Tuesday, April 10, 2012


Is there a spiritual persuasion that does not proclaim itself to be superior?

Maybe so, but I am not familiar with it and there seems to be a clamoring throng in my mind, each member chorusing, "This way is the best spiritual way, the superior way, the way that trumps all others."

Intellectually and emotionally, this is enough to make a sane man snap, "A pox on all your houses!" Spiritual, cultural, financial ... let 'em all crash and burn... get thee and thy superior ways behind me, Satan! But that's just the sane man in anyone: Superiority, including the superiority of humility and virtue and clarity, is exclusive and the world around us seems to include everything without distinction. Life does not thumb its nose at life. It just lives.

A friend sent me a note this morning pointing out that in his later years, D.T. Suzuki, an early expositor of Zen Buddhism in the United States, contended that the Japanese culture was a superior culture in which to find a true understanding of Zen. I am not well enough read or versed to know if my friend's observation is true or not, but I certainly know of other expositors of Zen who embody this approach. The note depressed me because I could imagine it was true ... not that I knew it was true or planned to use a whole lot of time finding out. I don't approve of sticking my head in the sand, but I also don't have the energy for a meticulous examination of something I can recognize and address in myself: A superior man simply reflects an inferior capacity.

The best-est with the most-est. Intellectually and emotionally, superiority can be picked apart ... and with good reason. Intellectually and emotionally, such dissections make sense ... knock yourself out.

But in spiritual adventure, I think, the heart leads. Yearning, grasping, controlling, explaining, believing, loving ... the heart has its ways and dissections be damned. And (initially) what the heart loves is -- because it is my heart -- superior. I don't think there is any getting around this, so denying it is a fool's errand. In spiritual effort, a pedal-to-the-metal effort is the only effort I know of that is likely to produce an antidote to milquetoast results. If the thoughts and beliefs of the past could not produce a peace that honestly worked, then thoughts and beliefs, while not precisely bad, could not accomplish what the heart wanted to accomplish.

In the midst of a pedal-to-the-metal effort, the habit is strong at first: My way is the best way because, well, it's my way. The danger, of course, is that what is "best" is ipso facto "better" than some other approach. Mine is better than yours or yours is better than mine.

If, in the experience of the heart, superiority is a mug's game and yet the heart demands its superiorities....

And if moral relativism, in the experience of the heart, is another mug's game, rife with a cowardice that the heart will not put up with ....

Then perhaps there is just one choice: Pick your superiority AND get to the bottom of it. If every way and every culture is, in one sense, The Superior Way, The Supreme Path, The Ultimate Answer, The True God or whatever, then go for it. Prove it!  Don't lollygag about, persecuting others, flonging your spiritual dong whether overtly or covertly, building towering spires that are bigger and better, trumpeting "enlightenment" or "heaven" or "hell" or "compassion" ....

Every way is the superior way IF there is a willingness and determination to prove it. Otherwise it's just another case of debilitating, much-praised superiority... and lord knows we've all gone that route in the past. Maybe it's time to embrace the superiorities of the heart instead of just asserting them. Embrace and cling and assert and believe and ... get to the bald-faced bottom of it all.

Who, after all, is the "superior (wo)man?"

I haven't got a clue, but isn't it the clues that have screwed the pooch in the past?

I bow to your superior wisdom. :)

It all strikes me as something worth examining, however badly it is expressed here.

1 comment: