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Part IV – Chapter 33

Already there.

A phenomenological stance is consistent with the teachings of meditation by Zen masters, when they insist that meditation is not a pursuit aimed at acquiring Buddhahood (ultimate realization). We are already Buddhas, they teach, and zazen is merely the typical behavior of Buddhas.

By sitting in meditation, we simply express the “Buddha-nature” already in us, rather than try to add it on to us. We express our native Buddhahood, our very “ground of being” as conscious entities. We just settle comfortably into the “nature of mind”, i.e. into pure consciousness.

Placing and resting one’s consciousness at the phenomenological level, the domain of appearances, we naturally, without artificial activities, recover our true identity and a true perspective on all things. By floating freely on and in the waters of the ocean, we become one with the ocean and know it more intimately than any motorized mariner ever could.

Similarly, in Judaism and like religions[1]. Faith in the existence and omnipresence of God – an effective faith in everyday life, including trust in His guidance and providence and submission to His rule – is considered equivalent, for most intents and purposes, to full consciousness of God.

In other words, it is not necessary to be at a supreme level of consciousness of God’s presence in order to be agreeable to God. If one believes in Him and serve Him as one should; whatever one’s spiritual level, if one lives, thinks and acts in a manner that constantly acknowledges His unseen presence and kingship, one has equally well fulfilled one’s duty.

If one acts as if one has God-consciousness, then one effectively has God-consciousness. Just as a servant does not require an audience with the lord of the manor to fulfill his task, one does not need to receive fancy personal revelations to conscientiously and loyally do one’s job in this world. Our works, whatever they are, loudly proclaim our actual spiritual position.

By “works”, here, I mean: mental and physical behavior, including personal, social and religious acts. I am using the expression in a broad manner, tolerant of various traditions. I am referring to moral virtues most people agree with, like personal rectitude, common decency, helping others, fairness in law, kindness to animals, and so forth[2]. Without moral behavior, one cannot seriously claim to believe in God. Therefore, such good behavior may be considered (partial) evidence of belief.

Religious acts, like prayer or various ritual acts, are also (partial) evidence. If one prays to God, one may logically be assumed to believe in Him (at least that much); one would not bother praying otherwise (except of course pretending to pray for the social benefits it might bring; e.g. to belong in a community). Similarly for other acts of worship: engaging in Divine service may (normally) be taken to imply belief in the Divine.

Of course, orthodox Judaism takes all this much further, and insists all the 613 commandments (the mitzvoth), as understood by the Rabbis, must be obeyed. Strictly speaking, any deviation from this principle would be a failure of belief in God. That may well be true – I do not here argue for or against it[3]. All I wish to do here is point out that we are to some extent conscious of God well before we reach our spiritual ideal.

This defines the Monotheistic equivalent of the Zen concept of being “already there”. Another way to express the same thing is to remind us that we were created in God’s image and likeness – i.e. that our deepest nature is God-like. This may be equivalent to the “original face” spoken of in Zen.

If one keeps this theoretical self-knowledge in mind, and constantly reminds oneself that one’s soul is a bit of God’s own holy spirit, one can hardly go wrong in practice. One will naturally engage in “imitation of God”, doing one’s best to honor this treasure within us and others, and not dishonor it in any way.

As of the moment I interiorize the Zen notion that I am one with the universe, or the Jewish notion that I am a piece of God, I am as good as “already there” (that is, here and now). I have already effectively awakened to the effervescence of existence, to the miracle of all that occurs. The distinction between this practice and some ultimate attainment as a result of it becomes, as the saying goes, “purely academic”.

Nevertheless, paradoxically, all this is not intended as an argument to stop meditating! Why? Because if one does not meditate, one cannot know firsthand and experientially that one is “already there” – one can only at best “think so” by hearsay and conceptually, and that is simply not enough. One must keep meditating to advance, and it is only ongoing meditation practice that makes one’s current spiritual level equivalent to the ideal level.

Thus, keep meditating! For without some spiritual practice, you sink back into gloomy darkness; while with practice, in one way or another, you are already (as above explained) effectively enlightened. It is that easy.

[1] Christian ideology (of Pauline origin, if I am not mistaken) is that faith suffices for salvation. But the purpose of this idea is to attract converts, by making that religion seem easy; it is an advertising ploy, to obtain a first commitment. I doubt if any Christian would seriously consider a mere declaration of faith sufficient. Faith still has to be proved in practice through certain good works; faith has to be lived out, through certain required behavior patterns (like loving your neighbor, for example). Some works are indeed discarded by the Christian faith-only doctrine; these are certain Judaic commandments, like the prohibition of pork or the need to wear prayer phylacteries. (A similar approach is found in Pure Land Buddhism, by the way: on the surface, faith is initially presented as enough; but thereafter, there is a teaching about good works. This includes, not only chanting a certain name, but various moral injunctions.)

[2] From the Judaic viewpoint, this would refer to the “laws for the children of Noah” (i.e. for humanity at large). This is considered ordinary “savoir vivre” (derech eretz, in Hebrew). It does not only include external actions, but the underlying thoughts (for example, if you hate your neighbor in your heart, overt displays of benevolence are hypocrisy).

[3] Although, as I have pointed out in Judaic Logic, belief in God does not necessarily imply belief in an alleged revelation from Him. The latter is an additional step, found in each of the Monotheistic religions in relation to a different “revelation”. Similarly, within Judaism historically, there have been believers in the written law (Torah) who had doubts relative to the so-called oral law (Talmud). I say all this quite objectively, without intending to advocate one position or another.

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