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July 26, 2011

Abbot Ryushin Paul Haller on “the loss that we feel most”

Watch the recorded video stream or
listen to the audio recording.

On Saturday, Abbot Ryushin Paul Haller dedicated his Dharma Talk to reflecting on loss — on the loss of David Coady and the impact of that loss on the community, on community and the practice speaking truth.

Here are some excerpts:

Every life is precious. Every life is a loss. But you know, we’re living the life we’re living. And the one that’s right in front of us is the loss that we feel most.

Maybe the challenge for us is, through living this life, to touch all life, and through living this loss, to touch all loss.


Last night, the residents in the building, and nearby, who knew the person well, we had a meeting, to talk about it. Not that we knew what we were going to say to each other. Not that there was anything specific that we had to say, or not say. But just the very process of coming together, and bearing witness, to who we are and what we are in this moment — this is quite literally the heart of Zen practice.


This deep listening, this authentic being — You might think in the abstract, “Oh, that meeting you had last night must have been excruciatingly painful.” It wasn’t. It wasn’t enjoyable. But it was nourishing. It was incredibly comforting, reassuring, and instructive to be there together.

It was inspiring to hear the voice of courage speak the truth.

How can each one of us be such a one?


What can we say to each other? What can we offer each other?

In Buddhism, in Zen, we call community a “treasure.” A treasure just as much as the practice of awareness, just as much as all the amazing teachings and insights that can arise when we look clearly and carefully at the nature of what is, just as much the practice of talking to each other. Of being together.

Last night when we talked, there were long moments of silence. Sometimes life goes beyond words. Sometimes it doesn’t fit within the verbalization we want to address it with. And sometimes it asks us to hear the words underneath the words.

Like this morning, I would hope, not so much that what I say becomes a replacement for your own ideas and feelings, but more that something in it puts you in touch with something in yourself. Something asking to be listened to. Something asking to be heard. And I would hope that you would ask the question, you would make the inquiry in a way that speaks the language of your heart, of your authentic being.

Sometimes we don’t know what to say until we talk to someone else.

In addition to the recorded video stream of Abbot Paul’s talk, there is an audio recording with higher quality sound and also a transcript of the text-based chat that accompanied the live stream.

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