Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Sailing With The Wind

While certainly not my last thoughts on the subject, this is where i'll leave these ruminations on Tariki: Embracing Despair, Discovering Peace.

Surprisingly, a month after having read it i'm no closer to answering the questions i had when i first picked up the book. Or, maybe that's not true and i did find answers — the tariki road is not for me and that has become even more certain. In a way, you could say that is an answer simply because it eliminated one variable in that hugely complex equation that we call life.

One thing that strikes me even today is the similarities i see between Itsuki's beliefs and that of Vedanta as laid out in the Bhagavad Gita. In several places throughout his book, Itsuki clearly states that he lives his days with the motto "There is nothing i can do" on the tip of his tongue. Amida is the final arbiter of everything he does. But, he makes it clear that that in no way implies a life of non-action.

Itsuki uses a very nice analogy in the book that addresses this issue. Picture a sailboat on a lake, a boat with only sails, no motor of it's own. Without an external wind, there is nothing it can do. The boat and the sailor will just sit, dead in the water, unless there is a wind to provide propulsion. How the sailor uses that wind depends on his strength and skill, how he sets his sails. All are provided the same propulsion, some use it wisely some use it poorly.

When there is no wind, though, a good sailor doesn't just lay on the deck and sleep, crying "there is nothing i can do." No, a good sailor is working on the boat, maintaining and cleaning it, making improvements, getting it ready for when a wind does appear, so that the boat, and himself, are in a position to make the best use of it. Non-action, doing nothing, is the fools way of waiting for the wind.

In the Bhagavad Gita a similar story occurs. In short, when Krishna takes Arjuna out between the two armies so he can survey the scene, Arjuna panics. On the opposing side he sees relatives, friends, teachers, gurus, and countless other people he can't imaging having to kill in the upcoming battle. He freezes in the indecision that overtakes him; do my duty as a warrior or do my duty as a family member?

Arjuna can't make the decision so throws down his bow and says he will not fight. Of course Krishna must have looked at him as if he is a complete idiot, and says "What? Are you an idiot? It's your duty!" When that didn't change his mind, Krishna tries several other approaches but the one i'm interested in is this: "Listen, your job is action, not the results of that action. You have control over what actions you do and how you do them. You have no control over the results of those actions. That's not for you to worry or panic over since it is out of your control. Just do the action to the best of your ability and accept whatever result may come."

From this angle, Jodo Shin Shu and Vedanta are on the exact same sailboat.

But, that's where i get stuck. I absolutely agree, i mean 100+%, that when we are honest with ourselves we have to admit that both Itsuki and Krishna are correct. All we can do is concern ourselves with is how we approach and do the actions we do. Any and all results are outside of our control. There are too many variables involved in even the simplest of actions for us to control the outcome. Outcomes our completely beyond our control. We can steer very carefully and very precisely towards our chosen port, we can be mindful of every variable we are aware of, masterfully correcting here and adjusting there, but who's to say that, at the very, very last second, a gust of wind won't suddenly appear and push us into the wharf? Who's to say it can not happen? No one can say that. It could. The results are out of our control.

I accept that as a given. I can do the best i can do in any situation, but know that the final result is out of my hands. It may usually/frequently/occasionally/sometimes end as planned and hoped, but it is impossible to say it will end that way every time, guaranteed. So why, then, do i not accept the viewpoint of tariki over jiriki?

I know i have a piece of the answer, but it doesn't completely satisfy me yet. The obvious answer is that this is not an either/or discussion. It's not that i think tariki has no merit and jiriki is everything, or that Itsuki thinks jiriki has no merit and tariki is the only answer. That's obviously not true as Itsuki laid out in his book (remember the yacht skipper).

The final dilemma comes, i think, when you try to view past the horizon looking for the wind. Itsuki sees Amida out there, i don't. Itsuki sees a Buddha ready and willing to help, i see nothing except the horizon.

Yes, the results of my actions our out of my control. Yes, i can only be certain of the effects of my actions to a limited extent. Past that point, though, uncertainty reigns. And that's where i leave it, at uncertainty. There is no one to pick up the slack and make it certain again. Nature takes its course, not Amida.

So, having written that, i guess i have one more post to write on the subject. About the henro trail and the Daishi. Maybe tomorrow.

Certain of nothing
The dice are scattered anew
A new day new life

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