Saturday, May 5, 2012

the temple without an exit

I put down this inept bit of writing on an Internet Buddhist bulletin board and decided to put it here as well. The issue is one that really can light my fuse ... tant pis pour moi:

At the risk of beating a dead horse and at the risk of seeming somehow insulting to others, I would like to add this personal (and sometimes infuriated) observation. It is based on 40 years of Zen practice and a simultaneous interest in spiritual life in general.

Here is my bias:

Any religion or spiritual persuasion that does not include as a matter of course an exit from that religion or spiritual persuasion is immature at best and cruel -- obscenely cruel -- at worst.

Buddhism, for example, sometimes describes itself with the metaphor of a raft crossing the swirling waters: Once having reached the destination, the raft is left behind and the traveler pursues his or her travels. The door that is marked "entrance" on one side is marked "exit" on the other. This is vital.

Other spiritual persuasions do not offer such observations, insisting instead that their organization or church or temple or ministers provide the only and unquestionable avenue to a peaceful life.

This issue is complicated by the fact that most who come to spiritual life do so in a search for relief of one kind or another and may feel purely blessed to have found this sanctuary. The perfectly human tendency is to feel a great gratitude to whatever spiritual format has been chosen. A mental "thank God!" And the idea of leaving such blessed confines is anathema: Any seeker knows from experience what difficulties lie outside the door marked "entrance." It was those difficulties that propelled him/her through the "entrance" in the first place. And having found a refuge, a place of safety and good sense ... who in his right mind would want to leave? There are spiritual organizations that make vast amounts of money and gain vast amounts of power by deliberately not addressing this issue directly. But money and power are not the worst of it. The worst of it is that this approach is a very cruel lie.

It is good to seek refuge and OK to feel a sigh of relief. Which of us hasn't felt it? We are blessed by the organizations and templates we join or exercise. But the relief of the wounded child is no way to live a life. Heal the wounds, yes. Find ways to revise a previously-unsteady or uncertain mind, yes. Thank the formats of spiritual endeavor, yes. But with practice, notice the "exit" sign that beckons, much as the "entrance" sign once did. Playing the wounded child forever is a pastime that does not speak well for any but the immature spiritual endeavors.

It may be scary -- the idea of walking through the door marked "exit." But for any who have practiced, the only thing scarier is NOT walking through it. In its time, the blessing is truly a blessing ... right up to the moment (and the moment must come) when the curses become apparent. Any grown-up religion or spiritual persuasion acknowledges this. It does not rush its children to recognize the obvious any more than a good mother or a good father rushes a six-year-old to be 25. A grown-up religion or spiritual persuasion knows its children must grow up. It does not rush them, but neither does it ham-string them with some cruel pretense that they must remain in some tidy, well-organized and nourishing home... a place marked "no exit."

I can get pretty cranky about religions and spiritual persuasions that, under a banner of love, do not love their children. Such a course is cruel and immature and, I suppose, human in its inhumanity.

I get cranky ... and it's just my problem.

End of rant.


  1. Try defining home just as one might have challenges defining what zen or simply an exit may be. As a child as my dad was a sailor and my mother a blue collar I found my gramps babysitting me since I knew what language was. Hardly ever get to see my dad and mother is perhaps known only when sight was still infant-ish and unclear. Grew up realising that home is perhaps where the heart is, just as zen or exit(s) are perhaps where the heart is, too. These are days when heck it is funny that I feel for this blog so even though it is theoretically and technical impossible for anybody to dwell in some insubstantial cyberspace, ain't I living in some virtual or physical space to begin with? Experiencing love and kinship or family or home in empty space, growing up and getting married and having jobs in empty space, that kind of a sh*t and ur*ne also in empty space. Then I recall in college a physics teacher who look starkingly wise like u :P, once remarked if u drill down existence into the smallest form u get an atom however if u drill down further u get 99% empty space and 1% energy. That was when all my conversations with God over the internet also began =)

  2. My dad for all the drinking he does ain't very supportive of me getting a tattoo -- have u gotten one like ur son's already?