Spirituality For The 21st Century
Like so many, I ponder what life will be for future generations, the future of our Nation, the planet, but most especially humanity. For what is a man’s life without virtue, without honor, without passion, without community, without a heartfelt benevolence, compassion, and love? It is our humanity which permits us to recognize beauty, to experience wonder, to laugh, to dance, to play; to cry, to grieve, to respond to injustice, to care for, and to appreciate life.
The healing and renewal of the Natural World is not only necessary if we expect to survive, but it is nature which presents us with any real insight of how to survive and more than that, “How to thrive”. Einstein wrote, “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” When we do, it is clear that the survival of our species as well as any sense of well-being and true joy is not realized in isolation. Each of us are a part of nature, “Parts of a whole,” (it is only ego-delusion which has convinced some of us otherwise). Therefore it is incumbent upon us to learn and live as the natural world alone can teach us. When we are willing to “look deeply into nature” we see that survival, as well as our very well-being is a function of our conscious participation in an interconnected systemic paradigm, the result of a complex web of interdependencies. Every individual species, every unique life-form, co-contribute to the health and resilience of the entire forest.
The first lesson of nature is “Community,” the second is “Benevolence.” Each and every individual species lives to “benefit” the life of all the species. Benevolence unites us with a larger reality, an all inclusive, diverse, self-organizing cosmos. A Community where each individually unique element’s contribution is invaluable, and whose participation is necessary for the survival and the well-being of the whole: “All for One-One for All.”
Authentic Spirituality is the means by which we endeavor to understand our existence by understanding the essence of that existence. Authentic Spirituality awakens us from any and all delusion and helps us to see what is really so, it invites us into a deeper communion with that, “Larger Reality” which sustains all of life and the myriad dharma forms.
Zen Spirituality’s (Authentic Spirituality) focus is on training, practice, and experience, and less on doctrines or beliefs. Its emphasis is on “direct experience” through a series of ancient and contemporary processes which result in what Zen calls “The Great Death,” in order to bring about a merger into a Larger Reality which transcends concepts, dogmas, and beliefs.
Thomas Merton wrote about Zen, that Zen is: “A concrete and lived ontology which explains itself not in theoretical propositions but in acts emerging out of a certain quality of consciousness and awareness. Only by these acts and by this quality of consciousness can Zen be judged.” Again in his book, “Zen and the Birds of Appetite” Merton writes: “Both Christianity and Buddhism show that suffering remains inexplicable, most of all for the man who attempts to explain it in order to evade it, or who thinks explanation itself is an escape. Suffering is not a ‘problem’ as if it were something we could stand outside of and control. Suffering, as both Christianity and Buddhism see, each in its own way, is part of our very ego-identity and empirical existence, and the only thing to do about it is to plunge right into the middle of contradiction and confusion in order to be transformed by what Zen calls ‘the great death’ and Christianity calls ‘dying and rising with Christ,’ “
The Spirituality of the 21st Century will need to stress less doctrine and more experience. Zen training and, Zen-Life is sensual by nature. It emphasizes the need to “see,” to “listen,” to “smell,” to “feel,” to know intimately that life, which sustains each of us and the world around us. The Spirituality of the 21st Century will require new forms of kinship and love. We will need to learn how to include rather than exclude; value rather than diminish; lift up rather than conquer, and share rather than profit.
The Spirituality of the 21st Century will need to cultivate and nurture a global culture of what the Buddha referred to as the prime virtue, “appamāda,” or “care.” Literally translated as, non-negligence, non-indifference, non-carelessness, non-nonchalance, non-heartlessness, perhaps even non-mindlessness, non-apathy and non-cynicism. He taught that among the “Three Poisons of Life” we find “Indifference.” Individuals, communities, and nations can no longer ignore the suffering of any one of its members, whether through poverty, injustice, or war, including the natural world. The first lesson of Nature and Authentic Spirituality for The 21st Century is “Community.” The second lesson of Nature and Authentic Spirituality for the 21st Century is “Benevolence.” We already have The Way, each and every one of us must become the Means.
“At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God, which is never at our disposal, from which God disposes of our lives, which is inaccessible to the fantasies of our own mind or the brutalities of our own world.”
– Thomas Merton
Come, let us touch that point together. When we do, “We will understand everything better.”
I Love you,