Monday, July 19, 2010

The Way of No Way

If you meet the Buddha, kill the Buddha. –Zen Master Lin Chi

That’s a bit startling, isn’t it? Disrespectful to say the least. What could it mean?

As I understand it, the point of this get-your-attention statement is that we should not be imprisoned by our preconceptions or traditions. In the language of the Bible, we should not bow down before idols. The idol is not God. It is illusion.

When I was young, I spent some time as a back to the land hippie. I believed that civilization was irredeemably corrupt and should be abandoned altogether in favor of a simpler, rural life in harmony with nature. Although I was not at all political and would have rejected communism in any form, surprisingly I had a lot in common with Pol Pot and Mao Tse Tung, who sent all the city slickers into the countryside for re-education. However, I would have skipped the famines and genocide.

What I remember more than anything is how sure I was that I was right. That I had the answer. Not just for me, but for you, too. How I disdained the unenlightened urban clods watching TV in their air-conditioned living rooms eating processed food that was made of who knew what, sucking up energy like junkies in their homes and cars. I was an insufferable boor as I looked down my nose and tried to explain to my family and friends what they were missing, literally and figuratively. (Of course, I am writing this on my computer in my comfortable city home. And I might have some Hostess powdered sugar doughnuts for a snack later while I’m watching The Closer.)

We can do the same thing with faith. We can be so sure that our way is the only way. Like Pol Pot and Mao, some people of faith are willing to kill those who disagree. The unbelievers. Or if not kill, then to condemn them to everlasting hell.

Chogyam Trungpa used the term spiritual materialism to describe those of us who are as attached to our creeds as we are to our cars. Who use our faith to fluff up our egos, to compare ourselves to those less fortunate who do not share our spiritual superiority.

Bruce Lee revolutionized martial arts with a new approach that he described as the way of no way. Instead of the set moves and rigid techniques of a particular style, the idea was to use any and all forms of combat as appropriate. No way as way. No limitation as limitation. Awareness unfettered by dogma. Power in the present moment. He killed the Buddha.

On the last page of Oprah magazine, Oprah writes every month about “What I know for sure.” I’m pretty sure that I don’t know anything for sure. But, as Pema Chodron suggests, I am becoming comfortable with uncertainty.

The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao. The name that can be named is not the eternal name. –Tao Te Ching

1 comment:

  1. What a great line: "I am pretty sure I don't know anything for sure." Well I must agree. And isn't it comforting just saying it?


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