matter.

Baby Jesus and the Maccabees: A Hanukkah + Christmas Tale

When the Greeks entered the Sanctuary they defiled all the oils that were in the Sanctuary by touching them. When the Maccabees overcame them and emerged victorious, they searched and found only one cruse of oil that was placed with the seal of the High Priest, undisturbed by the Greeks. There was sufficient oil to light the candelabrum for only one day. A miracle occurred and they lit the candelabrum from it eight days.

Meanwhile…

Mary and Joseph brought Jesus up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord. There was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God.

“Who are you?” the Maccabees asked.

“I’m Simeon, this is Mary and Joseph, and this baby in my arms is Jesus.”

“What do you think you’re doing in the Temple?”

“It’s a very long story. Manger, shepherds, angels, magi, on and on. The Spirit guided me here, because this child is the Messiah, who will one day perform many miracles.”

“Well, we just had a miracle here. One day of oil has been burning for eight days. That wasn’t him, was it?”

“No, I don’t think he’s performing miracles yet. But soon, I believe.”

“Okay, go ahead and present him to the Lord, as it is prescribed. You’re all welcome to stay a while if you like. You know, we will be celebrating the miracle of the oil for many years to come.”

“Thanks. And I think we will be celebrating this baby for many years too. Happy Hanukkah.”

“Merry Christmas to you.”


Sources:

מַאי חֲנוּכָּה? דְּתָנוּ רַבָּנַן: בְּכ״ה בְּכִסְלֵיו יוֹמֵי דַחֲנוּכָּה תְּמָנְיָא אִינּוּן דְּלָא לְמִסְפַּד בְּהוֹן וּדְלָא לְהִתְעַנּוֹת בְּהוֹן. שֶׁכְּשֶׁנִּכְנְסוּ יְווֹנִים לַהֵיכָל טִמְּאוּ כׇּל הַשְּׁמָנִים שֶׁבַּהֵיכָל. וּכְשֶׁגָּבְרָה מַלְכוּת בֵּית חַשְׁמוֹנַאי וְנִצְּחוּם, בָּדְקוּ וְלֹא מָצְאוּ אֶלָּא פַּךְ אֶחָד שֶׁל שֶׁמֶן שֶׁהָיָה מוּנָּח בְּחוֹתָמוֹ שֶׁל כֹּהֵן גָּדוֹל, וְלֹא הָיָה בּוֹ אֶלָּא לְהַדְלִיק יוֹם אֶחָד. נַעֲשָׂה בּוֹ נֵס וְהִדְלִיקוּ מִמֶּנּוּ שְׁמוֹנָה יָמִים. לְשָׁנָה אַחֶרֶת קְבָעוּם וַעֲשָׂאוּם יָמִים טוֹבִים בְּהַלֵּל וְהוֹדָאָה.

The Gemara asks: What is Hanukkah, and why are lights kindled on Hanukkah? The Gemara answers: The Sages taught in Megillat Ta’anit: On the twenty-fifth of Kislev, the days of Hanukkah are eight. One may not eulogize on them and one may not fast on them. What is the reason? When the Greeks entered the Sanctuary they defiled all the oils that were in the Sanctuary by touching them. And when the Hasmonean monarchy overcame them and emerged victorious over them, they searched and found only one cruse of oil that was placed with the seal of the High Priest, undisturbed by the Greeks. And there was sufficient oil there to light the candelabrum for only one day. A miracle occurred and they lit the candelabrum from it eight days. The next year the Sages instituted those days and made them holidays with recitation of hallel and special thanksgiving in prayer and blessings.
Talmud, Shabbat 21b

When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon;d this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeong took him in his arms and praised God, saying,

“Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel.”
Luke 2:22-32

Testing Teachings

Come, Kālāmas,
do not go by oral tradition,
by lineage of teaching,
by hearsay,
by a collection of scriptures,
by logical reasoning,
by inferential reasoning,
by reasoned cogitation,
by the acceptance of a view after pondering it,
by the seeming competence of a speaker,
or because you think: ‘The ascetic is our guru.’

But when you know for yourselves:
‘These things are wholesome;
these things are blameless;
these things are praised by the wise;
these things, if accepted and undertaken, lead to welfare and happiness,’
then you should live in accordance with them.

Kesamuttisutta (Kalama Sutra)
Translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi


Testing Teachings

Don’t accept what you hear by report, and don’t accept mere tradition. Don’t jump to conclusions based on assumptions. Don’t accept a statement just because it is found in scriptures, or on the basis of general acceptance, or because it is what your teacher says. After examination, only believe and act upon what you yourself have tested and found reasonable.
—attributed to Buddha, Kalama Sutta

The historical Buddha went through a great deal of personal testing and proving and disproving—of himself, of the traditional culture he inherited, of the experimenters of his time, and of the mystic lore he acquired in his search. After his public recognition as an illuminate, the Buddha was honest enough to say that no one should accept his or any teaching or doctrine just because he said so, or just because anybody said so, even be it the elders and ancestors and experts and voices of tradition—because a teaching has to be proven by the test of first hand experience. The test of a teaching and practice is how it affects the individual and whether there is any benefit in that.

Thomas Cleary, Zen in the Pure Land