Odds & Ends, II

D. T. Suzuki:  “The value of human life lies in the fact of suffering, for where there is no suffering, no consciousness of karmic bondage, there will be no power of attaining spiritual experience and thereby reaching the field of non-distinction.  Unless we agree to suffer we cannot be free from suffering.”

From Rumi:  ” Become silent and go by way of silence toward


And when you become nonexistent, you will be all

praise and laud.”

Something that the recent blog postings have been trying to say in a much more wordy way!

Astavakra Gita:

“The wiseman who has known the truth of the self plays the game of life and there is no similarity between his way of living and the deluded who live in the world as mere beasts of burden.”

“Where there is I, there is bondage.  Where there is no I, there is release.  Neither reject nor accept anything.”

70% of Americans are church-goers; 70% of Americans believe that torture is ok if our security is at stake.

The religious/spiritual dimensions of our economic/political situation–two examples:

  1. The top 1% of the U.S. population own 35% of the wealth of this country.  The next 19%, the managerial, professional class, own 50% of the wealth.  Add that up and you see that the top 20% of the population owns 85% of the wealth of the U.S.  That means the “bottom” 80% owns only 15% of the wealth.  This illustrates the myth of the middle class–it is being squeezed out of existence.  And both Democrats and Republicans are responsible, but of course the latter much more so.  Even Aristotle long ago pointed out that it is not a healthy society when there is a large disparity in wealth distribution.
  2. The recent tragic mine accident in West Virginia.  Such a needless loss of life.  Never mind that we should be getting out of coal to start with, but even so, this particular mine had so many violations of safety regulations that it was ridiculous that it was even allowed to operate.  Profit above all else–making money is all that matters.  And of course the only reason this mine was allowed to operate is that government mechanisms to enforce even the feeble laws that were still there had been gutted out.  Reagan and the 2 Bush presidencies did a lot to gut out government safety regulations.  But the amazing fact is that these miners by and large voted for these men!  In large percentages.  Amazing that people can be so fooled, so deluded, as to vote against their own self-interest.  But they are being fooled and deluded by a mechanism that is out there working very hard to do just that.  This is what keeps that top 1% in control.

Now where are all the churches in all this.  Not a peep really.  Not a voice to counter that propaganda machine.  Gandhi saw problems like this as deeply religious problems that needed addressing.  He was murdered.  Martin Luther Kind, Jr. had at the end of his life connected all the dots–he was no longer just speaking of civil rights for Blacks but saw the war, the economy, and how all people are treated as one big problem that was at root a religious problem and needed to be addressed through a religious commitment.  He was murdered.  Robert Kennedy also saw the light.  He was murdered.  Not much more to say.  Except the silence of all the churches is astounding.

Ancient Greek saying:  “When the gods want to punish us, they grant us our desires.”

Tarkovsky(maker of Andrei Rublev):   “Modern mass culture is crippling people’s souls, it is erecting barriers between man and the crucial questions of his existence, his consciousness of himself as a spiritual being.”

President Eisenhower(1953):  “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”

From John Wu’s The Golden Age of Zen: “To Huang-po, as to all Zen Masters, the ‘self-server’ does not really attain selfhood.  He is a  self-enclosed and egocentric seeker of happiness.  But he will not attain true happiness because, instead of being the ‘true man’ that he is, who IS happiness itself, he places happiness outside himself, as something to be strained after.  In fact, he is pursuing an illusory object.”

One of the more cogent surveys of the critical literature concerning the deleterious effects of electronic technology on our minds and hearts can be found in this review in the New York Times by Michiko Kakutani:


Sufi notion:  When we reach perfect servanthood, it is God himself who says “I”.

Adapted from the Sufis:  When God “draws near” you start “subtracting” –you start to lose things — but not until you lose “I” do you know your Friend.

Jan van Ruysbroeck:  “The image of God is found essentially and personally in all mankind.  Each possesses it whole, entire and undivided, and all together not more than one alone.  In this way we are all one, intimately united in our eternal image, which is the image of God and the source in us of all our life.”

Black Elk:  “I am blind and do not see the things of this world; but when the light comes from Above, it enlightens my Heart and I can see, for the Eye of my Heart sees everything: and through this vision I can help my people.  The heart is a sanctuary at the Center of which there is a little space, wherein the Great Spirit dwells, and this is the Eye.  This is the Eye of Wakantanka by which He sees all things, and through which we see Him.”

Meister Eckhart:  “The eye with which I see God is the same as that with which he sees me.  My eye and the eye of God are one eye, one vision, one knowledge, and one love.”

Gandhi:  “What I have been striving and pining to achieve is to see God face to face.  All that I do by way of speaking and writing is directed to this same end.”

Comment:  If you saw that great movie, Gandhi, you would never guess this.  As good as that movie was in depicting Gandhi, in showing his great political skill and his great moral sensitivity and ideals, it completely missed the very foundations of his life.

A most amazing fact: our death!  It is certain, and it is universal–everyone, no matter how accomplished or how gifted or how wealthy or how anything, everyone arrives at this fact sooner or later.  There is a fear of it, even though this is “the” great adventure of our existence.    Partly because of the “unknown factor.”  No matter our easy words about the so-called afterlife, there is still a little pit of fear deep inside us about what lies “on the other side.”  Also, the finality of it is scary–there is no “turning back.” (Tolstoy was terrified of the thought of his death.) But the bigger part of this fear is simply the letting go that we are called to as we die–everything that we have constructed about ourselves, all our accomplishments, all our history,  all our possessions,  all our stories about ourselves, all our credentials, all our pretensions,  all our sense of our identity, all our lies, all our self-deceptions, all the “solidity” of our world, all our “likes” and “dislikes,”  everything begins to dissolve as we die and there is NOTHING to do but to let go.  It is precisely this enormous superstructure of our identity which seems to be slipping into nothing–our sense of the “self” is like a knot, and then the knot is undone, and then we are “free” but what is “left”?— what an amazing adventure it will be for each of us…….

A few words are needed about all the news concerning the sex abuse of children and young adults within the Catholic Church.  Without a doubt this is a tragic and unspeakably awful thing to have been inflicted on these vulnerable youngsters.  (There are even cases involving deaf children who were in the care of the Church.)   Also, certainly the perpetrators of these abuses are very sick individuals.  However what the rest of us need to look at is why this happened and the response of the Church to the problem.  And it is not a  pretty picture!

What is amazing, at least to this blogger, is the widespread prevalence of the abuse cases–they are not limited to any one country or culture.  They are everywhere in the Church!  When the first cases emerged into the light in the Boston area of the U.S., European and Vatican officials were smug and said that this was an American problem.  Conservative spokesmen blamed the problem on “liberalism” in the Church.  However, as we now see the problem is literally everywhere, Europe, Latin America, Asia, and the U.S.  And it has come to light that the founder of the ultraconservative Legion of Mary was a total pervert who hurt hundreds of young people in his sickness.  Definitely the problem was NOT liberalism in the Church–there was even a sex scandal of sorts right within the Vatican.  A very disturbing question is why and how do all these very sick people find a home within the confines of the Church.  True, as some Vatican officials have said, this problem of pedophilia is not limited to the church, but it still is troubling of why they have gravitated in such numbers into the embrace of the church.  No one seems to want to address this question.

The other problem is the response of the Catholic Church as these problems emerged.  It is nothing less than shameful and disgusting.  The concern has been primarily one of “protecting” the Church and its high officials. While on the one hand the bishops are “wringing their hands” and crying out about the awfulness of what has emerged into the light; on the other hand they hire high priced lawyers to fight tooth and nail those who have come forward to get some justice from the Church. Even with all the skill of these lawyers, they already have had to pay out about 2 billion dollars in the U.S. alone–but on the condition that the cases be sealed so nothing about them can come out into public.  One senses a cover-up.   One senses that there is a much bigger story underneath this tragedy, but that has yet to come out if it ever will.  Furthermore, there is one theological point to make here that the Church’s secular critics are less sensitive to.  The institution of the Church has been over the centuries “over defined” as a divine institution.  How much of it is a human construct and how much it is prone to human error has been minimized in official church theology.  The average Catholic in the pew tended to look at his/her church as this divine institution which was always of course right.  History shows us quite the contrary! Also, it seems that every position in the Catholic Church, whether it be pastor, bishop, cardinal, abbot, etc., has taken on this attitude that strikes one almost as an antithesis of the Gospel.  Instead of being “lowly and humble,” instead of taking “the lowest places and living most humbly,” these people have taken on this monarchical, royal aura.  It is secular power and pride dressed in religiosity.   Consider the institution of the pope–it is actually a beautiful notion and a necessary one perhaps.  It is good to have a human embodiment of the Church’s unity and universality and continuity over the centuries–someone who calls all of us to greater fidelity to the Gospel; someone who reminds us that the Church is a much bigger reality than our own concerns or our own culture or our own fashions, etc.  But that does not mean that the pope has to be this monarchical figure encased in an enormous palace with a huge bureaucracy to police the institution.  What if the pope were more like Gandhi, what if all his belongings fit in one little bag, and he lived in a kind of ashram,  and he led primarily by example.   Just a thought.  It is absolutely false to think that the Vatican and the monarchical papacy is a “divine creation.”

Miura, a modern Zen Buddhist Roshi:  “When we enter the Sodo the first instructions we receive is ‘give up your life!’  It is easy to pronounce the words ‘give up your life’ but to do so is a difficult matter.  However, if we do not put an end once and for all to that which is called ‘self’ by cutting it off and throwing it away, we can never accomplish our practice.  When we do, a strange world reveals itself to us, a world surpassing our reckoning, where he who has cast away his self gains everything and he who grasps for everything with his illusory concepts in the end loses everything, even himself.”

Comment:  Jesus would agree.

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