Lineage Winds, part 2: Debt

“Each of us has a responsibility for being alive, one responsibility to creation of which we are a part, and, another to the creator a debt we repay by trying to extend our areas of comprehension.” Maya Angelou

Lineage is about future and past. Both, at once. Facing Future is the title CD by Bruddah IZ that catapulted him from local in Hawai’i to later become a mainland sensation and acclaimed international musician. People love his rendition of “Over the rainbow” but the opening track is the anchor for the CD. The track, Hawai’i 78 and CD title convey a Native cosmological view, to face future with one’s back to in (in order to see where one comes from, looking directly into the past). Ua mau ke ea o ka aina, translated roughly, ”the life of the land is perpetuated (continues) in righteousness.” While doing some research in Hawaii, I learned that the oral tradition of the Kanaka Maoli included chanting the creation history of the Hawaiian people.

I mention the oral tradition of Native Hawaiians not to imply their tradition is like the zen tradition. The comparison is for highlighting how form holds meaning. While it would be dangerous to overstate, nonetheless, Chan Buddhism and Zen practice is genealogy practice. This is how we extend our comprehension … of “now”. Being part of the Soto Zen lineage in the West is a debt to those in the past and a debt to the future (those whose names we do not yet know). Perhaps we sometimes linger on our zen ancestors to the exclusion of our familial ties. This is not possible for me. Filial piety is a subtle form of cultural communication and cultural belonging—my parents emphasized family history and ken, even though I did not understand the historical context nor the importance of ken in Japanese American history. While not being essentialist about it, nonetheless, ken, origin, family history, and custom is genealogy in the bones. No zen pun intended here.

Chanting, as a soto zen form, imparts understanding of the affect in lineage. It is beautiful, stirring evocation of past and future.

END OF POST BUT….. If you want to hear the opening by IZ (though it is not a genealogy chant), here it is:

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