Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Wisdom of Nothing

Something that you hear all the time, especially in Zen, is how this character or that character has "gained great insight", and so on.

This is a strange thing to say, but it is what you hear, and it is the way most people think when they think of Zen, or meditation.  It is also the way most teachers present it -- the achievement of this great thing -- something deserving of worship.

It is better to say that "insight" is the destruction of what is false, and that things are opposite what the teachers say.  Those of insight aren't to be served.  They are here to serve you.  That sounds crazy.  But it is the truth, and it only seems crazy because of what the traditions have become.

 Back in ancient China, in Lin Chi's time, this was the heart of the phrase "Host and Guest".  Those old monks could have chosen any words they pleased to indicate a comparative  level of insight.  They chose "Host and Guest". 

At first this seems strange.  Why not Master/Student?  Why not simply teacher/disciple?

Think about it.

It is the host who serves.  It is the host who, by his nature, is concerned with the well being of others.  It is the host whose job it is to keep those around him relaxed and comfortable.

This is important!  Because that is what real insight is.  That is the true expression of selflessness -- not a devotion to tradition or master, or a death to feeling, or a death to form, but, simply,  a heartfelt concern for others.

I made a point recently, regarding the problems in the spiritual traditions.  The point I made was that outside of the monasteries, people generally know how to behave.  If someone on your adult softball league starts going through people's gym bags, taking others' belongings, that guy will be given a talking to. He'd have to cut that out.  It wouldn't be tolerated. 

If someone walks around grabbing the crotches of the women, he wouldn't be on the team for long.

That's just the way it is.  That's the normal thing.  People don't want ugliness in their lives, especially at community events, like a softball game.  You want to make sure everyone's ok, and that nobody is harmed.

But it isn't like this in the monasteries.

Only in the spiritual traditions do you get strange behavior.

Nobody ever responds to anything I say.  I don't know why that is.  It was this way in the monasteries too.  Say something like this -- and I would, all the time --  and people just look at you for awhile.

They say nothing, and stare, before changing the subject.

I think they are thinking:  You don't get it, do you?  A softball game?  This is ZEN we are talking about.  This is the most important endeavor there is!  A softball game?  Are you joking?

And they talk and talk about what Buddhism is and is not, or what Zen is or is not, for years and years..  The stick their noses in books, to see what other bald people might have said, in similar situations.  They quote famous Buddhists of the past.  They search and search for someone, or some words, to help them figure out what to do.

My point, again, my old point:  Things are backwards.  The traditions take people away from what we all know.

In a real Zen practice, there would be no worship, of anything.  There would be a good deal of the things that, deep down, we all appreciate the most in our lives -- simple friendliness, cooperation, helpfulness, laughs, and playful challenge.

That is what serious Zen is, actually.  That is its expression, as silly as it sounds.

That's the truth.