Sunday, March 29, 2009

Standing On the Fence

Well, there you have it folks. You heard it from the man: You can't possibly be a practicing Zen Buddhist and an Episcopal priest. Jesus doesn't give you that option. The man in the pickup even hinted that the fires are being stoked down below to give the likes of me a warm reception when the time comes--me and the bishop-elect of Northern Michigan, the Rev. Kevin Thew Forrester. (By the way, Kevin is not an ordained Zen priest. He has taken the bodhisattva precepts, sometimes referred to as "lay ordination" in certain Zen circles.)

Frankly, I've given up labeling for Lent. Am I a Christian and a Zen Buddhist? Or am I not a Christian because I practice Zen Buddhism? Or am I not a Zen Buddhist because I practice Christianity? There are devout fundamentalists on both sides of the fence--Zen and Christian alike--who have said that one can't be both.

What it comes down to is this: I am who I am. I practice both. Tea anyone?

Instrumental in bringing many Christians to the practice of Zen, Yamada Roshi said it this way: Regarding the relation between Christianity and Zen, I think it can be thought of as two highways, going on separate paths, but crossing at an intersection. The two roads may seem quite apart, but where they cross is common ground. Now, if we take Zen as religion, Christianity and Zen do seem to be quite different. But their teachings have, at their intersection, a common area that belongs to both: the area of religious experience. (On Zen Practice:Body, Breath, and Mind; Wisdom Publications 2002; p. 75)

And the fruits of that unnameable essential experience are this: growth in love and grace. Growth in compassion and wisdom. Becoming fully human. Becoming myself.

You can call me what you like.


Geoff said...

You can call me Ray...

Great post!! I love this subject.

Regarding Yamada Roshi's comment, I find that "intersection" to be HUGE. So huge that it swallows the roads entirely. The roads are only roads. The intersection--of direct experience--is the heart. There, labels (which come from the roads) vanish.

Regarding the guy in the truck--I REALLY LIKE THIS GUY! He says it like he sees it. I don't sense great anger, only bewilderment. He articulates the issue very well.

It seems that humans grow along many dimensions simultaneously and that growth goes as it goes. If current research is to be believed (and it SOUNDS pretty good to me), along each of these dimensions, we grow in stages, with each stage being INCORPORATED into the next. And here's the key--you don't get to jump over stages. You have to grow THROUGH them.

I do think it is a stage of spiritual growth to believe that your road is the only road. It's something you have to go through and can't jump over. When you grow through it, you incorporate that stage and move beyond to the next. That incorporation is, apparently, a natural process. It's a kind of embrace. So if you have moved beyond "my road or the highway" you can still embrace in others, as you do in yourself, that stage of growth. Doesn't mean you have to lie down and let that stage take over. It's just a shift in relationship between people in different stages and states (which exist when you've completed a stage and "become" it). A relationship that allows both compassion and action to present the viewpoint of your stage. A relationship that avoids the hubris that so easily comes with thinking (perhaps rightly) that you are at the higher stage.

I see so much anger, so much intolerance, from "higher state" people, so much rejection of what they themselves have gone through and apparently forgotten. Doesn't work.

And, of course, it gets more complicated than that. Sometimes (maybe often?) the folks in the "lower" state can be ahead of those in the "higher" state, even in the same dimension (such as the spiritual)in certain ways. You may find someone like the guy in the truck who really, truely and completely "loves God", and his neighbor (with some rough patches here and there based on his current state) in a way that is completely stunning and humbling to you in that cozy "higher" state.

You can't ever stop listening to anyone. Ever. No matter where they are.

Goes just as strong on the political dimension where the intolerance and anger these days is just sad, sad, sad. It's like the 60's all over again, which was NOT the most of enlighted of times in this way, believe me.

Peace, brother.

David Heald said...

Many thanks for the thoughtful comment. I love this guy, too! Can imagine having a beer with him, jostling around in that pickup with,apparently, no doors!

Geoff said...

The no doors thing is amazing. And in the face of all of that, he takes the time and trouble to rig up a camera perch, locked to the pillar somehow. A door is not a higher priority than this--and he isn't in Florida. I'm guessing he holds forth whenever the mood strikes him and posts it on You Tube.

I just may take him up on his invitation to discuss...or maybe not.