Saturday, March 5, 2011

the goosebumps of life

Isn't it interesting -- everyone loves a nice surprise or something to be enthusiastic about, but as investigation and practice progress, the surprise element and the red-hot enthusiasm take on a different cast altogether.

Yesterday, a friend sent me a l-o-n-g-i-s-h article examining the Sanbokyodan approach to Zen Buddhism. It is the school in which I was more or less trained back when I was hot to trot, so I read about half of the article (it is in clear English) and then skipped to the end for the punch line. Sanbokyodan, the article said with care, lays emphasis on kensho, or direct seeing into our own true nature. It also suggests that lay people and monks have equal capacity to actualize their true nature. Sanbokyodan's approaches go lightly on text and context and encourage what is sometimes encouraged on television's "Blue Collar Comedy" shows: "Git 'er done!"

Step by step, the author looked carefully into things and I was lulled along, forgetting this, remembering that, but at every turn measuring my own experience against the suggestions made and conclusions reached. The particulars floated off the computer screen, bit by bit, drip by drip, particular by particular. I could feel the truth of some of it (my experience) and could agree with other parts (intellectual acknowledgment) and could zone out elsewhere (just not that interested), but by the time I got done I felt ....

Well, I guess I felt that what once might have been the excitement of getting a new car (look at that shine, look at that sleekness, smell the interior, brand new!) had been informed by taking the whole thing apart ... spark plugs, alternator, tie rods, light bulbs, floor mats, bolts, screws. It was still the car, still a spiffy form of transportation, but the orgasmic woo-hoo had dropped away. OK, seeing into your true nature is important from my point of view (and once had an excited smell of virtue and holiness), but ... well, after applying some investigation of the practicing particulars, it's just important. Not that important, but important. If this car gets me from here to there, isn't that what counts?

It's hard not to miss the initial enthusiasms that surprise can bring. I love a good WOW as well as the next person -- the punch line on a dirty joke, the painting that purely consumes me, the music echoing in the cathedral, the philosophy or religion that makes me feel as if I had come home ... the goosebumps of life. But if you love something or delight in it isn't there an imperative (I can't think of another word) to look into it honestly? I don't just mean intellectual or emotional fiddling ... I mean really look into it, body and soul.

It's a transition, I guess. From wow to some kind of revised wonder and something akin to contentment.

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