When awakened spiritually, you see there is no absolute difference between someone walking on water and someone washing dishes, between the so-called enlightened guru and the school janitor, between India and Portugal, between the flower presented on an altar and the wild flower abloom beside the interstate, between attending a prayer gathering and watching a comedy on television, between classical music and rock-n-roll. Grace is absolutely spectacular in being denuded of all garb of sensationalism, amazingly holy in being common. The so-called miraculous may happen, but truly nothing miraculous happened. This is the ultimate disappointment to an ego seeking a remarkable salvation, enlightenment, or liberation. When you spiritually are awakened, you see what you have been looking at and for before. Maybe you looked for Buddha, now you see Buddha everywhere. Maybe you looked for a return of Christ at the end of the world, now you see Christ appearing now and now and now. Now, does not this sound disappointing? Or, possibly, this sounds like a welcome relief to some? Yet, we need to be disappointed, profoundly so, in matters of spirituality, so much so we see 'spirituality' is only a word referring to nothing special at all, only to Life itself, to you, to me, to everything, even what stinks to the nostrils and is appalling to the eyes. Holy is holy, for holy includes the whole, not what an ego prefers, even a so-called enlightened, liberated, or saved ego.
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A disciple of Zen Master Kassan lived with the master. The disciple left to go on pilgrimage, deciding the instruction of Master Kassan was not suited to him. Everywhere he went, he heard persons praise Master Kassan as the most excellent among teachers. Finally, he returned. He greeted his teacher. He, thinking his teacher had hidden something from him, asked strongly, "Why did you not reveal your profound insight to me?" Master Kassan replied, smiling, "When you boiled rice, did I not light the fire? When you handed out food, did I not hand out my bowl to receive it? When did I ever betray you?" Hearing this, the disciple was awakened to Truth.
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Zen Buddhism presents three stages in our relationship to form, and this seems universally applicable, even if other frameworks are used in varied wisdom paths.
Initially, form is form. Here, what we see is what the object appears to be. A tree is a tree. Nothing special, unless we find pleasure in trees. Regardless, nothing is other than what it appears to be. If we have a friend, the friend is only a form, a body bundle of biological, psychological, and sociological traits. We could say, "Who are you?" And we might discover a person is only a person with a job, from a certain place, with a certain accent, being of a certain race, .... This is where most humans are in consciousness. You are what I see, nothing more, nothing less. We could call this materialism: I am a body, you are a body, that is a body. And, then, relating to that body, we relate through memory. Nothing fresh can arise here, only the 'past' as we perceive that 'past.' Any change is simply a change in the basic perception of form being only what can be seen and known through memory, in time.
Then, consciousness opens to a wider embrace, being form is emptiness. So, now I, you, that is only an appearance. We are, all is, illusion. I could say, "I have evolved. My friend is no longer a biological organism, known only in memory, a piece of meat with a story." And, "Rather, my friend is an impermanent manifestation of emptiness." Well, some might say "of God" or of "Brahman" or "of Buddha" or "of the Universe," or some other relative way of referring to this fecund Nothingness that becomes an appearance of you, me, the tree, the friend, the raindrop, the teardrop, ... The Buddha taught this, tradition says, and disciples got attached to this "nothingness" and began to disdain form, matter. So, rather than knowing you through you who are sitting before me and our talking, I know you by not knowing you as the person sitting right before me, whom I am talking with. I appreciate the saying I read recently, "I may be an illusion, but I'm a real illusion." Another way of saying this, "I may be a manifestation of Something else, but I am here, so, don't speak that nonsense to me of my being simply a nobody."
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Now, before going to the third, one matter is important to understanding why, at times, teachers and writers refer to our being "nobody," or an "illusion," and, at other times, that we are all but a nobody, all but an illusion, and oft clearly contradict themselves in other ways. For one, much spiritual guidance is dialogical, so responding to where a listener is. This would be like a person saying, "Do you believe in God?" And a reply, "Well, whatever you don't believe, I believe." Or, someone saying to one person, "Why meditate, when what is to be found is already, always here." And, to another person, or the same later, "Sit and meditate, and you will come to know the reality." So, apparent paradoxes in behavior or teaching can seem confusing, and rightfully so. Second, when speaking of the Absolute, we have only relative means. If I say, "You're a nobody," I could mean, "You're Spirit appearing as a self." Yet, you could hear, "I'm worthless" or "I am not really here, a total nothing." So, anything given as a teaching is wrong. And, when speaking or writing, we speak from one side of the whole truth and then another. This seems contradictory; it is, yet unavoidable if we say anything. Finally, spiritual teaching is not principally in content, such as in information giving and information gathering. Yet, for this day, I will not proceed much with that point. Simply know a spiritual teacher does not prioritize teaching, but being a means of Presence, or Being, or Truth ~ not truths or ideas or thoughts. A spiritual teacher is not concerned with you taking notes, but with you receiving what cannot be put into words, in any form.
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So, that leads to the next emergence of consciousness, form is form. Yet, this appears like before, simply form being form. Yet, the difference is one experiences the oneness of form and formlessness, or what appears and what is prior to appearance and makes appearance ~ all appearances ~ possible. The tree is a tree, the tree is much more than what is appearing as a tree. So, we are no longer escaping what makes a tree possible ~ That a tree manifests ~, nor are we escaping the tree. Connecting to the tree, I am connecting to the Source of the tree through the tree right before me, that I see, touch, and can put my arms around. Connecting to the Source of the tree, I am connecting to the tree; connecting to the tree, I am connecting with the Source of the tree. Yet, in the purity of communion, there is no thought of such, only the immediate intimacy with the tree you see or touch. In pure intimacy, no conceptualization arises, only immediate, total experience, or knowing. My friend, sitting before me, I appreciate as both the manifestation of Spirit and a real and fleshly human being, with race, ethnicity, a job or maybe retired, a marital status, preferences in eating, devotion to a religion or not, and so forth. Yet, I am not thinking about this communion, only in the communion, she and I being the communion.
This would be like saying, "God does not think of being God, just is being God." God would not believe in God or think about being God. God would have no conceptualization of "God" at all. God would never say, "I am God." Why would God need to? How could God say what God has no thought of? Only we humans seem to need to tell, or remind, God God is God. Even atheists employ a conceptualization of God to deny God is God. So, who or what is this God atheists do not believe in? ~ a thought like theistic thought, when the theist says, "I believe in God." Really, see, in thought there is no God or not God. Possibly, in thought the most pure affirmation might be something like, "The God that is, is not, and the God that is not, is." Yet, in Intimacy remains no conceptualization at all, no polarities of 'this' or 'that,' no 'yes' or 'no.' When you know the tree as the union of formless and form, Spirit and matter, you do not believe about or in the tree, you have direct, unmediated contact with the tree as a tree. The same with the friend. When in immediate communion with a friend, there remains no thought of trust in or not trust in ~ you each are within the flow of Grace happening, Love appearing again and again and again.
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So, in our story, when the teacher says, for example, "When you handed out food, did I not hand out my bowl to receive it?," he is speaking of this marriage of form and formless. The same happening arises with a person taking the Eucharist, when the priest speaks, "This is the Body of Christ" and "This is the blood of Christ." The Mystery is here, now, unveiled in complete unity, in this bowl awaiting rice, in this host being placed on your tongue. Grace is that close, as close as a bowl, as a small wafer made of grain. Spirit appears in communion with matter, so close inseparable, in a bowl and a wafer.
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Our challenge is the ego does not like this simplicity; the ego interprets simple as too simple or simplistic. The spiritualized ego glorifies spectacular manifestations, it wants fireworks enlightenment. It wants a renowned guru or roshi or channeler of some ancient saint, a marvelous VIP, not a just-joe or just-sarah as an example and means of Grace. Yet, the Sacred dresses up in the garb of the ordinary, the mundane, the common.
Grace is nothing special
that is why Grace is so special
to see Grace
where is Grace?
Grace so near
we miss seeing
you see Grace happening
in the intimacy of this here and now
so intimate ~
*The vision statement for Lotus of the Heart is Living in Love beyond Beliefs. These presentations, inclusive in nature, are invitations for persons to explore for himself or herself. Brian does not claim to have answers or the Truth for anyone. He provides pointers to Truth, so as to inspire others on his or her own journey of Truth, to compassionate living with Earth and all creatures sharing this planet.
*All material, unless another source is cited, is authored by the presenter of Lotus of Heart, Brian Kenneth Wilcox, Florida USA. Use of the material is permitted; Brian only requests that credit be given and to be notified at email@example.com . Also, for spiritual guidance via phone, Skype, or in-person, Brian can be contacted via the above email.
*Brian's book, An Ache for Union, is available through major booksellers.
*Move cursor over pictures for photographer and title.
The Sacred in Me bows
to the Sacred in You