Thursday, 24 September 2015

3 Things I Need To Stop Doing

Tibetan - Phurbu-cum-chopper - Walters 511448 - View A
Decrying the forms of others. (Inwardly, I mean; at least I don't do that market preacher thing, where you call down others aloud, as if that's going to advance anyone's programme.) Sadly, some don't share my life experience; they cling to forms I find fatuous and unproductive. If only they were as insightful as I, they'd stand a chance of being as enlightened as… (wait; where was I going with this?)

Exactly. I hold my practice to a high standard; I crop out stuff that sets me back, and embrace stuff that works. But there's this annoying corollary: others realise similar progress doing things I've thrown off, or never fell for in the first place. The fact that these forms make no sense to me is immaterial. Zen is a results-based religion.

But critiquing others provides that power rush we monkeys crave. It's heroin we distil from the opium of ego.

Confusing form with practice. When I sit for a long time, I feel like a good monk. If the session is unsettled, or short, or I don't maintain a schedule, I begin to feel like a sham. To some extent, this is useful; it keeps me on the path. But the fact is, enlightenment is non-attachment. And playing look-how-Zen-I-am is attachment to approval, if only your own. Throw in onlookers, and you multiply the delusion exponentially.

Zen is about acceptance. Sometimes you can't sit as well, or as often, as you'd like. Others you can, but you don't. But sitting is just a form. Practice is looking deeply, understanding cause and effect, adjusting what can be adjusted, and letting the rest go.

I can only do what's humanly possible, whether that's limited by outside obstacles or my own shortcomings.

Confusing religious conviction with political or social values. Like everyone, I selected my religious path largely because it complemented my existing beliefs. Zen practice has helped me grind off some sharp corners, but my principles are essentially the same ones I was born and raised with.

Fact is, morality is human and individual; religion can influence it, but is powerless to establish it, even in the ostensibly devout. It's too easy to mine scripture for self-justification, or sign your liability away to some charismatic leader who will, you implicitly believe, take the karma hit if her teaching turns out to be unskilful. (She won't. It's like your tax return: you can't sign away liability.)

Yet I tend to view those who cause suffering while espousing some other religion or theory as benighted; if only they possessed the Awesome Buddhist Truth, like me.

So what am I to do about Asia? Buddhism's been going on there for 2500 years. In many Asian countries it is, or was historically, the dominant faith; it packs at least swing-vote sway in virtually all of them to this day. So nirvana on earth must have been established somewhere in Asia by now.

Go on, Google it. I'll wait.

Right understanding means distinguishing between virtue and religion. Zen doesn't recognise any secret Masonic handshake that gets us out of dutch at the hour of our death. You either practice, or you don't. What you choose to call yourself while doing so is immaterial.

Thus the world is full of satanic Buddhists and angelic nonbelievers. When everything goes to hell, I'd rather answer to a Dietrich Bonhoeffer than a Saw Maung.

This is the irony all seekers must meditate upon and transform into insight.

(Photo of Tibetan delusion chopper courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and Walters Art Museum.)
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