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Do a fake schnoz and fake glasses end all suffering?

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Suffering is ubiquitous in the criminal defense work I do. My clients suffer with the burden of being prosecuted and with the consequences of any convictions and sentences. Crime victims suffer. Judges and jurors suffer when seeing violent and other disturbing images and when inescapably facing droning lawyers and witnesses.

In early 1991, I felt suffering when I learned the Senate was debating whether to authorize George Bush I to go to war in Iraq, on the cusp of converting the Madison Avenue propaganda slogan from Desert Shield to Desert Storm. When my Saturday clock radio alarm alerted me to the debate, my visiting out-of-town friend and I hurriedly went across the street to the art store to get supplies to make antiwar posters, as we delved into being not-ready-for-prime-time demonstrators, when I was still at a corporate law firm with insufficient knowledge about the law applying to demonstrators’ rights.

My law firm at the time was only two blocks from the White House. The otherwise likable lawyer in the office adjacent to mine had a yellow ribbon prominently displayed on his desk. I did not feel comfortable talking with anyone at the firm about my views on the war, and had no idea who might have been for peace in the Gulf. Fortunately, at lunchtime, I could just go to the nearby Lafayette Park, across from the White House, to commiserate with the perpetual peace demonstrators there.

On one of my first visits to Lafayette Park during Gulf War I, I had a fateful meeting with Jun Yasuda, a nun with the Nipponzan Myohoji Nichiren Buddhist order, who is based outside Albany, New York. Knowing and learning from my friend Jun Yasuda has helped me reach quantum leaps towards more peace, optimism, t’ai chi, engaged living, non-attachment/non-duality, ho’oponopono, abundance, tailoring an immensely fulfilling personal and professional path, and self-actualization. I am not at all exaggerating. 

Yesterday, I had a chance to catch up with Jun-san, when she was at the Washington, D.C., Nipponzan Myohoji temple for the annual flower festival celebrating the Buddha’s birthday. With Jun-san, I took my first YouTube video after getting my new iPhone, learning afterwards to take YouTube videos horizontally with my iPhone, rather than the vertical method I used for this interview.

In this video, Jun-san responds to my inquiry about what is the Odaimoku, Na-Mu-Myo-Ho-Ren-Ge-Kyo, which is the Nichiren Buddhist prayer for peace and the essence of the Lotus Sutra. I have that acronym NMMHRGK on my license plate, to inspire my ongoing calmness as I travel the roads. Jun-san’s response includes:

– The Odaimoku is the undefinable. One way to understand it is by joining one of her peacewalks, averaging twenty miles daily in all types of weather and terrain, where she drums and chants the Odaimoku throughout. I think Jun-san also once said that once the Odaimoku is defined, it unnecessarily limits the Odaimoku’s meaning for people.

– Through peacewalks, people make a heart connection, including with their suffering.

– Humor is one way to alleviate our suffering, as Jun-san responds to my son’s response about suffering as if on cue, joking around in his fake schnoz and glasses that he chose on his own to bring that day.

– The answer to alleviating suffering cannot be addressed in a short video.

Early on, I learned from Jun-san that suffering is closely connected to having desires. Of course, by definition humans are unable to give up all desires, particularly such basics as the desire to eat when hungry and drink when thirsty. As I have explored the subject more deeply over the years, I learned abut the importance of being here now, being engaged with life without attaching to anything or anyone, and accepting that suffering will arrive, but to find a harmonious relationship with the suffering.

The paths are many to the one destination.

Bowing in deep thanks and respect to Jun Yasuda.