Another Chapter

Here is another Interrogation of Tradition that my father wrote. I like these a lot and find them a good length for a blog post.

Attachment to this world

Brings the soldiers back,

Wandering over the battlefield.

Seami Motokiyo (1373-1455)

Motokiyo was a master of No theatre, the classical theatre of Japan.

The wisdom traditions, acknowledging as they must that we find ourselves here on earth and earth, a mixed bag ending in death, is not heaven, address the sad news this way:

This world is not where we fulfill the purpose of human birth, which is always some form of spiritual realization independent of our earthly circumstances. But, on the other hand, this world is a divine manifestation, and through appreciating its beauty we are glimpsing the divinity behind and within it. As Robinson Jeffers wrote, “His signature is the beauty of things.”

The first view, however, is always the one emphasized, sometimes ferociously, because the erroneous conclusion drawn from the second view – that this world is all there is and let’s make the most of it – is a fatal seduction.

The Truth of Suffering is the first of the Four Noble Truths in the Buddhist Tradition. And this Suffering is not accidentally distributed but inherent in human existence. All revelations are addressed to a fallen humanity: to a situation in need of redress.

“And thus I escaped from the cycle, the painful, the misery-laden,” reads the inscription on a gold funereal tablet found in Egypt. Rumi (1207-1273), Persia’s great Sufi poet, compares our earthly lives, as we roam from place to place, scene to scene, to “the dice in backgammon.”

It’s often pointed out that the crux of our dilemma here is the inescapable experience of “the pairs of opposites.” Joy and sorrow, good and evil, alive and dead, north and south, past and future, day and night, kind and cruel, and so on forever: the antonyms in the dictionary. We are always negotiating between these pairs. They are the structure of the world. Their existence, their logical necessity – how could we talk about one without the shadow of the other behind it? – defines our lives and is the dynamic of our experience.

Whereas spiritual realization, where we “rise above” the pairs of opposites, is the realization of our identity with Oneness: the infinite ocean of peace, love and bliss which is nothing less than the divine reality of the universe.

But the soldiers, meaning all of us, bewitched by this world where we struggle to find an always elusive happiness, return to wander over the battlefield.


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