Tuesday, April 24, 2012

'defending' the Dharma

Yesterday it was huge and snarling. Today it is barely a blip on the radar screen. Ever notice how that happens ... what was important with a capital 'I' ... what was serious-serioser-seriousest yesterday takes a back seat to a bowl of Cheerios today? Love, hate, anguish, delight, disdain, wonder ... that was then -- now where are my Cheerios?

Oh well -- language always relates to what happened in the past, so I will return to yesterday...today. It was soooo important then, and I guess it has some importance still.

I was brought up, so to speak, in Zen Buddhism. I conceived an interest in it about 40 years ago and decided to put it to the test. I was bright-eyed-and-bushy-tailed and threw myself at it with all of the fervor of a high-school boy who mistakes hormones for love. My efforts and importunings on behalf of Zen Buddhism were every bit as stumbling and unsure as the stumblings and uncertainties of that high school kid. I was sincere and serious, but I had yet to learn what, precisely, I was being sincere and serious about. I thought I knew and pretended I knew ... but all my seriousness and sincerity were untutored. I look back on my idiocies with a certain warmth and kindness ... what the hell, I didn't kill anyone along the way and stumblings and uncertainties are a sure-fire precursor to something less agitated. What an idiot ... and thank God for it.

Anyway, along the way, I ran into the word "Dharma." "Dharma" is one of those slippery-slope references that is like a drop of mercury on a table top: Poke it here with a pencil point and it moves there; break it with a hammer and it not only is unfazed but its bits and pieces return to each other without bidding. Depending on circumstances, it can mean the bedrock essence of all things or the phenomena in which those things participate. Maybe it's "God" or "Tao" or some other great big word whose users are tongue-tied by the meaning. Whatever it means, it is one of the big bangers in Buddhism ... one of the things that is referred to as a treasure. Poets and holy men genuflect ... that sort of thing. For the bright-eyed-and-bushy-tailed, Dharma is serious ... even to the point of solemnity. Try to attain it and it moves away as surely as mercury on a tabletop. Try to sidestep it and you are flummoxed again.

What set my tail on fire yesterday, because my mind had involved itself in various discussions premised in a Zen Buddhism I had once been bright-eyed-and-bushy-tailed about, was the phrase "defending the Dharma." I had heard the phrase in my travels. Who knows, maybe I even used it. Yesterday, it purely infuriated me.

The base line for this anger -- or rather pure wrath -- was my own sense that Dharma really does mean something; that it is worth knowing about; that it is worth actualizing. The name doesn't matter. "Dharma" does mean something even if that something cannot be spoken. But 'defending' it is a sure sign of the most abject ignorance, an insignia of a grasping, self-serving faith. Defenders of the Dharma, like all defenders of the true faith, are people to flee as anyone might flee an enraged grizzly bear or a herd of stampeding cattle or a case of the clap. The enemies of spiritual life are not so much the ones who abominate and disdain it. It is the ones who extol and defend and lay out a scenario in which "defending the Dharma" or "defending God" or "defending Islam" is put forward as both possible and worthy. Such a course is a defamation of its own purported goals. Icky. Disgusting. And dangerous in both practical and metaphorical ways.

Beware of such friends. They will cut out your heart and eat it before your eyes. Beware of those clerks and administrators who claim to love you. They will call the "Dharma" (or whatever) precious to your face, without batting an eye that should be cast down in shame.

The "Dharma" is not precious and it cannot be defended.

You, by contrast, are precious. This is not a joke or just some spiritual eyewash.

Oh, I cannot tell you how this pissed me off yesterday! George Carlin's cuss words simply could not rein in or define my wrath.

Today, by contrast, I need my Cheerios if I am to regain my bright-eyed-and-bushy-tailed capacities.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, the desire to be on the one true path unfortunately divides 'Us' from 'Them' and holding onto this the desire to defend 'My' position arises. It's a self righteous ego trip!