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Lions Roar : January 2017
The Gatha of Atonement A gatha is a short verse used as a focal point of practice. Atone- ment means, quite literally, “at-one-ment”—being at one with the big mess of the situation as it is, taking responsibility for the full catastrophe. One form of the gatha of atonement tradition- ally chanted in the Zen school is this: All evil karma ever created by me since of old, because of my beginningless greed, anger, and ignorance, born of my body, mouth, and thought, now I atone for it all. “Evil” in the Buddhist view refers simply to this: harm-caus- ing actions arising from greed, anger, or ignorance (and any action caused by greed, anger, or ignorance is inherently harm-causing). The word “beginningless” reminds us to look at the whole web of interconnected causes and conditions that gives rise to this one thing that is self-and-the-universe. In our spiritual practice, we must be able to include, hold, and name our inevitable failures. Falling short, we discover and reveal our humanness—and the spiritual work we have yet to do. Atonement is a process of clear-eyed acknowledgement and deep acceptance—and it is an indispensable part of change. Some Values Based on the Gatha of Atonement • I value acknowledging my inevitable unskillfulness and harm-causing, intended and unintended, each time I notice it. • I value recognizing that, all things considered, I am doing the best I can and that my difficulties are honestly come by. Like everything else, they are the product of causes and conditions. • I value remembering that falling short of my aspirations is part of being human. • I value taking responsibility for causing harm, doing so with- out finding fault with myself or others. • I value making amends for harm I cause—and doing what I can to redress it. • I value giving myself permission to start fresh in each moment, continually reorienting myself toward my real values and aspirations. The Koan of Values This one precious life-and-death, this one bright pearl of a uni- verse, can you value this without reservation? I encourage you to carry the koan of values with you as a constant companion. Ask yourself: What do I value? What val- ues am I endorsing and enacting? Who do I mean to be? How do I want to be in the world? But don’t just ask: really clarify the matter—personally, inti- mately—for yourself. ♦