Words cannot recreate ‘just-as-it-is-right-now’…

Photo by Jessica Rothman in Mestia, Georgia

… yet, in vain, we continue to issue words.

I am rereading Nine-Headed Dragon River: Zen Journals, by Peter Matthiessen. One chapter is an account of his journey to the land of Dolpo on the Tibetan plateau. He later expanded this journal-chapter to create his popular The Snow Leopard.

Throughout the book Matthiessen describes how his teachers and fellow Zen students engage in rigorous, silent meditation. He also describes their conversations, of the type peculiar to practitioners of Zen Buddhism. Typically, the students are full of questions; the teachers, in response (if any, for often they will remain silent), will issue seemingly obscure or nonsensical phrases or ask questions in return, some of which are koans;  or, the teacher will even yell at the questioner. There is method underlying these responses.

I perceive a paradox in what I understand of the Zen way. Practitioners and their acolytes are, in varying degrees, seeking what the Sixth Patriarch described “one’s true self”. Seeking is an egoistic activity or path, yet in Zen (and in other Ways) the ego is an illusion.

But let us forgive any perceived logical inconsistencies, in ourselves and others. The koan, and other instructions, are issued to avoid, even destroy logical thinking so that one can perceive, intuitively, without words, the oneness of all things.

We are human, not god-like; but each of us has a Buddha, an enlightened one, waiting to emerge or grow from us.

What stimulated this writing, here and now, was the reading of a poem uttered by a Zen teacher upon learning of the death of a revered friend and fellow teacher:

Eighty-nine years, just-as-it-is!
How can I express, right now
The grave importance of this very thing?

Right now. This is all there is.

How can I express it?

Not with words.

Posted in Books & Literature, Enlightenment, satori, enlightenment, kai wu, Zen | Tagged , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Imagining a Disconnection from the Matrix

I realize evermore that, for instance, I cannot live without a “cell phone” (mobil, in Sweden) if I want to conduct certain transactions that I currently deem necessary. This was not so 20 years ago.

I have become addicted to search engines, wanting (often feeling an urgent need) to verify my understanding of a word or phrase, or to learn about a certain person, idea, or event. I used to go to a more-or-less current dictionary or encyclopedia or read a pertinent book to satisfy such needs. A difference between the ‘me’ then and the ‘me’ now is the vast store of information that is generally available to me and the vastly increased pace of its processing I have allowed myself to be swept along with.

‘Oh, it’s just your advancing age’, you might say. Yes, I’m 83, but my nervous system seems intact, and I have the advantage over younger people in having had much experience and having been mostly conscious—that is, self-examining—from when my memories first begin.

To get to the point: I find myself dwelling, more and more, on the metaphor of ‘living in a cave’—to be independent of all electronic devices which, in the aggregate, I vividly perceive as “The Matrix”.

I had a vision of the ordinary type when I was 53 years old. I had occasion to travel, round trip, from California to Dallas, mostly on Interstate Highway 40 which passes for 800 miles through the northerly portions of Arizona and New Mexico. On each of the two legs of the trip I felt a kind of beckoning, a reaching out of ‘something’ from north of the highway. The geography of that place has as a major reference point “Four Corners” where the states of Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona meet at an elevation of almost 5000 feet. I knew that Native Americans of more than one tribe lived in the area, and that the greater area surrounding the ‘corners’ provided mystical experiences for many visitors, and certainly for the original inhabitants.

I have never let go of this feeling (or it hasn’t let me go) for 30 years.

Now, here I sit in semi-isolation to prevent the latest pandemic from reaching me, or reaching me too soon, with plenty of time for reading, thinking, remembering, etc., in addition to brief trips with Eva to our communal garden and local shops for necessaries—keeping our distance (officially, 2 meters) from others, to be sure.

This quasi-house arrest (I do consent to the official recommendations) creates an opportunity for me to look at the possible course of my life beyond the pandemic. And, time to ponder how my life has changed, not necessarily for the better since I was absorbed into the Matrix.

What do I need it for anymore?

The major need is to be in contact with my children, all of whom are in the USA. But physical letters used to be sufficient to this need. When I was in the US Navy, 1954-1958, I wrote incessantly to my many elders and my sister and received answers. How precious they were, these pieces of paper with human marks on them.

As for information, I’ve read and heard enough. It’s getting repetitive. Anyway, I’ve now winnowed my books to the essential few hundred, plus another several hundred. I know where I stand with myself and the universe, which are constructs of my nervous system that have helped me survive to this point (and to procreate, more importantly).

I should be able to enter my own mystical state no matter where I am and then, perhaps, let go of my dependence on the Matrix.

But I still have that road trip experience lodged firmly, somewhere in me.

Posted in Spirituality | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments