Friday, August 31, 2007

A Zen Lament!

"Nobody today is normal, everybody is a little bit crazy or unbalanced, people's minds are running all the time. Their perceptions of the world are partial, incomplete. They are eaten alive by their egos. They think they see, but they are mistaken; all they do is project their madness, their world, upon the world. There is no clarity, no wisdom in that!"

- Taisen Deshimaru



This might be the first time I've seen a Zen Buddhist so lament "people today". I confess I largely agree with him! I think he might describe most of us to one extent or another. Yet, I don't recall ever having read in any accurate history of an age when his lament would not be true of most people. Those who are not "a little bit crazy or unbalanced" have always been as rare as monks -- maybe even as rare as Buddhas. The notion there was a Golden Age in which people in general were fundamentally much better and wiser than they are today is a myth, rather than an historical reality.

Yet, does that mean we should forgo trying to be as wise and sane as possible? Of course not! The fact there are some very wise and sane people in this world means it is possible to be very wise and sane. Maybe the vast majority of humanity will always be -- as humanity has always been -- "eaten alive by their egos." Yet, that does not mean all of us need be.

Had the Buddha been a god, like Christ, people would say, "Enlightenment is only possible for gods", and "Only the Buddha was fully authentic". They say those things about Christ, you know. "Only Christ was perfect." And, "Only Christ could love everyone". To make your mentor a god is a form of escapism. It's a way of denying your potential.

"[A]ll they do is project their madness, their world, upon the world." Your enlightenment will not solve all the world's problems. But perhaps it will mean that you become aware -- deeply aware -- of when you are projecting your madness, your world, upon the world. Then you can at least choose wisely whether to do it or not. As near as I know, that's one of the things enlightenment most does for you -- makes you wise and sane.

It does not make the world's problems go away. If you have no skills and are unemployable before you are enlightened, you will have no skills and be unemployable after you are enlightened, etc. But perhaps you will have a realism, a wisdom, and a sanity about your situation that you never had before. And that, of course, can help you meet your challenges quite a bit better than you have ever met them before.

Krishnamurti observed that no one seeks enlightenment until they get into trouble. It's only when we suffer, and wish to escape our suffering, that the possibility of enlightenment becomes a burning, passionate goal. Yet, as Krishnamurti once again said, when we seek enlightenment as an escape from suffering, enlightenment will not come. We will find some escape, but it will not be enlightenment.

Most of us will always want to live as the people Taisen Deshimaru laments. We will never experience a crisis so profoundly unsolvable that we are forced by it into enlightenment. For some say enlightenment comes only when every form of escape has been exhausted. Perhaps that is why so few people are enlightened and why every age has a right to repeat Taisen Deshimaru's lament.

6 comments:

Braveheart ( Ela) said...

Golden Age as a vivid imagination?
I get the point that it would be very difficult to achieve happiness for all the people at once, and that enlightement does not bring euphoria, but only the freedom to live without the past or the future.

What troubles me is the fact, that without this hope for golden age or at least better afterlife, what would be the point of achieving anything or being 'good'?
for children? the next generation? what for? wouldn't it be better to extinct human race and end it with us?

Why not just take a bomb and end this misery, blast new spectacular big bang? who cares if someone is happy, when another aches and there is no vision for a better future?

I think an enlighted person does not care if he lives or die, because he finally found this connection within himself, knowing there is a hidden road.
But he is making life better, even by smiling for another, by showing this peacefulness of his, giving something that feels good and bring hope for a better tomorrow.

David Rochester said...

To make your mentor a god is a form of escapism. It's a way of denying your potential.

This is brilliant.

Braveheart ( Ela) said...

what kind of potential?

Braveheart ( Ela) said...

on the other hand, maybe the enlighted found out, there is no hidden road, there is no road at all, so there is no point to anything, other then live the minutes away, in peace and quiet.
that is a possibility

Kenneth said...

Regarding braveheart(ela)'s last comment, I must say: if that's true, then I'm pretty damn close to being enlightened.

Haven't quite got the "peace and quiet" down yet, though.

Paul said...

The kind of potential I am referring to, Braveheart, is simply ones potential as a person and a human. For instance, most of us I think have the potential to love more than we do.


Thank you, David!


Hi Kenneth! Welcome to the blog!