rivers into islands

rivers into islands

Thursday, May 18, 2017


Lance Kinseth, 2017

A PERCEPTION OF “the many as one” can be broadly understood.  In A Sense Of Wonder, Rachel Carson brings the reader into the wonder of place--the starry night and the ocean’s edge, and you cannot help but feel a sense of wonder.  There is a landscape of wonderment that is within the everyday, that is unhidden.  This holistic aspect of being-ness has expression in science, in ecology and cosmology where forests express trees and deer and squirrels down to minute micro-ecologies of skin and leaf and forest being an expression of Earth and stars and galaxies and beyond.  And wonderment has esoteric expression in spirituality and philosophy as well.  Such perceptions of wonderment are experienced as real, integrative and, sometimes, as ecstatic. 

Zen is different in that it doesn’t attend to this holistic perception, nor does it seek to perceive the many as one.  Rather, as Dogen Ekaku emphasized, Zen is “the study of self.”  Zen’s “study” of self is an emptying of perception rather than a contemplation of landscape or analysis of a nature restricted to the boundaries of one’s body.  There is just sensation, and an effort not to label this experience, and to be in a reality of ”just this.”  

Why do this?  Zen can be a way or path of not labeling experience more than an interpretation. This, in itself, is enough of a practice.  Still, why do this?  There is more.

This practice may open an experience of self that is not anticipated, but that is reality and it may feel, at first, like the actualization of the above experience of wonderment and it is.  Still, there is more than the possibility of a conceptual breakthrough. To “let go,” dropping into a oceanus of change and flow, “self-nature” can change. There ma be a less-common sort of “Einstein-like” breakthrough shift in the experience of “self”--an “awakening”--that opens a new sense of wonderment.  Rather than self-in-landscape, there may be a direct experience of self-as-landscape that is infinite.  

And the payoff of this possibility of self-as-landscape exploded a practice that was carried forward for centuries in Buddhism and that has come to be termed “Zen” was a psycho-spiritual end to an illusion of “suffering.”  

Daily predicaments and needs continue after this transformative shift.  There was no attainment of a state of all-knowing and specialness.  This experience is quite remarkable--”wondrous”--in the dropping away of suffering, but it is almost invisible in human culture.  

In this sensate experience of self, there is, for example, no birth or death. Birthdates and funerals continue, and yet there is no birth or death.  Each person and every event is unborn.  Conceptually, how could this be?  And yet, here it is as a drop into a reality of “true-self” and/or “true-home.”

This is another wonderment that is not all-knowing, bliss or ecstasy, but that is graced and complete and simply, real.

Facing death in hospice, An-liu suddenly broke through it and there was no death, no suffering, no end and no birth, and “just this.”

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