The Good Fortune of the Contemplative Path
Many might well question, as some often do, the solitary life….a life that directs itself towards the heights of Nirvana….in a singular way….towards the emptiness of not needing anything in particular. Many seem to worry that this Way is not the Way to know much more than loneliness and misery of wanting the company of others.
A solitary, contemplative path of an inner insistence towards knowing often begins in some unsettled place coming from the recognition that the material world is disappointing as well as disenchanting. This recognition is a good fortune, if one is able to withstand the constant but fading pull to try once again to fill the inner yearning with something tangible, concrete….material.
If one defers the need to go after some thing, one has a chance to enter deliverance.
Deliverance comes with a stop gap. A temporary, sometimes makeshift ability to reel in yet another of an umpteen attempt to find satisfaction in things that are of the nature to decay, fall apart and disappear. It is a precarious place. Deliverance often feels as though the material world is on the other end of a tug of war where the material world will be declared the winner. But this feeling is a ruse.
But….it may become a haunting ruse….in the myriad shape of a distraction…promulgated by the propaganda of the conventional world….to get involved and do something.
The effort to flee the grips of this propaganda one must study and relinquish any form of pride and hate. In this case, pride may take the form of worry, wanting regard, concern for a reputation, fear of loss….just to list a few. And since hate is a familiar pal to greed it stokes up dislike, fretting, fear and loss.
When we are prideful we tend to defend our position with decrees: this is how I am…. I am the type to….I can’t stand the way things are going. We want to alter the world….have things my way rather than relinquish the ego-lord that is spearheading this attack on anyone or anything that dares to challenge it.
The ego-lord has to be forgotten as a conventional character who can never make the climb to the summit. It is to be studied….forgotten….deemed incapable….surrendered.
The first surrender is to realize the ego-lord is not capable and never will be capable of liberation. Liberation requires leaving the world of the ego-lord for a higher transcendent ground of being. For the being of Shi Ke’s harmony.
We must want to accept that the material world will be forever dissatisfying, disappointing and disenchanting. We get a chance to accept everytime we experience the changing nature of the material world….but we miss the opportunity when we keep trying to get Samsara out of some thing that will never give it….it’s when we realize in our experience that trying to get blood out of a stone is a delusion.
In Zen it is often expressed in two words: Leaping Clear. But many times we don’t know what this means. What is in need of the clear leap? In the Genjokoan it speaks of Leaping Clear of the Many and the One….again this may be fuzzy as to what the many and the one are….it is referring to the clear leap from the ego-lord (one) and the material world (the many) the stuff the ego-lord gets attached to and deems valuable. Together, the many and the one form the delusional world.
We already know there are good days and bad days….we already know the unreliability of the material world. But when the ego-lord is in charge, untamed….still fighting….it keeps trying to get blood out of a stone. It does not leap clear. It keeps arranging and rearranging the many things in the world to get liberated, to find paradise, to be at peace, to find happiness….to live a simple life….but not the higher ground of being explained in Ming Zhen’s On Samsara.
(Drawings on this essay were painted by Yao Xiang Shakya)