Spiritual Illusionists

This insight is true for all spiritual practices, even down to shamanism. Every tradition relies on spiritual expedients that might open our tired, mundane eyes to the very real and present possibilities for self-transcendence, becoming one with the divine, whatever you want to call it.

Yet, among those “illusions created by illusionists” are some teaching-illusions which optimize the liberation from illusion, and other teaching-illusions which only lead to further illusion: division, strife, conflict, control, even up to murder and genocide, as we see with our Russian Orthodox patriarchs’ full-throated support for the mind-boggling brutality and utter nihilism of the ongoing massacre in Ukraine.

That is what I have so loved about Zen practice, from the very beginning: there is no bullshit. “If you meet the Buddha in your practice, then kill the Buddha.“ That means, if even “Buddhism” or some idea gets in your head hard enough to block your transcendence, then throw even those fucking things away.

That is also so true. Even Jesus himself cursed and disregarded those traditional narrowing aspects of the rabbinic tradition in which he had been schooled. He defied these things even though it brought him a gruesome, shameful death. Unfortunately, vanishingly few of his followers have gotten that email. And that is most likely because they attached to his “magic” far, far more than what it was pointing to: the infinite love and compassion of our own godlike True Nature.

This letter exchange is still the greatest illumination of the problem of the spiritual illusionist — Jesus included — that I have ever read in any spiritual literature. Straight to the point, it shows the dependency that the illusions can create, and how Zen is footed on such an entirely different orientation than “mere religion” alone — not sucking the seeker in to some binding to words or tricks, but releasing them fully to their own untrammelled True Self. This is priceless, brilliant insight:

From Dropping Ashes on the Buddha: The Teachings of Zen Master Seung Sahn (Grove Press, 1976)

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