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Memos From The Pure Land (AKA The Circle of the Way)

I'm here on the rebound from leaving another Forum. Their gain is your loss (or something like that). In Costa's getting my daily shot of caffeine, I always like to sit here waffling to myself.

The other Forum was a "spiritual" forum and was patrolled by a trio of old aunts who stamped on such expressions as "pissed off" which tended to put fetters on even such as I, a fine upstanding English gentleman.

Anyway, here I am. The Circle of the Way. Dear Jem is on my mind, and the New Testament verse:- You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life. "

The "me" is Christ, the Word, Tao, Brahman, Logos. IMHO. Also know as Grace, or in eastern terms, "original enlightenment".

I tend to call it Reality-as-is. Who can argue with that? (Though no doubt some will!) I think there is a thread here about having a chat with God. I tend to think all thought is chatting with God, or Reality-as-is. And if we have Faith in Grace/original enlightenment, then no word is ever wasted. Reality for me is the only "revelation", and with all things being the Circle of the Way, revelation never ends. The only extension to the present is intensity, and the only foil or frustration of the circle of the way are "conclusions". The journey is home.

Just to conclude, as my cappuccino is getting cold, an excerpt from the book "Eihei Dogen:Mystical Realist" by Hee Jin-Kim:-

Buddha’s holding up a flower in silence was his “speech” or expression. The sūtras, words, and silence—even an infant’s mumblings, the alcoholic’s “snakes,” and whatnot—were all the possibilities of expression that were in turn the activities of emptiness and Buddha-nature. To study them was to study the “reason of words and letters” (monji no dōri). Dōgen’s view was neither a derogation nor an idolization of language, but simply an acknowledgement of the legitimate place of language in the spiritual scheme of things. For this reason Dōgen’s emphasis was not on how to transcend language, but on how to radically use it.
 
I was a little confused upon returning to the Forum. It doesn't really take much these days as the brain cells pop into oblivion, but it was the dates given above the posts. "Tuesday at 16.07" suggested a degree of immediacy that I eventually recognised as being on the false side, especially when I saw it above a post I made a few months ago. In fact, that particular post gave me a Krapp's Last Tape moment of complete disconnection as I thought: - Did I write that? "I" did of course, but as the sages ask:- "Who is the 'I' ?"

Well, mentors are on my mind. I'm more into the world of what could be called "non-duality". A confusing term given the advice of some that non-duality must be realised within duality. (Or is it the other way around.......?) Obviously some see those giving such advice as being those simply creating even greater confusion, or as those simply wishing to be viewed as some sort of "sage", this to fill the collection box at the exit. But my own view here, non-dual at a simplistic level, is to not differentiate between "mentors" at any level; certainly not between so called "secular" and "spiritual". A mentor is a mentor as any Jewish guy will tell you. But more, I would apply the well known (well known in Japanese philosophy at least) of the "argument by relegation". Here one has to decide just what gets relegated. I see the purely secular, this worldly mentor as being subsumed within the "spiritual". This simply because the sage-like mentors, when you look closely, rarely bring "conclusions" to the table.

I mentioned being on another Forum recently. There I ran a thread on some old poetry that I had written long ago. Immature doggerel in many ways, but my thread was inspired (?) once again by thoughts of Krapp's Last Tape. Written some 40 or so years ago I sat and wondered. One such poem is this, relevant now as I waffle away in Costa's:-

Convention speaks
The heart is dead
Only the remembered said.

The mind revolves
Within its files
Choosing words
And picking smiles
To convey to watching eyes
If the heart laughs or cries.

But it does neither.
It is dead.
Only the remembered said.

So way back then, that observation of the "congealed" self/mind that speaks only from the past. Can we ever "speak" from a source of radical freedom? As I see it the secular mentors simply do not ask such a question. For the "sage", such is often the starting point.

This brings me back to Dogen, the 13th century zen master. Say "master" and the game is up around here. The self of convention dismisses him. Conclusions have been reached.

Dogen got dealt his own cards. 13th century Japan, the Buddhism widely prevalent at the time, his mother and father who molded the tiny child. So who was it asked the question? "Who am I"? Out of the cards dealt him, Dogen sought his very own unique time and place. I think he found it. Reading about him, reading his own words, I have immense respect for him as a human being. He had integrity - perhaps a word now going out of fashion.......do we even know what it means any more in our celebrity culture where, as far as the sheer suffering of our world is concerned, we all have the attention spans of goldfish?

Of course, we can be fools and simply make Dogen's time and place our own. But that was not his intention, nor should it be ours.

But yes, to get to the point. I resent any "spiritual" mentor, and "sage", Merton or Dogen or whoever, being dismissed by anyone simply because they emerge from out of a context already rejected by a congealed mind that has already reached its conclusions.

Myself, I think that contrary to Ecclesiastes, there is always something new under the sun. Found in radical freedom, which the "sages" (some of them) seek to reveal.
 
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Agnosticism has been mentioned, and atheism. I prefer saying I am non-theist. Agnosticism seems often to say, "maybe there IS 'something' but as we can never know, let's ignore the question", while the atheist states that there is no God. Both, to my mind, are conclusions.

(OK, insist non-theism is a conclusion of sorts!)

Conclusions end any possible journey, a journey which involves (ideally) something new each day.

What is the relationship between agnosticism (i.e. "we cannot know") and such assertions as the incomprehensibility of God/Reality-as-is? Between the via negativa, the way of unknowing, and the unknowing of an agnostic? I would see it as leaving the option open that their is something to BE. But not to "be" as some sort of final entity ( "saved" ) but to be a mind/heart of radical freedom. Such freedom must be born of "emptiness" (not the past of a congealed self). Becoming rather than being.

Dogen, as I understand him, speaks of a radical meaninglessness. "Meaning" cannot be born of meaning, of belief, but only as a unity/oneness with Reality-as-is. In theistic terms, "Love has no why" (Meister Eckhart). Unique in each moment.

Often in the west, searching for the latest quick fix, any "master" is seen as such, a master. Dogen is seen as the founder of Soto Zen, the "zazen only" school. Devotees take to the cushion, the zafu, commitment (even "authenticity") measured by the hours spent each day, back ramrod straight, arse numb. But for Dogen, zazen was both practice AND metaphor. Both symbol and the symbolised.

As metaphor his advocacy of it is transformed into an authenticity of each moment, whether "sitting" or not. Symbol and symbolised are in effect "one". It is our authenticity in each moment that is any sort of measure. Dogen sought his own authenticity, not "ours". He does not "teach" as such, not unless we are simply searching for our own (final) fix.

I pick up around here that many have been hurt by religion, particularly the Catholic Church. Fortunately for me the catholic guys are just the men in funny hats. I can read Thomas Merton without any shadow being cast. But I have been hurt by hard core Protestant literalism, of a kind that makes Billy Graham appear as a liberal. It does cast a shadow, from which there is no running away. I've found that there is simply no kidding myself about this. The shadow will stay until we step into the shade.
 
Back in Costa's, back to mentors, prophets, saviours, whatever.

In his Red Book Jung warned people away from following his path. "Who knows the way to the eternally fruitful climes of the soul" he asks. Jung was lucky - early on in life he had a fruitful dream, seeing a huge turd drop from the posterior of God, falling and crushing a Cathedral. For him the end of organised religion and all things west.

I just took a quick peep back to the Forum I have recently left and see one of its ardent protagonists posting:- "I am one of the world's top spiritual leaders." To his credit, he still claims to be far below Jesus, but as I see it that kind of misses the point. As Con quoted, "Don't follow leaders, watch the parkin' meters". Once a leader is followed, you find yourself soon parked up and paying the inevitable price. True mentors offer without price, barely knowing what they are doing.

I think of the beautiful paradox offered in a letter of Thomas Merton when he spoke of the Shakers:-

The Shakers remain as witnesses to the fact that only humility keeps us in communion with truth, and first of all with our own inner truth. This one must know without knowing it, as they did. For as soon as we become aware of "our truth" we let go of it and embrace an illusion.

Jesus as "leader" OR, alternatively, Christ/Tao/Logos/Buddha Nature. A "type" to emulate, follow, or a state of radical freedom, free of it all? Is that possible? I think so. Merton speaks elsewhere of only God being "free", and his faith is that "God is His own gift". You can convert all that into non-theistic language.....Reality-as-is, not "God", yet what is in a word? Definitions and conclusions can kill, there should be a warning sign on them.

Back to Dogen, seeking his own time and place, his own path. He knew of the Buddha explaining why he still sat in meditation even after enlightenment, or "becoming awake". "Out of compassion for future generations" said the Buddha. But Dogen was unsatisfied with anyone elses "answer" and sought his own. The "answer" is not in looking back or in emulating others, however honoured, but in finding our own freedom of mind, which is forever "empty" and therefore can always give the "appropriate statement".

It is quite interesting reading biographical details of Dogen's own search. One illuminating incident was when, in China, he sat in meditation with a group of novices. The novice beside him began to slip into sleep and the "master" gave him a wack, shouting out:- "How dare you fall asleep when you are seeking to cast off body and mind!?" Dogen gained great insight from this.
 
Typical. The most immediately obvious way to cast off mind and body is to travel metaphysically through dreams which are symbols of the undercurrents of your subconscious mind. It is always time travel as well because you think you are in a dream which lasts 20 minutes or more when you are in it but in a waking state you may realise you were only in dream state for seconds.

So the Master in that case punishes the student for using nature to seek the usual way to cast off mind and body and to travel through space and time unrestricted by such passing things as a physical state.

Perhaps the student should have slapped the Master back for his hubris and impertinence.
 
To be honest, the only thing typical around here is someone 1. Determined to slap down any "master" and 2. To advise us all that they themselves have all the relevant answers and 3. Demonstrates that they in fact understand nothing about any individual seeking their own answers. Hubris? Tell me about it.

Sorry, just pissed off with it. Feeling low. Over and out.
 
Back in the Pure Land and back to Dogen, minus his body and mind. Dogen deals with dreams and illusions and symbols elsewhere in his vast corpus and such need not detain me here, metaphysically or otherwise.

Dogen was the mystical realist (which says much). He was in the zen zone of authenticating everyday existence, this for the "return to the market-place" out of compassion for future generations. The dropping of body and mind is metaphor, it is losing the compulsions of the past, its congealed conditioning, and truly being in the present, where the only extension is intensity/authenticity.

One commentator has likened his outlook to that of Whitehead, of a constant advance into novelty, where everything is always new under the sun. Nothing is ever concealed.

As Hee Jin-Kim says:- Mystery, in Dōgen’s view, did not consist of that which was hidden or unknown in darkness or that which would be revealed or made known in the future. Rather, it consisted of the present intimacy, transparency, and vividness of thusness, for “nothing throughout the entire universe is concealed” (henkai-fuzōzō). Nevertheless, the mystery of emptiness and thusness had to go beyond this: intimacy had to be ever penetrated (tōkamitsu).

So although the "now" is all that there ever is, there is nevertheless, for Dogen, a "movement toward Buddha".

Well, yes, all nonsense, but I'm encouraged to post it by nonsense of equal absurdity here on this forum.
 
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