Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Long-Lost Home

In preparing for a workshop this weekend I'm calling Zen Gifts for Christians, I came across this favorite quote from Peter Matthiessen:

Zen has been called “the religion before religion,” which is to say that anyone can practice, even those committed to another faith. And the phrase evokes that natural religion of our early childhood, when heaven and a splendorous earth were one. For the new child in the light of spring, there is no self to forget; the eye with which he sees God, in Meister Eckhart’s phrase, is the eye with which God sees him. But that clear eye is soon clouded over by ideas and opinions, preconceptions and abstractions, and simple being becomes encrusted with the armor of ego. Not until years later does an instinct come that a vital sense of mystery has been withdrawn. The sun glints through the pines, and the heart is pierced in a moment of beauty and strange pain, like a memory of paradise…. That day we become seekers without knowing that we seek, and at first, we long for something “greater” than ourselves, something far away. It is not a return to childhood, for childhood is not a truly enlightened state; yet to seek one’s own true nature is, as one Zen master has said, “a way to lead you to your long-lost home." 

(From the Foreword to Zen Meditation in Plain English; John Daishin Buksbazen; Wisdom Publications)

(DSH Photo: Early Morning Light; 2007)


Sukie Curtis said...

For almost anyone in the light of spring, there is no self to forget...such is the delight of spring. At least it's easier to forget self in the light of spring and all its marvels.

Geoff said...

That's a lovely quote, and one I think that hits the nail squarely.

I track my own spiritual life from a moment standing in a field behind my childhood home in Marshfield, Massachusetts, on my way to nowhere in particular in the woods beyond. One moment idly scything the tall grass with a random stick, the next absolutely transfixed by the beauty in front of me. Just a field and trees--but with a difference. A field and trees suffused with such amazing everyday beauty. And "I" was "that". And "that" was "me". Not a personal "I". Not a personal "me". Just essence. Oneness. An opening. (Like Brother Lawrence and HIS tree.)

Years later, after a little training of the mind at prep school, I went back. Same sort of aimless day. Same beauty. But...nothing.

I had openings in between, but it was mindfulness training that restored access to that beauty on a regular basis. Some clear wall came down, a wall made up of being far too taken with thinking, and of projects, plans and deadlines and everyday concerns. I felt it go, leaving me again with the direct contact of my childhood.

So, I understand that statement about the religion before religion, because Zen is very insistent about this direct contact. Buddhist practice has always been a joy because it points right back to that first experience of One. Just a field and trees.