Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Longing for Completion

I truly admire those people who remain single and alone and happy!  But it may be true that most of us seek a life partner, and that we feel most whole when we are in relationship.  When I was in my thirties and single, I desperately wanted a husband.   In fact, I felt lonely and depressed.  Everyone seemed matched up but me.

I met Brad when I was thirty-nine, and we have been harmoniously and happily married for twenty-five years.  Our marriage is amazingly effortless – what a gift!  But I am realizing that there is a deep longing, a kind of deep grief, even in the most perfect marriage. 

Brad longs for God, and I long for…well, I am not sure what I long for.  

I have been with yoga gurus and Zen teachers.  Whenever I have developed that deep bond of love and devotion with a teacher, I become overwhelmed with a sense of love and grief and longing.  I used to ask myself of Baba Muktananda, “What do you want? Do you want to sit on his lap?” I know that no teacher can satisfy that longing.  The teacher can only evoke that longing.

Recently a senior student at Everyday Zen asked me, “Were you held by your parents?”  I knew I was at the edge of a precipice when I said, “No.”  She helped me see that that longing and grief is primal, is pre-erotic.  One might be tempted, perhaps, to see this as a matter of poor parenting or a dysfunctional family (which mine became).  But I think it is much more than that.

Brad says that this longing is a gift.  I think it is a deep longing for completion.  All the yogic and Buddhist teachings say you are already complete.  Maybe, but clearly I don’t feel that!  Now what?

One could experience completion or wholeness in each person you meet.  On every meeting. This is remarkable to contemplate!  And one can certainly sense completion while being in nature.

I am wondering, now, whether this seeking for completion is never-ending, that completion is never complete.  While always seeking, always going deeper could be a good thing, I wonder if the grief and pain of separation will ever go away?

Friday, May 25, 2012

Irrepressible love

The Buddha taught skillfulness.  With intention, attention, and effort, one can approach the goal of freedom.  So if you have an afflictive thought/emotion such as anger or desire, he taught that you can identify that afflictive thought.  You can see that the thought/emotion will harm yourself or others.  In the same way, you can see that putting into action an afflictive thought such as anger or desire, one will cause harm to oneself or another.

He taught that having realized this, one can choose renunciation of the thought and action.

Wouldn’t this be wonderful!  But the deepest afflictive emotions cannot be reasoned with.  They cannot be persuaded to go away.  Yes, one can effectively restrain oneself from acting on these thoughts, but they may never go away. Over time – maybe long periods of time – the thoughts can erode into less compelling psychic forces.  But in the meantime what can we do?

I have a friend who is in a profound state of anger and shock, because her husband of fourteen years left without a word or a warning.  I have a former husband, who is now a friend, who is dying of incurable lung disease.  My friend and former husband have just fallen in love.  This is wonderful!   Love is irrepressible, as it should be.  There are deep, psychic forces, like love, that are irrepressible despite the “prognosis.”  Love is not normally thought of as afflictive, but it often is a cause of pain.

Irrepressible.  So maybe trying to make these emotions go away, or trying to be skillful to effect renunciation, won’t work.  What is left is to accept them, to live with them.  If the emotion is love, then whole-heartedly accept that loving, even though you know it could be painful.  My friend and former husband know that pain lies ahead.  He will die within the year, and she will lose him.  But they are going into this with eyes wide open, and hearts wide open.

To accept that there is suffering and pain, and yet to love with our whole heart is the nature of being alive.

Buddhism talks about “letting go.”  But it may be that letting go is the letting go of resistance – of pushing away, of trying to isolate and protect oneself.  Letting go may be a kind of surrender to your life as it actually is.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Soto Zen Hierarchy (2)

It feels safer to have postive thoughts about one’s religious practice.  Devotion and faith and being positive are essential, but one cannot throw out one’s critical thinking. 

I read that scholars have shown that this direct, one-to-one, historical lineage, beginning with the Buddha, is religious fiction. It is a religious myth.  [Although I don't need scholars to tell me that; it seems obvious]

The myth of lineage – not limited at all to Soto Zen – legitimizes and verifies internal structure and hierarchy.  It is a kind of governance and control of who has the power within the organization.  This control does serve the important function of creating coherence and continuity of practice. 

In its most powerful and beneficial aspects, myth of lineage reveres all those who have preserved and brought to us the tradition and practice of Soto Zen.  It honors and remembers all the practitioners that have caused our practice to be what it is today.  Without them, there would be no cohesive practice.  It is the flow of life. 

It is a flow of awakening and buddha-nature, and that is why I felt joy to receive the women's lineage papers from Norman and Chris.

On the other hand, I think we have to see through this.  We need to remember that it is myth. I don’t  believe that we should reify lineage or worship it.  Particular placeholders in the lineage may have existed or not.  And there are the myriad of unknown male and female practitioners who have practiced and influenced our practice who appear on no lineage chart.

This morning I read these words of Dogen:

When you find your place where you are, practice occurs, actualizing the fundamental point; for the place, the way, is neither large nor small, neither yours nor others.  The place, the way, has not carried over from the past, and is not merely arising now.

To me, this says it all.  Lineage is a beautiful and necessary metaphor, but it is empty of intrinsic reality.