Friday, February 19, 2010

100 Possibilities

DHS 100/100

100 days, 100 sutras. Now what?

There are many books on my shelves that i pick up from time to time each year in order to reread certain chapters. There are only two books that i can think of, though, that i read once every year from cover to cover. Every year, with no exceptions. One of them for several decades.

The first is Arthur Gordon's A Touch Of Wonder, in which i first learned of that dreaded disease The Deadly Art of Non Living back in the '70s. I think i may know some of the chapters in this short book by heart, but every time i read it, it is like another breath of fresh air. He is a gifted storyteller and has a way of rubbing my nose in those obvious lessons i should have learned, but forget from time to time, without making me cry in pain. In fact, making me thank him for roughing me up again.

I went to the book shelves this morning to grab a DVD, and for some reason, my fingers instead grabbed the second book, Pure Heart, Enlightened Mind: The Zen Journal and Letters of Maura "Soshin" O'Halloran. It turned out to be a much better choice than the DVD would have been so i'll go ahead and reread it now and move something else back a week. Maura goes to Japan, takes vows as a Buddhist, wonders what the heck she got herself into, and her journal and letters home tell the story of her development and change over three years. I can't recommend this highly enough. Here's a short extract from later in the book:

Of late i feel ridiculously happy. No reason. Just bursting with joy. I remember when I was young, deciding to commit suicide at 26. Once one hit 30 one was over the hill, so 26 was far enough to live. I reckoned that if I hadn't got done by then whatever there was to be done, I never would, so I might as well end it. Now I'm 26, and I feel as if I've lived my life. Strange sensation. Almost as if I'm close to death. Any desires, ambitions, hopes I many have had have either been fulfilled or spontaneously dissipated. I'm totally content. Of course, I want to get deeper, see clearer, but even if I could only have this paltry, shallow awakening, I'd be quite satisfied. Facing into a long, cold winter is not only fine, but I know I'll enjoy it. Everything seems wonderful. Even undesirable, painful conditions have a poignant beauty and exaltation. So in a sense I feel I have died; for myself there is nothing else to strive after, nothing more to make my life worthwhile or to justify it. At 26, a living corpse and such a life!

I'd be embarrassed to tell anyone, it sounds so wishy-washy, but now I have maybe 50 or 60 years (who knows?) of time, of a life, open, blank, ready to offer. I want to live it for other people. What else is there to do with it? Not that I expect to change the world or even a blade of grass, but it's as if to give myself is all I can do, as the flowers have no choice but to blossom. At the moment the best I can see to do is to give to people this freedom, this bliss, and how better than through zazen? So I must go deeper and deeper and work hard, no longer for me but for everyone I can help. And still I can't save anyone. They must work themselves, and not everyone will. Thus I should also work politically, work to make people's surroundings that much more tolerable, work for a society that fosters more spiritual, more human, values. A society for people, not profits. What better way to instill the Bodhisattvic spirit in people? But they should work for each other, not for personal gain, and they shouldn't have to worry about economic muck.

Who knows but God-as-a-person may be tentative. We as people don't exist, nothing exists, yet for ease in conversation and life in general we use names and ascribe a tentative existence to ourselves and things around us. In such a way, perhaps, a personal God could be said to exist, but only in this labelling, not fundamental, degree, but existentially.

In a sense, though not his sense, Descartes was right — I think, therefore I am. It is the reflexive thinking that creates the isolated subject.

Couldn't have said it any better than that. What makes us who we are, what we are, the seemingly individual, isolated, distinct, separate from everything else, beings that we think we are is nothing but what we think we are. Eliminate those thoughts and the "I" disappears as well. Let the "I" slip away and the oneness returns to take its natural place. Or, more accurately, once the fog of "I"-ness clears, nothing is left to block your view of the oneness that has always been here and always will be.

But as Maura said, seeing that takes a lot (a LOT) of hard work and dedication. Perseverance in the face of certain hardships. A willingness to Be when all i want is to Become. A willingness to remain open to unimaginable possibility for as long as it takes for that to become reality. A willingness to accept that what you are is not what you think you are. A willingness to admit that everything you've been taught about yourself is a lie. A willingness to know that when i awaken you will to, and vice versa.

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