Mirror of Zen Blog

A (Slight) Return

I took a hiatus from blogging, for some weeks. I felt the need to express was still much (as always), yet the vast content of what “needed” to be expressed — as far as words and speech could ever “do” it, which they can’t — was too overwhelming. I also got seriously tired of hearing myself just blah-blah-blah here, however well-intentioned it might be. I really just got tired of hearing myself blather out into the ether, and wanted to reach inside for something a little more authentic. I don’t want just to spew shit out in this space that is cute or snarly or eternally self-referential, however much some few people might find some benefit or eager inspiration for it. My wish has always been — and will always be — the liberation of beings from suffering. And whilst this blog might well have been begun with “noble” intentions, to use novel expressions to point back to the Great Question of Life-and-Death, it had just grown too tiring. I noticed a hunger rising up, a desire, and the ever-present latency to be “seen” and “heard”, as only a child of a brood of nine brothers and sisters could crave, almost congenitally.

So, I posted. Maybe some image, perhaps some tweet or news article might wake someone up, somewhere, to the effort of looking deep inside to their original nature. This was the wish, it has been the enduring wish, and it continues to be the only drive that animates this effort. And yet other egoistic forces eventually come into play, however much we attempt to guard against them. “Is this blog-effort just a public expression of my own cleverness, my own spiritual or intellectual snark?” Questions like this have always haunted me, for as long as I have tried this ribald experiment in public blogging and Internet self-manifestation. “None of The Greats needed this — why do I have the arrogance to believe that it could make the slightest kind of spiritual difference?” All along, I have suspected that I am just adding fuel to your own samsaric fires, as well as to my own.

So, I stepped back. After months and months of entertaining constantly the question as to whether or not I was trying to get people to cut their mental-smoking while handing them the equivalent of free cigarettes, I suddenly just stopped. “It” stopped — the drive to share out the day-to-day material that fires up my own Great Question about the nature of this reality (which I have largely resolved personally through the work of meditation, I have the supremely confident regard to report, if it’s not as entirely clear yet to you).

And yet, I persist.

My Teacher, Zen Master Seung Sahn, has said: “Someone who has seen his True Nature is like a deaf mute who has had a very beautiful dream. The frustration is that it cannot be really communicated.” The technicolor vastness of this could never be expressed or communicated. And yet we try.

Who is my “target” audience: I often think of some soul somewhere, struggling in the grip of their samsaric paralysis, caught between the senselessness of their unasked-for birth and their unrequested (usually) death, as I was, for so many years. And perhaps she or he, scrolling through an ocean of digital blather online one sad or depressed one evening, comes across just one bread crumb which leads them to grasp for another, and perhaps another, until they work a trail towards liberation from the vague yet profoundly terrifying maze of samsaric existence.

For me, that path has been Dharma. Yet it started through an LSD trip I didn’t expect to encounter (not at least on THAT day), and a book pulled randomly from a bookshelf in a friend’s apartment (in my case, Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Essays”), and a hearing and walk-through of Gustav Mahler’s eternal Ninth Symphony. These golden bread crumbs led the way to this light that is very much is at the end of the tunnel.

In fact, it’s always right here. The doorway is this very Moment, the “place” where nothing “is”. But I needed a Zen Master Seung Sahn to point out that entryway, and a practice to capabilize my walking right through to where I always was.

This blog is just a spreading of bread crumbs. It is a spooling out of some threads yarned only to inspire. Since my compass, however sometimes insufferably reeking of snark or clever cuteness, points back to the matter of life-and-death that has always guided my limited human existence, I lay down these trashy remainders for those who come after, for whatever the fuck they are worth (and I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not much but a kind of spiritual vanity). I regret that there is never enough time nor focus, in this attention-saturated age, to refine the expression into some of the verbal clarity that a good practice and a decent education would be reasonably expected to produce (looking at you, Adyashanti and Sam Harris).

My Teacher frowns down on all these words. And what would he think of the hideously imperfect tool of teaching out through the hinting vagueness of Internet meme and Tweet?

Yet he was certainly novel in his own breadcrumb-laying. A recently revealed notebook, in his own careful English script, showed that he was recording his own correspondences with students, his own telling of kong-ans, his own writerly expression of Buddhist stories and Zen Center interactions, which have been the map that has guided so many of us from the labyrinth of suffering. I know that his letter exchanges with students in the 1970s and ’80s (later published as Only Don’t Know: The Teaching Letters of Zen Master Seung Sahn), read aloud after daily practice at Cambridge Zen Center, were profoundly inspirational for me picking up the trail and learning the tracking-skills that led to liberation, and to communicating that deaf-muted dream to others.

And so, I persist. Please forgive the frequent encrustation of pride and arrogance that might attend thereto, in the act of expressing this brilliant, vast dream — which is really a vision of waking up.

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