Tuesday, September 20, 2016

fakin' a spiritual life

Among the encouraging morsels once heard along the Zen Buddhist trail, there was the snippet of the samurai who had not eaten in a long time. Despite his desperate hunger, still, he walked down the street picking his teeth as if he had just finished a fine meal.

When I first heard this encouragement, I was into what I now call my Marine Corps Zen phase: No sacrifice was too great in the path to enlightenment; determination and sacrifice were required; no effort was too extreme and each was worth the expenditure. Hunger was a minor matter when compared with the payback.

And even today I do think that a raw determination is required in spiritual practice and I can snort derisively in the back of my mind when someone waxes elegiac about the kind and comely efforts that can win the day. There are brick walls that bar the way and each awaits a crushing demolition. Namby-pamby won't cut it.

Kool! Picking his teeth! What a mensch! What a warrior!

But as time passed, my views changed. I really didn't agree that fakin' it was the way to go. Which takes more courage -- to pretend you are full when you are hungry or to admit you are hungry and perhaps beg for a piece of bread? Which is more honorable? Which is more honest?

It is hard to beg. Very, very hard.

Determination is required.

And honesty is a sine qua non.

I leave others to decide what pretenses are most useful. I just know that I prefer not to lie where there is no need to lie.


  1. I think faking is what the monkey mind does, not what the zen master does.

  2. That's why I stuck with an English zen framework instead of a theravadin ascetic's line of thinking. All has their inherent virtues, just as there is something sexy about an USMC outfit though I alwsys loved the 101st Airborne since my youth. Whether about your son or any soldier, war can be a very personal thing necessary as part of aging pains.

    Without the pain of being trapped in my military boots I wouldn't know the joy of wearing flip flop slippers at tertiary school. Without the confusion of living amongst the passions in the city, I wouldn't appreciate the peace of being in solitude. It is pretty dualistic.