*Brian Wilcox. 'The Sun Sets'
I read of a man, when visualization was a wide-spread fad decades ago, who was fascinated with it. He had difficulty doing his everyday duties, including at his workplace. Every chance he got, he was listening to his cassette recorder and visualizing. Where was he going? Somewhere outside his skin?
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In a Sunday morning worship meeting, the Sage told this tale:
A young beginner monk went to the Abbot. He said, “Father, if Jesus visited us today, what do you think he would teach us?” Replied the Abbot, “I think he would teach us how to be human.”
On another occasion, a man neared the Sage. He asked, "How can I tell when I've become more spiritual?" The Sage said, "When you've become more human." "Then," the man asked, "how can I know when I've become more human?" The Sage said, "When you've become more spiritual."
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The above stories are reminiscent of a Zen Buddhist story.
A monk asked Ummon: “What is Buddha?”
Ummon said: “Dried dung.”
In a more palatable way for many, but less striking, Ummon could have said, "A lovely rose" or, less appealing, "Everything."
Where is the separation between Buddha and dung, or a lovely rose, or everything, except in the mind? If Buddha is more than dung, does this mean Buddha is not dung?
This same can we not say of Christ? Is not Christ more than a man Jesus? If more than the man Jesus, where does Christ begin and end? Where is the boundary? After all, persons over the world claim to eat the body and blood of Christ weekly?
Yes, to equate Buddha with dung is a reductionism. Yes, to equate Christ with flesh and blood is a reductionism. To separate the two is a reductionism, also.
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The Sage was asked, "When shall I know I've arrived spiritually?" Said the Sage, "When you see you've traveled far and gone nowhere."
When you arrive in the world of Spirit, you arrive where you were all along. When you arrive there, you will still be wearing the same skin as when you began, though it will be more worn and decorated with more wrinkles.
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In the Kuòān Shīyuǎn's (1100s) Ten Bulls, or Ox Herd Pictures, the final stage of the spiritual Way, "In the World," reads:
Barefooted and naked of breast,
I mingle with the people of the world.
My clothes are ragged and dust-laden,
and I am ever blissful.
I use no magic to extend my life;
Now, before me, the dead trees
This final stage comes after the eight steps that lead to the ninth, "Reaching the Source":
Too many steps have been taken
returning to the root and the source.
Better to have been blind and deaf
from the beginning!
Dwelling in one's true abode,
unconcerned with and without -
The river flows tranquilly on
and the flowers are red.
The Ox Herd Pictures portrays one who becomes one with the ox bull - this being our essential self -, the union of the self with the natural energies must be brought into harmony. This set of pictures from Zen Buddhism is a classic look at how the awakened being cannot simply rest in the tranquility of nirvana, or heaven within. As long as we are in the body, we are a human being among humans beings, a being among beings.
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The Sage knew a woman who prided herself on being a recluse. She relished speaking of the world as evil and the need for living a holy life. The Sage asked her, "Why do you think it better to remove yourself from the world?" She said, "Well, being a Christian, I follow Jesus's words." The Sage asked, "And what are those words?" "You're in the world, but not of the world," replied the woman. The Sage said, "While I appreciate your sincerity, you've misread that." "And how?" came the reply. "Jesus didn't say to get out of the world, he said you're not of the world. There's a big difference."
The sage Jesus spoke, "You're in the world, but not of the world." In the Gospel of John, "world" refers to the world system, the culture. It does not apply to the physical world, as though being on Earth is a problem or persons are innately evil. Of importance is that Jesus says he offers no escape from being in the world. We can choose not to belong to the system, and we need to, but we cannot rightly decide not to be in it.
Our flesh is the flesh of the world. The transpersonal of Life manifests in the personal of you, me, everyone, and everything. The Way weds Spirit and matter. In the Light, all is in Harmony. As witnessed among the closing words in the Ox Herd Pictures, when the self says: "I go to the marketplace with my wine bottle and return home with my staff."
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©️ Brian Wilcox, 2020
*Brian can be contacted at email@example.com; his book, An Ache for Union: Poems on Oneness with God through Love, is available through major online booksellers, including Amazon and Books-A-Million, or via the publisher, AuthorHouse.
*Ox Herd Pictures in Paul Repps and Nyogen Senzaki, Ed. Zen Flesh, Zen Bones.