LANTAU ISLAND, SOUTH CHINA SEA, ASIA, March, 1998. Did I really wake up hours ago to the thunder of drumbeats at 3:30 a.m. this morning? Our call to keep vigil through chant and meditation back in the States is done through a bell, which we consider to be the voice of God calling us to prayer. Drums or bell, the call has always been loud and clear.
Life’s mysterious events, however, are not always so clear. Openness to letting life unfold and, in a sense, dancing with it, usually resolves most mysteries sooner or later. It is the “later” part that is often the real challenge in life.
Deafening silence now. The sea is just far enough away so that the waves can be heard only with the ear of the heart. Ahhhhh. I am peacefully alone at last. It is so profoundly wonderful to be quiet and to just be. My muscles seem to be melting like wax in the warmth of the sun. My ministry keeps me deeply involved with so many fine people and I consider it a great gift. Right now, however, this is a great gift!
The guestmaster told me that the entire community of Chan Buddhist monks and nuns, the Chinese equivalent of Japanese Zen monastics, would be at a community meeting all morning long and that I would be in complete solitude. He seemed to think that I might get lonely or become frightened, but I am far from either. Maybe the guestmaster’s concern has something to do with the fact that I am halfway around the world from home. Anyway, we Christian monastics call our community meetings “Chapter.” Many Christian monastics do not even know why such gatherings are given that name. My understanding is that it comes from the practice of reading a chapter of the Rule of the monastery at such a communal get together. I wonder what the Chinese name for their monastic community meeting is. Who cares about that? The point is that I am completely in solitude on this remote Asian island, far away from stress and responsibility.