I had thought it was time to write a summary of what this blog was all about and, after the summary, write no more. However, after many tries, I could never even make a start and, in addition, I lost all desire to write. Today I had a better idea: just ramble and perhaps find a Zen place. Of course, there are many Zen spaces, none well defined, all possibly controversial, since the concept of a Zen place has no referent and is from a conventional, rational Western point of view meaningless nonsense.
However, the whole point of this blog is that there IS such a space; and from this place all the various Western sciences, arts, and what-have-you’s can be stitched into a meaningful fabric in which each piece gives its body to the other bodies, creating in our minds, at least, a tapestry which goes beyond any of its pieces. And beyond this tapestry there is the pure religion which tells one that one’s life is not meaningless; that our lives, though arising out of nothingness and snuffed out into pure oblivion have some kind of eternal significance, beyond verbal expression.
Actually, Zen is a poor name for this tapestry, this pursuit, this vision, and this religious understanding, but my imagination is too limited to come up with a better name. One problem, as I see it, is that the term Zen, is irredeemably Eastern and irredeemably stitched into Eastern culture at least in the minds of Westerners unfamiliar with it. One seemingly needs an Eastern mind to sense what it might be. Luckily, for me growing up in Hawaii, I somehow came to admire and love an Eastern outlook, Japanese and Chinese, tempered by an underlying Hawaiian vision, and could “aha” an inkling of what this religion, beyond all religions and cultures might be. However, any name for it is misleading, a word for what cannot be named. In attempting to link “IT” to Western culture, I don’t imply that Western culture is in any sense special or beyond any other world culture. I simply feel that there is a big lack in Western culture of a religion that can complete, link and top off the various strands of the culture. Such a religion (identical to Zen) can, in my opinion fill the bill in a way that traditional Western religions cannot.
As you, my ideal reader coming from a Western culture and upbringing, journey to an understanding of this religion I have a couple of thoughts at the moment that could be useful. One concerns the idea of “enlightenment”. In earlier posts I’ve suggested that I prefer the Soto idea of gradual enlightenment rather than the Rinzai ideal of sudden enlightenment. However, I would go a little further, regardless of whether you’re a Rinzai guy or a Soto woman (or vice versa), and use an idea and an image from analytic geometry, a very Western form of thought. This is the idea of an asymptote. Consider a hyperbola, one of the conic sections. This two-dimensional figure has four arms, each one of which, as it travels out forever from the center of the figure approaches closer and closer to a straight line called its asymptote. In my analogy consider enlightenment the asymptote and our journey towards enlightenment a curve which comes closer and closer to the asymptote without ever touching it. At some point one gets so close to the enlightenment asymptote that one more and more senses and takes on its properties without ever touching it. If one takes this idea as an axiom, one never needs to consider whether or not one is enlightened. You’re not and neither am I nor anyone else. Just keep up your meditation and striving, coming nearer and nearer to the ideal.
Another thought concerns the concept of “ego”, “self”, or “me”. Does such exist? Are we “attached” to our ego or self in a Buddhist sense? In our journey, can we lose this attachment? Does it help to realize that one’s ego or self doesn’t really exist? “I” don’t think so. The self may be a fiction; but our attachment is very real, and it’s the attachment, the clinging that is the problem. Consider also that “I”, “you”, “self”, “we” are simply words in a language and we’re dealing with realities which are inexpressible in that language. As we practice over the years we may hope and sense that the attachment is weakening. However, it actually can give one a sense of “peace” to realize that the “attachment” will likely never go away and that one can drop worrying about it. The practice is important, but don’t expect it to do more than, at times, weaken our attachment. Another thought is that these “self” words, though meaningless, are actually useful. When I encounter you, I hope I have the ability to look at you and “see” who you are; see in a deeper sense beyond your persona, your background, education, and the objective facts of your life. I want to see this fictional “you” and have “you” feel that you have been seen and understood.