Saturday, July 7, 2012

intense spiritual practice

For those who take the spiritual endeavors seriously, I think that such attributes as determination, courage, patience, doubt, zeal and a dash of suicidal wishfulness are probably required. Winkling out an assured and realized truth is not a sissy business. The vast spaces of such endeavors, the lands where no other man or woman walks ... well, it's not exactly easy. Others may praise or disdain such endeavors, but that's their problem. Where your life is on the line, well, this is not some kaffeeklatsch.

Not some kaffeeklatsch and yet how often those who take spiritual endeavor seriously go off the rails in their attempts -- sometimes attended by intricate and filigreed arabesques of language and organization -- to make it just that -- a kaffeeklatsch. Nor is this danger limited to the society of man. It also can be found lurking in the hearts of those who claim to take spiritual endeavor seriously: I am important and what I take as important gains importance from the importance others attribute to a serious spiritual endeavor. I am important; my death is important; therefore I really need you to see and agree with this importance. Such an approach, of course, belies any seriousness that might be attributed to or brought to spiritual endeavor.

And what is spiritual endeavor where the rubber hits the road. Basically, I think, it can be summed up nicely by that bit of dismissive wit, "get over yourself!" Easy to say and hard to do, perhaps, but I see no reason to gussy it up. Spiritual endeavor is a choice and failure to investigate and surrender to that point is, to put it mildly, problematic. You like scrambled eggs, I like fried ... no one gets their knickers in a twist while ordering breakfast in some greasy spoon: We look at the menu, the waitress comes, we order, she brings the food, we eat ... it's a choice. Who made that choice may be considered an important question ... or not ... your choice and mine.

Get over yourself.

Get over yourself and just don't stop. Don't stop with "serious spiritual endeavor." Don't stop with scrambled eggs or fried. A part of the seriousness of spiritual endeavor lies precisely here ... stop trying to stop things. Your choice and mine. Get over yourself.

The sticky wicket, for those who are serious in their spiritual endeavor, is this: There is no getting over yourself without getting into yourself, without using the very briars that bar the way, without surrendering over and over again to the 'delusions' of the self you hope to get over, without the willingness to fail and fail and fail again. Get over yourself -- what's so special about failure?

In Israel, there is a rising querulousness about the ultra-orthodox Jews -- the Haredim, a Hebrew term meaning "those who tremble before God" -- who have been granted military immunity based on the seriousness of their religious study. The question seems to be, does your seriousness exempt you from the obligations of the society you live in? Are you not a man like any other? The orthodox response seems to rest on a line that caught my eye in the story:

The best should study and the rest should work.
Leaving aside the social-equality explosions that can greet such an observation, still the assertion in the heart may remain. Spiritual endeavor is important because I am important and I want you to agree with my seriousness. Christians, Muslims and other favored religious organizations do precisely the same thing using other terminology and bringing other self-important, crowd-herding observations to bear. Bible, Quran, sharia, Ten Commandments ... all this is puppy love and yet who could not-love a puppy? Thank god for dictators... thank god for puppy love!

Buddhists are no different although they do have prescriptions for addressing the issue. But just because there are prescriptions for addressing the issue does not mean the issue will be addressed. Today, in email, I received and essay from my Internet friend, Christopher Hammacher. I have little doubt that "Zen Has No Morals..." which I plan to read later, will touch on the danger and harm that can be done when students fail to "get over yourself."

"Get over yourself" and yet it is only by entering hammer and tongs into the world of "yourself" -- only by acknowledging and implementing the fact that there is no other choice -- that there is even a scintilla of a chance for anything resembling success.

Writing so many words may make the whole issue of serious spiritual endeavor sound like some philosophical or religious plaything -- a Tinker Toy that anyone might address from a safe, intellectual, emotional and beard-stroking distance. OK. But I am interested in those who are serious about their spiritual endeavor, who put their quivering asses on the line, who walk into the desert where Jesus wandered for 40 days and 40 nights (Christ! If 40 days and 40 nights were all it took!), who put their lives, however reluctantly, on the line, who advance and retreat and advance again, who cry out for some benevolence to hold their hand and find that there is no hand-holder of whatever sort ... who are, in the end, serious people with serious concerns that ....

Are not all that serious.

Get over yourself.

This is a choice.

If you long for joy and peace and some happy ending, well, grab joy and peace and happy endings by the throat and never let go.

Eventually, if this is a serious spiritual endeavor, they will let go of you.

Scrambled or fried, eat your eggs.

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