“We do not want you to copy or imitate us. We want to be like a ship that has crossed the ocean, leaving a wake of foam, which soon fades away. We want you to follow the Spirit, which we have sought to follow, but which must be sought anew in every generation.” — 1st Generation Quakers
“Community is The Spirit, The Guiding Light…” — St. Benedict
Zen, Authentic Spirituality, is characterized by an emphasis of abundant simplicity—Simplicity grounded in the absence of the pursuit of any person, place, experience, thing, desire, or ideal, as the source of our joy. There exists for the Zen Contemplative a simple and profound yearning for complete union with “not knowing” or life as it is recognized in Zen which is fundamentally “Empty” and “Mystery,” removing all obstacles to the deepening of this relationship with one’s true-self, with this moment, and ones immediate environment.
As Rumi once wrote, “Our true work is not to go in pursuit of Love, chasing after it in people, places, objects, and experiences, but to inquire within ourselves as to the emotional, psychological, and spiritual obstacles we have built up in our lifetime preventing us from seeing Love where it always has been — within us and all around us.” (Para)
Thus, we find the Buddha’s emphasis on — “Right Point-of-View; Right Thought and Intention; Right Speech and Action; Right Effort and Concentration, and so on.” All designed to cultivate the ground for helpful attitudes and motives, with the emphasis of avoiding unwholesome and habitual ways-of-being learned in ones lifetime, which prove to be obstacles toward liberating oneself from a life driven by fear, emotional and sentimental ties, that only complicate the inner journey.
For the ancient Zen masters and their students, relationships were “non-attachment”: They cared for others without any expectation of reciprocity. Concern for personal gain or self-aggrandizing was discarded. While feelings or emotions were acknowledged, with an emphasis on fully experiencing them, they were subjected to the discipline of the heart’s goal to awaken and to liberate oneself from the false-self and egocentric self which operated from a place of fear and craving.
Integrity was utmost, followed by an unrelenting devotion to prayer, contemplation, meditation, and benevolent service. Sacrifice was expected and understood to be essential. Ones vocation was to sacrifice this small self, this egocentric self, so that, “The person we were always meant to be,” could surface and get on with the real business of the spiritual life — “The liberation of all sentient beings from suffering and its causes.”
One of the tools used by the contemplative is a deep inquiry into the meaning of what The Buddha called, “Right Point-of-View,” which included how one viewed himself or herself and, his or her place in the world. One cannot endeavor to achieve this without eventually arriving at the realization of our’s and all sentient beings “interconnected and interdependent” relationship. We are not born for ourselves alone, we are born for each others benefit. Our place in the Universe is defined by the level of true-self realization — that the real meaning and purpose of my life was and is to live my life as a benefit for all other sentient beings and the whole of Nature. This could not and cannot be achieved apart from living morally and with a mindful awareness of not only my needs but the needs of my brothers and sisters with whom I coexist and co-create the world around me with. The solution to which is what followed or more accurately, which was embedded in the contemplative life — “Community”.
“Life in community is no less than a necessity for us — it is an inescapable “must” that determines everything we do and think. Yet it is not our good intention or efforts that have been decisive in our choosing this way of life. Rather, we have been overwhelmed by a certainty — a certainty that has its origin and power in the source of everything that exists…We must live in community because all life exists in a communal order and works toward community.” (Para)
The truly spiritual, the true contemplative, lives his or her life deeply committed to the “belief in the overwhelming power of life, the power of love to overcome, and the ultimate triumph of truth…This deeply committed belief is not a theory; neither is it a dogma, a system of ideas, or a fabric of words…We must live in community for only in such a positive venture can it become clear how incapable of living life fully the individual is and that community is that life-giving force which makes all things possible.” (Para)
Community answers the social-political crises our Nation and the World finds itself in today. While millions of individuals, religious and political organizations, are engaged in the battle against tyranny and injustice, the contemplative cannot fight their battles in their way.
“With them we stand side-by-side with those who have little or nothing, with the underprivileged and marginalized, and with the degraded and depressed. And yet we must avoid the kind of class struggle that employs violent means to avenge lives taken through exploitation. We reject the defensive war of the suppressed just as much as the defensive war of nations…We live in community because we take our stand in the spiritual fight on the side of all those who fight for freedom, unity, peace, and social justice.” (Para)
While the contemplative remains committed to living a life benefitting all sentient beings and to laboring for the liberation of all sentient beings from suffering and its causes, he or she realizes that they can “only give what they have achieved for themselves”. All that, restricts and limits human consciousness and humanity, all that possesses the minds and hearts of millions, their attachments and compulsions, and which must be healed and reconciled, must first be achieved by the monk, the nun, or student of Zen, themselves. Before I can be of any benefit to others I must move toward inner freedom and detachment from those thoughts and cravings which bind me. The cultivation of the individuals inner freedom was and remains vital to the deepening of their experience of suffering and its causes in the world. “As they deepened their interior freedom, all aspects of their false self were removed and a clearer understanding of their truest self emerged.” It is this “true-self” that dwells deeply within the minds and hearts of all beings, and hungers to be realized and manifested in the world. Whenever and wherever we find tyranny and suffering, we find that this Self is restricted or limited in one form or another. For it is in the liberation of all sentient beings and the elevation toward Full-True-Self expression, we will finally realize personal and global freedom and experience our deepest joy.
We must live in community because when all obstacles are removed we will, as those before us have, find that same Spirit that has led mankind toward community since the beginning of time.
Shall we begin?
I Love You,