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A Meditation on Peace and War
Taigen Leighton,  September 2022

Shakyamuni the Awakened One sat down under a tree
At the border of his homeland
As the invading army approached. 

The two warring armies
Hostile and fierce
Arrived at the riverside
And witnessed Buddha seated.

Shakyamuni sitting upright
Clearly beheld the luminous presence of everything–
He saw kindness at roots of trees
and at the tip of each glimmering golden leaf
sat shimmering bodhisattvas
ready to watch
the impending struggle.

Shakyamuni just continued just sitting,
Clearly beholding luminous presence of everything,
He could see for miles and miles and miles and miles and miles,
Everynow right here.

Looking for my Lo and Behold, Lo and Behold

Shakyamuni sat down under a tree
at the border

Shakyamuni the Awakened One sat down at the border.
Rippling river tickled the soundscape.
Clouds streamed across glowing sky
Reflected in
Mountains and valley streams.  

Looking for my Lo and Behold, Lo and Behold

This was a war over water rights
on the Rohini River border of Shakyamuni’s native country.
Low the river was low,
Farmers from both the Sakyan land
And their Magadha neighbors
needed water
To nourish crops.
Before, they had shared
The abundant flowing,
Now each side claimed the dwindling water.

Current and upcoming
Transgressions and conflagrations
arise over water rights.
Water tables on the table
Of national and regional disputes and convocations

Now native peoples in Minnesota, California, and Dakotas,
and in the Amazon and Congo,
Sit and block pipeline company machines
to protect rivers,
On the borders between native lands
and corporate domination. 

Water is life
Uncontrolled by privatized greed.
The fish is life, the bird is life,
Water is life.

Looking for my Lo and Behold, Lo and Behold

Down at our Southern border
Along the Rio Grande river
Guards seize babies from
Nursing mothers’ arms,

Families become separated
When they dare cross that river border.
Separated children still languish
In urban foster care,
Private warehouses
Seething with Covid.  

Kind NGO and even some government
Workers seek diligently
to reunite
America’s many blasted families. 

Shakyamuni sat at the border.
Both armies arrived
And saw the seated Buddha
By a tree at the riverside 

Looking for my Lo and Behold, Lo and Behold

The invading king inquired of
Shakyamuni at the border
by the Rohini River.

Shakyamuni declared,
I feel so peaceful sitting quietly near my homeland.
The warrior king felt a pause
Looking for my Lo and Behold, Lo and Behold

In our time nation-state borders
seem substantial,
unbreachable aside from
the birds migrating overhead,
the fish swimming along river boundaries. 

Amid a dangerous cold war with Russia,
President Kennedy tried to bring a world of peace
in his American University speech
April 1963, promoting world peace,
as he secretly, actively worked with Premier Khrushchev
To still the Cold War
And find mutual cooperation.

American militarism President Eisenhower had warned
might take control
of the engines of government.
War profiteer
Makers of weapons of mass disarray
Now mold our national policies
Of war not peace

A coup over taking the United States
Gary Cooper at High Noon
Shakyamuni at the border

Shakyamuni spread positive
vision of Deep interconnection.

How does the meandering line
from Cold warrior Allen Dulles and his Joint Chiefs
flow down the decades
through other coups
to the January Sixth invasion
of the Capitol?

Each contesting army in turn beheld Shakyamuni
Sitting under a tree
By the river
at the border.
And laid down their swords and shields
Down by the riverside
Paying homage to the Buddha

Shakyamuni at the border
His example turned away an army.

Looking for my Lo and Behold, Lo and Behold

Shakyamuni Buddha once sat down under a tree
At the border
And peace broke out
Between armies

Later the invading Magadha army returned
thirsting for control
and conquered the Sakyas.  

Shakyamuni sat at the Border
between the universal and the phenomenal
as the ultimate connection
of all being
lights up basic wholeness everpresent
in each grim concern. 

Later Huayan founders and Zen man Dongshan unpacked
complexities of such an implacable border. 

Ultimate reality in the background
as Shakyamuni sat at the Border
and fully beheld the particular conditions,
military aggressions surrounded him.

Intricate interaction connects
The whole universe with each moment.
Luminous network of intimate meetings extends
for miles and miles and miles and miles and miles

pick up any grain of sand
everything is right here. 

Looking for my Lo and Behold, Lo and Behold

Now our Southern border is a site of separation
for children from their mothers.

Shakyamuni Buddha sitting at the border
Felt the wholeness of Reality right now
In all its world systems and multidimensional splendor. 

The multi-branched red-leafed Japanese Maple tree
In the front yard of my childhood home
Right here now

Shakyamuni Buddha sat down at the border
Between war and peace  

See Shakyamuni seated at the Border between
George Floyd gasping for breath and
Mitch McConnell stealing another Supreme Court seat.

A hairsbreadth deviation like the difference between heaven
And stone cold ground

Looking for my Lo and Behold, Lo and Behold

Bless all the young
Persons marching in the streets
Sitting like buddhas at the border
line between
private property and sacred spirit 

helping to face our climate’s breakdown
famine, rising seas,
flood and fire,
wherever we can see.

bodhisattvas everywhere in all distant world systems
in all ten directions
are lined up waiting
eager to be born into our suffering world at this
terrible pivotal time,
knowing this is where they are
most needed, can make the biggest difference
provide the greatest help
and display the Great Consolation. 

Without naming him or his river
Young people seated at borders recall
Shakyamuni seated at his Border
Bringing peace,
At least for some time. 

Looking for my Lo and Behold, Lo and Behold
A time for peace
I hope it’s not too late.

Hoping waiting
Beyond despair or dismay.

Just find a tree
Sit down
Upright and steady
Through each inhale and exhale,
Witness all the borders,

See across them.