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Peter

In many of the temples of Japan, there are guardians who stand just outside the entrance way. One on either side, these two apparitions are said to be there to turn away all who are not pure in heart. Sometimes they appear as fierce warrior avatars, at other times and places they are giant divine dogs, guarding the gate against trespass. Two by two we meet them, and pause to wonder at the paradox that a sanctuary, a place of refuge and serenity, so inviting, so necessary to us all, should require such spirits of protection and selection.

I can't claim that I knew Peter very well. We trained together some at camps, and we chatted together a few times. He flew out to join us at Mark and Janean's place when I gave a seminar there a while back. It was then that he taught us how to break chopsticks using only a flimsy piece of paper and wisely directed ki. Like most of us who knew him from a distance, I was mainly acquainted with him by reputation. The stories that surround Peter are larger than life, but since I was not a party to them, I'll have to leave that telling to others.

But I do remember vividly Peter's eyes. Two sentinels that simultaneously pulled you in and slapped you away. If you were one of the ones who noticed when Peter really looked at you, it could shatter your world. His eyes could either express a holy burning rage, or run rivers of clear liquid love.

I remember the first time I saw him teach. I had just met him, though I still hadn't connected the man with the reputation, and my first impression was of a broken old man, but with a kind and determined spirit. Then he assumed his turn at leading class, and the aspect fell on him. Sparks flew from his eyes, lightening bolts flew around the room, and there was the smell of sulfur in the air. On this and similar occasions I later witnessed, Peter the avenger shot darts of shame from his eyes, and when he was done with us, it was hard for any of us to believe we were worthy enough to enter the temple.

Shame on you for coming in late for class. Shame on you for your posture. Shame on you for not working with beginners. Shame on you for not respecting Sensei. Shame on you for your pride, your laziness, your insensitivity, your lack of manners. Shame on you, come up here so I can spank you like the baby you are.

And now that voice continues, and his gaze haunts us: shame on us for letting him fall on such hard times late in life. Shame on us for letting others pick him up and support him. Shame on us for waiting too long, for being too late to write his book, to film the interview. Shame on us for always honoring the dead more than the living.

But then, Peter could look at you in a way with such softness and tenderness, and light shone from his eyes, that you knew everything would be well, and all manner of thing shall be well. If Peter ever caught you being kind to a beginner, he would hunt you down and bow down before you in gratitude. He would look up into your face with unabashed adoration, like a child who loves his parents. In that moment, you knew you were loved, cherished, adored, and honored. Peter would turn the tables on you, he was following you, he the disciple, you the master. And it was no sham, either, for Peter truly did follow righteousness wherever he found it, and kindness and compassion. Mostly he saw it in the children and the beginners, so it's no surprise that he could be seen most often in their company. But anyone who experienced a momentary lapse of clumsiness and selfishness, and acted out of purity and grace, Peter would be there like a devotee at the alter. He'd look at you as if you were the Infinite, and he could drink you in with one glance of those eyes. Then he'd be gone, his back receding away from you, but moving toward the Infinite still.

Keep trying. You can do it. We are all good enough if we can just let go of limiting ourselves. Work with children, and let them teach you. Stay close to the beginners, for they are nearer to the state you are trying to reach. Honor yourself by honoring the full stream of transmission. Respect yourself by behaving respectfully and respectably. Practice love, the hardest and most rewarding of all disciplines. You are worthy now, just as you are, and all your vulnerability is your attainment of power. Come inside, because you deserve relief from strife. You deserve a refuge, a place to take comfort and healing. You deserve a place where you can be free to be yourself, to learn and grow, and to discover and explore, and to be loved.

We're already inside, and we all have the twin spirits of rage and compassion standing guard just outside the gate. Let them loose, and expand your perimeter!