Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Coming and going.


To a person of Zen, words are a mixed blessing. They can lead you astray or open your mind to the music of the muses. One of the greatest mystical poets of all time is Rabindranath Tagore.  Sadly, while he lived, he was little known outside of the Calcutta area, and not known at all outside of India. He and Lao Tzu awaken in me a purity of heart unmatched by others.

One of Tagor’s resonate themes is opening doors. Here is one facet from his poetic jewel “Journey Home.”

The traveler has to knock at every alien door to come to his own, and one has to wander through all the outer worlds to reach the innermost shrine at the end.

All of us are travelers searching far and wide for what is closer than our own breath, seeking what has never left us. In our minds eye we imagine an indwelling presence of ourselves, which we separate from what that presence witnesses. To Lin Chi (the father of Rinzai Zen) such people are spiritual dilettantes. He said, “Zen students today are totally unaware of truth. They are like foraging goats that pick up whatever they bump into. They do not distinguish between the servant and the master, or between guest and host. People like this enter Zen with distorted minds, and are unable to enter effectively into dynamic situations. They may be called true initiates, but actually they are really mundane people. Those who really leave attachments must master real, true perception to distinguish the enlightened from the obsessed, the genuine from the artificial, the unregenerate from the sage. If you can make these discernments, you can be said to have really left dependency. Professionally Buddhist clergy who cannot tell obsession from enlightenment have just left one social group and entered another social group. They cannot really be said to be independent. Now there is an obsession with Buddhism that is mixed in with the real thing. Those with clear eyes cut through both obsession and Buddhism. If you love the sacred and despise the ordinary, you are still bobbing in the ocean of delusion.”

If we listen with open minds we can hear the connection between Tagore and Lin Chi. There is one who travels and one who is found. The traveler knocks on a billion alien doors and in the end returns to find the one who has never moved.  Guests come and go and the host never leaves. The Buddha lived in India 2,500 years ago. Lao Tzu lived in China at roughly the same time. Lin Chi died in 866 CE and in 1913 Tagore received the Nobel Prize for literature. The lives of these men span a very long time yet their voices resonate with a common echo.

After all this time we are still chasing and becoming attached to the moving rabbit, unable to notice who is doing the chasing. Buddhism has begun to capture the attention of the western mind but sadly it still dwells on the bobbing at the expense of the one noticing the bobbing, and as Lin Chi says, “Now there is an obsession with Buddhism that is mixed in with the real thing. Those with clear eyes cut through both obsession and Buddhism. If you love the sacred and despise the ordinary, you are still bobbing in the ocean of delusion.” In our world today we enshrine the sacred and spit on the ordinary. No wonder in our time we are reaping the poisonous fruit of divisiveness. 
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