Friday, January 18, 2013

The "struggle" to "maintain spiritual beliefs": Who's struggling? What beliefs?

A few tweets....

Well, where to begin?

I saw their blurb for the movie, which I'd actually see under certain conditions which aren't particularly relevant to the point of this post.  They're not relevant because I'd want to see the movie to find out who the characters are in this documentary.

But the original tweet is what got me... a Buddhist journal, one of the prestigious ones, is, to raise money, if I'm correct,  showing a film "about the struggle to maintain spiritual beliefs."

For quite a few years I practiced Buddhism before I told family.  My mother's reaction was interesting; at first she said "Are they a cult?"   People are people even if they're Scientologists, even if they are  in a cult, or if they think they're not in a cult. 

I was hearing a dharma talk podcast by Genjo Marinello on a bit from Rinzai. (I'm going to be lazy today and render the Japanese versions of the names solely in romaji.)  He was reading a text that mentioned Sekkyo. My version of the story:

Guy later referred to as Sekkyo comes up to Baso with an arrow. He says to Baso, Any deer 'round here?" Baso says, "Who are you?" Sekkyo, traipsing all over the place with a bow and arrow goes for the obvious: "A hunter." Baso says, "Any good with that stuff?" Sekkyo, again stating the obvious says, "I have to be; I'm a hunter." Baso says, "How many deer can you kill with one shot?" Sekkyo replies, "One deer for one shot." Baso says, "Then you're not much of a shot. "Sekkyo says, "Do you know how to shoot?" "Yep," Baso replies. "How many deer can you shoot with one arrow?" "The entire herd with one shot." "But since they're all sentient beings, why kill them all?" Baso replies, "If you get that much, why don't you shoot yourself?" "How can I do that?," Sekkyo wondered...

Marinello reads this as about the value of life...there's more to the story, but that's what I've put up on Facebook primarily because I was struck by Sekkyo's and  Baso's understanding of what it is to hunt, and what it is to kill.  There's folks I know that I would love to be able to transmit that understanding.    My point is that the ideas of "spiritual" "beliefs" never enter here.

Here's a translation of the relevant passage from Rinzai:

Master Sekkyô‘s teaching was quite unique. He searched for a true person with the tip of an arrow, and all the students who came to see him were terrified.
As for this mountain monk‘s way today, it is genuine creation and destruction, playing freely with spiritual transformations. Entering all kinds of circumstances, wherever I go, I am unconcerned (buji). The surroundings do not affect me. When people come to seek the Dharma, I welcome them, immediately discerning their state of mind. But they don‘t recognize me. Then, I deliberately wear different robes. Students create their own interpretations and get drawn to my words and phrases.

What a pity! Blind idiots! Seeing the color of my robe, they notice it as blue, yellow, red or white. Then, when I take it off and enter the state of purity, they see me and become filled with delight and desire. When I relinquish that, too, they are at a loss, and run around crazily, asking where my robe is. Then I ask them, "Do you know who it is who is changing the robe?" Suddenly they turn around, and recognize me.

Virtuous monks, don‘t acknowledge the robes. The robes cannot move by themselves. It is the person who wears the robes. There are many kinds of robes, such as the robe of purity, the robe of the unborn, the robe of bodhi, the robe of nirvana, the robe of the patriarch, the robe of the Buddha. 

Virtuous monks, these names are none other than a change of robe. The breath coming from your ocean of vital energy brings your teeth and tongue into motion, thus expressing words. Clearly know that those words are like phantasms. 

Sekkyo's search for a true person succeeded, or so  I've read (and Marinello relates), when one of his students in sanzen  (参禅 ) when confronted by Sekkyo's drawn bow, replied something to the effect of opening his robe to reveal his bare chest and stating, "Well, that arrow can take life, but do you have one that can give life?"

There's a struggle, to be sure, to engage folks who are simply not using the data, so to speak, who are untutored in the 4 noble truths, etc. But it is not a struggle of belief in any way.  It's a struggle of engagement, of practice.

Of course, they are simply wearing different robes; we have robes they have never even seen, let alone put on. 

It's a hard lesson, because it's easy to express in ways that won't do a damned thing to make the situation better, that don't arise from seeing the 10,000 things that were just right to bring this arrangement of aggregates together to bring to the mind such phenomena. 

Looking at the gun ownership situation in the US, it's easy to engage the other side from a place where their minds won't be changed.    Moreover, the questions and issues put forth in Zen-land are probably quite frightening to these folks not using the data:  YOU WILL DIE! No matter who much firepower you pack and no matter where you pack it, and no matter against whom.  AND YOU ARE NOT SEPARATE FROM ANY "CRIMINAL" !

In response it's possible you'd get an attempt at a witty retort chortle past the graveyard, and a subject change. 

But they're still folks who've never seen the wardrobe, so all those words and images are like phantasms.

And of course, I'm not separate from any criminal, gun extremist, etc. etc. and neither are you.   But the Great Matter of Life and Death will neither be resolved with firearms nor is in any way relevant to per se, save as yet more aggregates, phenomena, etc.

Regarding  the extremists, thought, I just wish they'd consider how they appear, though...wish they weren't so fearful. 


Barbara O'Brien said...

Sometimes I check out what's in Tricycle, and it strikes me that most of the articles are by people who don't understand dharma very well. But then I recently moved -- about four miles -- and while packing I came across a box of Tricycles from the 1990s, when it was new. There were some good articles in them. IMO the later editorial staffs let it go to hell.

Mumon K said...

I totally agree. :-) Either that or we're becoming ...ugh... "mature" in our practice?