Monday, April 2, 2018

Already, not yet


The culmination of every spiritual journey is the realization of completion and unity. Many religions claim we are incomplete and must find the road to a far distant heavenly home. Johhny Cash made famous the song In the by and by therell be pie in the sky, meaning there will be a reward waiting for us in heaven if we do Gods will here on earth. Because we imagine incompletion we seek completion. Because we misunderstand our source and ourselves we desire fulfillment even though we are from beginning to the end already full. Our cup runs over with goodness and we remain thirsty for what is already ours.

Acceptance of the already and not yet is a seeming paradox. How can both be true at the same time? The answer as Pierre Teilhard de Chardin pointed out, is, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” Our true nature is spiritual, complete and there is nowhere to go. Our human nature is phenomenal in a process and we search for the already. We are like the man who looks through lenses, searching for the eyeglasses that sit upon his nose.

It was Zen Master Huang Po who expressed the doctrine of One Mind: “All the Buddhas and all sentient beings are nothing but the One Mind, beside which nothing exists. This Mind, which is without beginning: is unborn and indestructible. It is not green nor yellow and has neither form nor appearance. It does not belong to the categories of things which exist or do not exist, nor can it be thought of in terms of new or old. It is neither long nor short, big nor small, for it  transcends all limits, measures, names, traces, and comparisons.”

Thus the idea of mind over matter is absurd. Mind IS matter in the exact same way that Emptiness is form (The Heart of Perfect Wisdom SÅ«tra). Every atom of our material body is nothing other than the perfect integration of the One Mind and looking elsewhere for what is already ours is a fools journey.

The parable of the Prodigal Son is a story that reveals this truth.  The message of the Prodigal is the same as contained in the Song of Zazen written by one of the Zen giants (17th-century Hakuin Ekaku). Here are his words: “How near the truth, yet how far we seek. Like one in water crying, ‘I thirst!’ Like the son of a rich man wandering poor on this earth we endlessly circle the six worlds. The cause of our sorrow is ego delusion.”  What can be seen blinds us and keeps us ignorant of what is unseen. So, on the one hand, we are deceived by the conditional, discriminate nature of what we can perceive and on the other hand, our true nature is unconditionally indiscriminate, unseen but full. And out of our sense of incompletion, we are consumed by desire, not realizing that we already possess what we seek.

The noble winning poet Rabindranath Tagore captured the journey beautifully when he wrote, “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.” So on this spring day, reflect on the labor of your life. Are you laboring for becoming complete? Or are you laboring to accept your never-ending completion? It makes a difference.
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