My faith feels more about being supported by some mystery, maybe another word for that is my enlightenment Thomas, words are a constant problem and blessing. I have through most of my life dislked the word enlightenment and the word blessing too, and yes I dislike the word power in the sense of us having self power. but it is a seductive concept. For instance- to place absolute faith seems to me like an action, a self power; my sense is I am totally powerless, faith embraces me. No choosing about placing faith; faith is something from beyond doing. but, from practice faith may grow; so mysterious!
I wonder whether I should even write to discussions about which I am not familiar, never having practiced Zazen. Is there an intent in practice? An intent to do nothing, an intent to open to faith, an intent to save all sentient beings. It seems that from practice faith may develop, but not if we practice from wanting to find faith.
And let me finish with words i really like, there is no hierarchy in spiritual practice. that's heart felt. Namo Amida Bu
Thank you very much Robert,
I think your points are very profound and correct. Zazen is a way of eliminating self power or other power by noticing every time it arises in practice. The repeated attempts to free oneself from bondage end in surrender. There are many supports for early practice in Zen - precepts, vows, but ultimately it all has to go. All religious ways use other power as an expedient. It can be faith in a guru or a doctrine or God or Amida or a Zen Master - ultimately all of these dualistic faiths must fail or lead to disillusionment. I think they are neccessary - but ultimately a temporary phenomenon.
One of the problems is that when one talks about the ultimate or absolute whatever one says fails. To say, "The Truth is in the silence before the words" for instance, might well be true but if one really really believed it would one say it - would one not actually refrain from saying anything, but simply dwell in the silence? However, it seems to be a fact that Buddha did not remain silent. He spoke words of wisdom and for the most part they were couched in the language of this "relative" "dualistic" world. This was because this is where we live. Any of us who don't are not taking part in this discussion - they would not be able to. In this life, we are never really doing nothing - though we might aspire. We do therefore have to choose and this involves power. If one were successful at "eliminating self power or other power by noticing every time it arises in practice" one would be exercising some kind of power in doing so. Other power may be an expedient, but so is all teaching and all practice. "I think they are neccessary - but ultimately a temporary phenomenon" has to be correct in principle, but we are temporary phenomena and that is why they are necessary and "necessary" is probably as close to "real" as we get in this life. While many of these kinds of statement have some truth value, what really matters is their usefulness value - and, especially, usefulness to limited creatures such as ourselves living in a conditional world. Matt pointed out that a good deal of the difference here is simply in style of rhetoric. The rhetoric is, surely, to give us some means of hailing what is beyond the state that we find ourselves in. No doubt, Amida Buddha is unconcerned about self-power and other-power and if, one day, I am ever in the same blessed state won't that be nice. For now, however, II'm happy to go on saying my nembutsu, doing zazen, singing hymns and eating my toast.
Is it all self-power? Is it all other-power? Is it a mix of the two? Is it neither? Probably, for most of us, there is an intuition of the Beyond and sometimes a flicker of awareness of It working in our own life, and plenty of what seems like wilful self-effort, and a good deal more that is just the blind unfolding of karma. I am glad that somehow, by some miracle, I have discovered a smidgen of faith in something hard to define, murky and confused, just over the horizon. I'll go on calling to it, not so much in expectation of submission, arrival, enlightenment or even personal improvement, but simply because it feels like the most honest thing to do at the moment.
Thank you all for the discussion. One thing I do very much appreciate is intelligent conversation. Super. Namo Amida Bu.
Thank you David,
I do not mean to suggest that there is any deliberate attempt at elimination. It is seen that the reliance on either self or other power diminishes. Something else takes it's place gradually.
Thanks Dharmavydia, and all above, for the recent posts. This last post sums up very well what drew me (in Amida Shu's teaching, and others') to nembutsu, and what sustains my sense of gratitude for it.
Thomas, your last few posts have meant alot to me, especially your remarks about all such distinctions collapsing in practice. Certainly I would say, to borrow form Dharmavydia above, that I hear what your are saying, both here and elsewhere, as a familiar 'zen rhetoric', but I do not mean to dismiss it or distance myself from it, thus.
In fact, in many ways I hear a clear presentation of my unchosen and inescapable experience in what you are saying. To adopt, however provisionally, a 'belief' in Amida's saving power is to inevitably encounter the collapse or 'drying out' of such a belief.
Even to sidestep such a statement of belief by saying ' I simply believe in the value of calling to Amida, I have no actual belief in a being called Amida' makes little difference - that too is a conviction that will empty out, sooner or later.
I find in the 'Pureland rhetoric' a way of understanding practice that allows me to befriend this experiential truth, to rest easy with the comings and goings of my own little confidence (so easily tipped into dismay and worry).
Something else came up, reading your last couple of posts: I feel that the distance between affirming other power, or affirming its provisonality, begins to collapse if we set aside the temporal aspect in your summary of the path.
Rather than adopting a provisional belief in Amida (or sitting, the Guru or anything else) - 'for the time being' - that will necessarily collapse into truth at a later point, I believe that both a deep gratitude for the form, and an understanding of its entirely provisional nature, may be present in the gesture with which one practices, from first hesitant nembutsu, to final outbreath.
There is, I know, an unapologetic Pureland bias behind how I am framing things...If I am already, even as I am, blessed with a fleeting glimpse or the vaguest of intuitions of the truth that Buddha pointed to, it is no less true that in this life I will always carry this muddled karmic being with me, wherever I go.
Sorry I can't be there to meet for zazen with you, that would be good.
Namo Amida Bu
PS I see I crossed posts with you Thomas - I was obviously referring, at the start, to Dharmavydia's reply.
I am finding these exchanges very rewarding. Thank you. what has happened to me is that I had absolute faith in path, teacher, Buddha etc. Nothing provisional about it. That has collapsed - not through any fault or falseness on the part of the teacher, path etc. but as a result of following it.
I was convinced that 'my' way was best, 'my' teacher was best, 'my' description of reality was best. Not any more.
The faith remains but not in any object. There is still seeking but I no longer have any conscious image of what is sought.