I recently subscribed to “Zen Quotes” from Shambhala.com. I’m leery of “quote services” because most of the time what I receive is banal and overly sanguine. However, I am very pleased with the quotes I have received so far. I was hoping that Shambhala would break out of the mold; they did.
Here is the one from last week:
There is no getting around it: for achieving the initial entrance into satori [the experience of awakening], nothing can excel a direct and expeditious assault fired by intense, vigorous, urgent desire. People who engage in practice a little bit at a time when the thought occurs to them will not achieve kensho [self-realization] even if they continue doing it for thirty or forty years. As time passes, their efforts physically exhaust them, drain them of the necessary spirit and strength they need to subdue the illusory, passion-ridden thoughts that crowd into their minds. In the end, they are reduced to fingering rosaries and tearfully reciting Nembutsu, a pastime that brings them no more relief than one of those ready-made toothache medicines sold in the streets.
Life is hard work. We live in a society that wants a pill to fix everything. We want 10-minute Zen. We want to be mindful while at work getting things done so we don’t have to take time out to really meditate. We think that, for some reason, enlightenment should be easier for us because we are more … “something”–not sure what that “something” is. Even religion is less demanding. I went to church twice on Sundays and Wednesday night. Without fail. Every week. How many do that today?
Now, before you start lambasting me (FWIW, I prefer a mild sauce), I’m not suggesting that we must return to that “old time religion.” I realize that more is not always better. But is it reasonable –or even sane–to think that everything is easier now just because we can get email on our phones, travel to anywhere in the world in a matter of hours, and order pizza while playing video games?
The Buddha, the apostle Paul, Mohammed, Martin Buber, Paul Tillich, the Zen masters, Rumi, and many others did not get where they got with 10-minute Zen and church once a quarter and 60 hour work weeks and month long vacations and summers in the Hamptons. No. They worked their asses off meditating and praying and giving up things and studying. But we’re led to believe today that there is a short cut.
Mindfulness at work is not enough. Reading Zen quotes once a week is not enough. Saying “I’m not religious; I’m spiritual” without a daily practice that takes more than 10 minutes IS NOT ENOUGH.
I’m yelling at myself as much as you, the reader. I want to be a writer but I don’t write for hours every day. I want to be an artist but I don’t paint/draw/sketch for hours every day. I want to be thinner/stronger/leaner but I watch TV instead of being active for hours every day.
Life requires strong desire and strong desire requires effort and effort requires time and time requires sacrifice. Read what Jesus (not Paul) says. Read what the Buddha says. Read The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Read The Courage to Be by Paul Tillich. Read I Am That by Nisargadatta Maharaj.
There is no magic pill, folks. No “as seen on TV” product that gets you where you want to be in 30 days or your money back. It’s discouraging in today’s fast paced, always going, take a pill and you’re fine world. But there are some things that technology and science and medicine just can’t change. We are human just like we’ve always been and the outside world isn’t as influential on the inside as we’d like to think.
I’ll leave you with the summary from the back cover of my copy of Bonhoeffer’s book:
This is the book by which the name Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the young German theologian who was martyred by the Nazis in 1945, became widely known in both Europe and America. In it he examines the serious implications of believing in Christ, the intensity of the struggle between the world and God in man’s deepest self whenever he takes upon himself true discipleship.
“This whole book is a powerful attack on ‘easy Christianity’ and a warning that in a world such as Bonhoeffer could see coming, faith was not easily attained. … Bonhoeffer is a teacher a thinker whose truths were tested in a time of trouble and whose life and death certified to the strength and depth of his desire to follow Christ.” – Samuel H. Miller, Dean, Harvard Divinity School.