Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Christ Mind, Beginner's Mind

Back in the day, there was a popular book called Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind. If Zen is counted as a religion, I suppose I never qualified as an unmitigated atheist. Zen is advertised as a godless religion, which isn't necessarily oxymoronic. Schuon felt, for example, that Buddhism in general has the signified (the reality), just not the signifier (the name).

Zen appeals to western intellectuals because it seems to offer the advantages of religion with none of the scandals: no dogma, no miracles, no Bearded Old Man in the Sky.

The amazon description says the author "always returns to the idea of beginner's mind, a recognition that our original nature is our true nature. With beginner's mind, we dedicate ourselves to sincere practice, without the thought of gaining anything special. Day to day life becomes our Zen training, and we discover that 'to study Buddhism is to study ourselves.' And to know our true selves is to be enlightened."

It's quite experimental, even empirical: do this, discover that. Indeed, the ultimate discovery is that this is already that, and vice versa. It sounds annoyingly paradoxical, because it seems like a long process of trying to give up trying, or a long road forward to back where you started.

It seems to me that Buddhism is essentially backward -- or downward, at any rate, i.e., to the Ground -- looking, while Christianity is unavoidably forward looking. Is this just a semantic difference -- different names for the same thing?

Back when I rejected Christianity, it was because I didn't understand it. Indeed, it can be argued that it is strictly impossible to understand Christianity without practicing it, i.e., through faith.

The above preluminaries were provoked by something Bailie says: that, as we know, Jesus promised "a Spirit would come to lead those trying to be faithful to Christ into ever greater understanding of the truth" revealed in and by him.

Thus, from the perspective of Total Truth -- of the revelation fully revealed -- we must all count ourselves "early Christians." Although "the revelation of Christ is full and complete, we are far from having surveyed its vast scope and meaning." Indeed, "the understanding that comes by faith embraces more truth than it can comprehend" (Balthasar, ibid.). We are all beginners, and every day is a new beginning.

For practical purposes -- i.e., from our side -- revelation is very much timebound; it can only reveal itself "in the fullness of time," analogous to an organic process of growth. You can't command the seed to become a mature tree; time takes time.

Thus, where Zen seems ineluctably "reductive," Christianity is necessarily "expansive," so to speak. "It is part of the mystery of the Christian revelation that it functions like a time-release medication." Conversely, we might say that Zen involves a release from time, into the eternal moment (or the moment of eternity).

Both approaches have their potential drawbacks. Bailie notes that for Christianity, the temptation always exists of forgetting "the danger of being bewitched by the spirit of the age" and separating "its healthy potential from its poisoned fruit..."

Regarding Zen, Schuon says it may "become easily mingled with anti-intellectual" sensibilities, "for it is one thing to place oneself beyond the thinking faculty and it is another to remain below that faculty's highest possibilities, even while imagining one has 'transcended' things of which one does not comprehend the first word." This is to deepak all over the chopra.

For "He who truly transcends verbal formulations will be the first to respect the ones which have given direction to his thinking in the first place and to venerate 'every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God'" (ibid.).

Schuon alludes to an old gag to the effect that "only the pig overturns its trough after emptying it," which is like kicking the religious ladder out from under onesoph, the very ladder by which one ascends.

There is another kind of pig who steals from the trough before kicking it over: "We live in a world whose strategies for expelling the Christian truth draw on underlying forms of Christian thought for their legitimacy" (Bailie).

The left is filled with such pigs -- for example, a Meryl Streep, who bullies and slanders under the guise of being opposed to bullying and slandering. Likewise, the left embraces racial discrimination in the name of equality, coercion in the name of freedom, theft in the name of charity, entitlements in the name of rights, etc.

This morning I have one ear on the senate hearing for Jeff Sessions, in which Democrats are shamelessly engaging in all of the above. If this post is a little lame, that's why: I am slightly distracted and out of my beginner's mind.


julie said...

"It is part of the mystery of the Christian revelation that it functions like a time-release medication."

This is why developing a sense of patience is such an important aspect of faith. It is very rare that any work of God happens in the time we want it to happen (which is to say, NOW!). Rather, we must trust that it does and will happen, and meanwhile just go about doing what needs done. Eventually, it really will be the NOW! - and all too soon simply then, at which point we will likely be longing for a new mirrorcle to tide us over a little longer until the final event takes place.

julie said...

We are all beginners, and every day is a new beginning.

See also Anthony Bloom's excellent - and pithy - Beginning to Pray.

mushroom said...

Perhaps you could say Zen is always trying to get to "it is finished"; Christianity starts with "it is finished".

mushroom said...

Indeed, it can be argued that it is strictly impossible to understand Christianity without practicing it, i.e., through faith

My granddaughter made a poster for me. It's a few feet away on the gun safe. It says, "If anybody wants to do God's will, he will understand whether the teaching is from God, or if I am speaking on my own" (John 7:17).

ted said...

Deepakin the Cohen

Gagdad Bob said...

File under I Can't Even.

mushroom said...

That is just creepy.

Gagdad Bob said...

A couple of con artists. I couldn't help comparing them to some of the Leonard Cohen interviews I've been watching. True humility and depth. In the one I linked to, he even mentions how he is skeptical of charismatic holy men, since he could have been one!

julie said...

Good grief - They look like they are trying to peer into a dark alley.

As to the actual content, I can't watch long enough to hear anything besides Deepak incomprehensibly mumbling what sounds like an introduction.

Gagdad Bob said...

In the interview I linked, Cohen speaks of charismatic holy men at about 20:40 into it.

julie said...

Speaking of charismatic holy men, I can't help picturing the snake from the

William Wildblood said...

Great post. I think you’re right that Zen, and maybe Buddhism is general, is like a return to the unmanifest source without accepting the fruits of manifestation, time, individuality and so on, whereas Christianity includes all these things and more so it incorporates purpose which Zen, and maybe Buddhism in general, misses. If that’s what you said!