Good morning, this is January 22 2021. And it was two days ago that we had this momentous occasion in Washington, DC, where the new president was inaugurated. And we had the vote by Kamala Harris to turn the Senate to a new majority party with the House of Representatives already with a democratic majority. So these, these three things, especially the inauguration, of a new president, would together be a remarkable day in our history. But all the more so after what happened some two weeks ago now, with the riot of the capital.
What a contrast, what a contrast. And what what a relief it was -- this inauguration of Joseph Biden. Relief. Stephen Colbert, I think, said it very well, that it's as if we've been at sea in a ship, and in a huge storm for four years; we've been in a storm for four years. And suddenly, we're out of the storm. Not entirely, I'll say more about that. But at least the the captain of the ship, we have a new captain of the ship, we have a captain who's who's known for his empathy and his decency, which the captain, up until two days ago, was devoid of. So it's a it's a, it's a truly historical event now with the possibility of a real renewal.
You know, what, on New Year's Eve every year, we can appreciate how it's a time of renewal, even rebirth. That's an annual thing. But it's based on a date. There's some convention, the Gregorian calendar that on midnight on December 31, it's a new year. And we can use that convention to appreciate that we do have a chance to start over but then we always have a chance to start over.
In Buddhism, we speak of the sort of conventional rebirth that happens when we're, when we die at the age of 70, or 80, or 90 or whatever. Even for those of you who don't buy this matter of rebirth, it's it's it's a useful metaphor. At the very least. There's the the, what most people think of rebirth as the death of the body, and then the rebirth. Said usually within 49 days, but who knows. But then there's also the second kind of rebirth that we speak of, which is continual, continuous rebirth. That really every minute, less than a minute every breath is a rebirth. It is. This is this is not just a metaphor. Every breath we are being reborn. There is no self that we're stuck with from moment to moment. Oh, it's way, way more rapid than just every birth. Because there's no there's no self substance. We are We're all in flux. So of course, every it's all rebirth. There's nothing but rebirth. And other day like we had on Wednesday, with inauguration, it's more than an annual kind of observance on December 31. This is, this is a big change. What, what the change will end up being is we can't be sure. But there's a big change now. And it was a it was a it was a day to celebrate. It was it was a release after this hurricane we've had for four years a release and that's why I think many, many people, people I talked with, expressed the recounted how they had found themselves to their surprise in tears at the inauguration. And inauguration, a political event, but much more so. Naturally. It's only natural that with everything that's going on, especially this past year, the pandemic, above all, the pandemic and the the the unemployment and other economic battering, we've all taken the the alarming progress of climate change, progressive climate change. The civil unrest on January 6, then much more than that, everything that's brewing in the right wing, domestic terrorism and Christian nationalism, all of that is working on people. People are aware of this bubbling underneath. And then the ongoing racial inequity, economic inequity, this has anyone alive ever seen such a perfect storm of crises. And at least, to have now, to have an administration that by all indications is determined to take the reins and to now federalize what needs to be done? With a pandemic friend from Sif, so much comes from the, from addressing that, what a what a day it was, it's all came together on this bright sun there on the steps of the Capitol that had just been under siege. It's really a remarkable remarkable week we have here.
I was thrilled to see Lady Gaga singing our national anthem, especially that line, when very dramatically, she raised her arm and said that our flag was still there. Still there and what the flag represents is our
integration as a as a country as our unity or at least our the promise the possibility of unity.
What may be the most lasting memory most of us have of the of inauguration was the this sublime poem by Amanda Gorman. Who in 19, in 2017, became our or is named our first our first youth Poet Laureate. What a what a reading what a performance she gave. I printed it out and in one dimension, a couple of lines this morning that really struck me as the hope and the faith that she expressed the hope and the faith. One can't help but feel inspired by it. When she said We've braved the belly of the beast, we brave we brave to the president number 4045. And, and we're still braving all of this these terrible crises. And then her line which he said, a nation that isn't broken, but simply unfinished, simply unfinished. This is such a wonderful way to understand our country and each of us as an individual. Because the country is just a collection of individuals. That No, none of us not a single one of us as an individual can be broken, even though we are unfinished.
So we have a very real possibility of, if not returning to normal, whatever normal is, at least, this moving, shifting back toward the more normal with less violent hatred of other us in them. But it's, it's not going to happen overnight. We all know that you don't have to be a Buddhist to, to recognize that when something has the kind of momentum behind it that has developed over the past four years. Something like the civil unrest, and the political hit hatred, that this is not going to stop on a dime.
It's it's four years of even more, but especially these last four years, four years of, of what we in Zen we call habit, energy habit force that's build up. Think of the word inertia, which Amanda Gorman also mentions in her poem, inertia, as I remember it from from school, is the law of inertia that a body at rest tends to stay at rest, a body in motion tends to stay in motion. I think people often use the word inertia just to refer to the first half a body at rest tends to stay at rest. But we've got some real motion now. to different respects, we've got the motion of a new administration, new legislative branch, new administrative branch, new executive, and there's something very hopeful about that. And at the same time, we have other features of our karma as a country. Just karma is just another word for habit, energy, our our, our tendencies. And there's that same law of inertia, a body in motion tends to stay in motion, it's still something we have to work at, to keep it going in the right direction. And to not let it let the other of the negative, the destructive, continue any longer than we possibly can let it continue.
In in terms of individual rebirth, the The principle is that we are, we are reborn, each of us as an individual, we are reborn with our our actions of our previous life as the basis and the actions always means our actions and our words and our thoughts. Those three together establish the basis of rebirth. But then there's another factor. The governing principle the governing principle is the last thought moment before death. The last thought moment.
At the risk of pushing this analogy too far, we can think of Wednesday the inauguration. Right, right. Right before Joe Biden took the oath of office, we can think of that as the last thought moment, it was a, it was a beautifully organized event. If elevated by the, the observance of the recognize that 400,000 over now over 400,000 dead. But it seemed from all in all, I think most people would agree that it was, it all came together beautifully. Right before he took office, if that's the last thought moment in this, our rebirth as a nation, then it's very promising. But then the basis, the basis all of our our actions and words and thoughts of the last four years and long before the last four years, our collective karma, everything we have done, for better and for worse, both that we've everything we've done since the Revolutionary War, Declaration of Independence. All of this still has this momentum. And it's very sobering. This This week I, I thought of with the inauguration and all I thought of are very powerful words by the chair, by chinos and Korean Zen master Chino. He's widely considered the patriarch of Korean Zen. And Chino, and one of his texts is talking about the the challenge after awakening, of coming to terms with the, our karmic afflictions that they don't stop with awakening, our karmic afflictions don't evaporate, just through the experience of enlightenment, but then then continue. And this is what he said, with regard to that, how the, the, the task of ongoing purification after awakening, he said, the wind ceases, but the waves still surge.
That's, that's what we're facing now. A lot of poisonous waves that have been set in motion, especially these last four years, they're not going to stop. But at every step, every breath, there is this possibility of change. We are changed we ourselves are change. And to the degree that we don't fall prey to our reactive tendencies, our karmic afflictions, then, just as each one of us is changed, we are changing ourselves. Starting with sitting sitting every day, that's the agent of change of purification. And then we can we can extend that out into our lives to everyone we come in contact with. To to do our best to have this the negative parts of our national karma sanded away. And the positive the many positive things about our country nourished it's anything's possible, it's will not be easy. We know this as individuals go into sesshin and having having our afflictions exposed. In this silent meditation hours and hours a day. It feels as though these last four years it's not Just that, that the people in power have done all the other damage but that that we've had exposed what was always there is not an original perspective I'm expressing others have said it to the racism, the systemic racism, how it was exposed through the administration of Donald Trump. The the the economic inequity, big divide between the haves and the haves, not that's been exposed. The well, climate change just goes on and on. Do we have time to to reverse that to Serbian slow it down? And the the terrible unnecessary suffering from the pandemic having been so mismanaged if he could say was managed at all? So ignored, so neglected? So yeah, it's quite a reckoning now. But at least we have the possibility of of resetting, setting, setting a new course, where people, the 10s, hundreds of millions of people in this country, not to mention the world, but then this country can be can be helped through legislative action, and a more Yes, empathic and decent model from the top of the whole structure, Joe Biden. This one one last few lines from the poem of Amanda Gorman. We know our inaction and inertia will be the inheritance of the next generation will be the inheritance of the next generation are blunders become their burdens sobering, sobering, realistic words that we can all take to heart and each of us do our take responsibility for everything we can do. Thank you.