My Zen teacher, Kennett Roshi, often talked about the danger of quietism. By this she meant that it is no good thinking that one has arrived at the perfect understanding or the perfect organisation or the perfect practice. There has to be an endless dialectical process to re-invigorate the practice or things become stale and then become narrow. Wherever we have got to, there is always a next step. It is not that that next step takes us closer to the goal, it is that taking next steps is the goal. As soon as we stop doing so, we fall out of the Dharma creating a gap “as great as that between heaven and earth”.
In a spiritual community there should always be some grit, or it does not produce pearls. The Buddha Shakyamuni had many disciples and his leading ones were very different personalities. There was plenty of dynamic between them. Honen Shonin also had many disciples and after he died there were many different ideas about the precise meaning of his teaching. Different groups were in competition. The result was that Pureland in one shape or form spread all over Japan and became the most popular form of religion in the country. Since the second world war, Nichiren Buddhism has approached similar status and, again, we see many different Nichiren groups in competition.
Competition, debate, and airing of different perspectives can become conflict and go over into a destructive mode. There is, therefore, a middle path to be found between quietism and conflict - between death and destruction, one could say. On the middle path there is life, joy, respect and a continual ‘going beyond’. If we lose this spirit of adventure and exploration, then the Dharma decays. When we have it there is a vibrancy and the Dharma continues - we are all young at heart.
Although I have retired to the country, I am by no means retired in any other sense. We talk about going 'on retreat', but perhaps should be talking about 'advance'. Rather, instead of talking about it, we should be living it. There is no end to this path. The Dharma is not bland - there is always some pepper and salt and sometimes a dash of curry powder too.
Too many people are looking for the one right answer or the one right way. When you find it, give it a good kick and see if it says anything. If it gives a shout, then ask it the direction to somewhere it has never been.
yes certainly some pepper and salt... I like a good curry anyway! :-) Namo Amida Bu
No mud no lotus...right!? Namo Amida Bu( :
Thank you for these words Dharmavidya. But I feel this experience of taking part of a sangha far away from me… And what happens when one is alone, I mean, when you have not a community to share your practice? Sometimes I feel I am always doing “my practice” in my “particular” way. I think that being in touch with a sangha can help you to challenge your practice, formal and concrete, and I would like to have some dialectical experience in this sense, but really I practice as I feel…and I suspect it must be too much comfortable sometimes… And, besides, I think that this dialectical experience may be challenged but also supported by the sangha, which becomes part of one’s refuge, that is why I find it quite more difficult to find this advance being alone. Those of you who take part of a sangha are very lucky. And those of you attending to the winter retire also are very lucky..
Of course when practising alone one also finds grit and pearls. So there is challenge as well. Of course being in touch with all of you and all these teachings, via Eleusis, is also very inspiring and has become an important guide and support, so there is refuge in some way as well... I suppose that practising alone is part of the way :)
Thank you Carol and Nati for these observations. You are both a long way away but I hope we shall be able to see you both somehow before too long.