frozen pea friday: a buddhist on cancer

mount shastafor today’s weekly frozen pea breast cancer post, i was wondering what some of the buddhists on the net say about cancer and came across reverend mugo from jade mountains. this blog is “an expression of gratitude to all those who read, leave comments and provide support by offering dana, friendship, hospitality, guidance, and encouragement.” jade mountains contains, and points to, various sources of buddhist teachings. reverend mugo is a female disciple and dharma heir of the late rev. master jiyu-kennett having been ordained by her in 1981 at shasta abbey california.

i’d like to offer to you some of the numerous references to cancer in this blog.

this entry about climbing mount shasta may give a glimpse as to why rev. mugo mentions cancer here and there – perhaps for reasons similar to my own:

my attention has been drawn to the breast cancer fund climb against the odds expedition to the top of mt. shasta in june this year.

at 14,162 feet, mt. shasta stands as the most striking mountain in northern california and is home to california’s largest glaciers. besides training for the peak attempt, climbers commit to raising a minimum of $5,000 for the breast cancer fund’s work to prevent the disease. we provide the support to achieve both.

the breast cancer fund identifies – and advocates for elimination of – the environmental and other preventable causes of the disease.

when i was a novice at shasta abbey in the early 1980’s i was with my ordination sister goso in the bath-house, where speaking is strictly forbidden. looking up at the mountain through the window she whispered, we’ll climb that one day. sadly she didn’t live long enough for us to do that. she died in november 1986, of breast cancer.

in for whom the bell tolls, rev. mugo mentions the film wit:

“wit, this HBO film presentation, chronicles the personal awakening of a longtime literary scholar (two-time oscar-winner emma thompson), who learns the importance of simple human kindness when faced with the most daunting of crises: a diagnosis of advanced cancer.”

i think emma thompson is wonderful in what ever she does and her part in the film wit is no exception. one might think that the story of a woman undergoing aggressive treatment for cancer would be a sad one. after watching the film last week i was left both uplifted and stilled. it pointed out that illness, terminal illness, can transform into a gift that helps the heart to walk through the flapping door of death, with equanimity and humility.

finally, bows to valiant hearts:

for those who care, who are the carers of those who need caring for, nine bows of gratitude.

for the nurse who was punched to-day, by a patient suffering from dementia, bows.

for the elderly man with terminal cancer who cared for his wife until the time now come, to be cared for. valiant man!

nine bows to all those who, alone or with others, face the task of helping another to get through another day, and another day and another and another…the unrelenting another day. i’ve been there and those days have been privileged days. perhaps those days never end.

in many ways giving is easy; receiving care, not so easy. i hope i have the good grace and fortitude to be cared for, should that time ever come.

i bow to you, reverend mugo. thank you for caring.

(image thanks to

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