Q: If you were to modernize Zen and for that matter Buddhism, how might you go about it?
A: I have been asking that question for a long time. Surprisingly, I have discovered some ways based on my own long journey to the beyond. We have to remember that the Buddha’s teaching had the Buddha around. You might walk up to him and be surprised by the outpouring of spiritual light that is coming from him even though he is silent. This means that you just entered the current or sotapanna. You are an ariyan. Others wouldn’t sense his light at all. And why? They ain’t got good karma. In this sense, good karma determines whether or not you are going to awaken.
Q: So what accounts for this spiritual light as you call it?
A: Here is the important point that helps me to modernize Buddhism. The animative side of us is who we really are. It is interfaced with the animated side. The animated side is our psychophysical body, or the same, the Five Aggregates. These two sides can also be thought of as the unconditioned, the animative, and the conditioned, the animated—nirvana and samsara. When the animative side turns to itself, this being samadhi, Wow! We just met who we really are. This animative side is immortal—it’s nirvana. It is intrinsically free of the animated like the clay of a clay pot is intrinsically free of the pot form. If the pot breaks, the clay is unaffected. In the Buddha’s case he has been doing samadhi for a long time. As he goes more to the animative, the animated, conditioned side, and all it stands for, begins to look illusory—it loses its sting. The power of the animative begins to influence others who are in accord with it.
Q: That is very interesting and original. But how is it that we don’t see the animative?
A: This is where desire comes in. Let’s get real. As humans we crave the animated side. Having sex, getting high, partying all night, we desire this. The more we do this the more the animative side gets lost. We can’t re-member it. We are entrapped in the transcendental illusion. We love it here. By craving the animated side we automatically open up ourselves to the other side of pleasure which is suffering. One day you will be an old fart and that beautiful woman you married won’t look any better. You have the grim reaper to look forward to—the sudden shock of your death.
Q: Okay, what do we do about it?
A: What Will Rogers said applies: “If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging.” A gradual increase in craving for the animated side of us is digging—always digging. So you stop. The smart ones try to go into retreat, in order to try to back off from digging. We have to stop digging sufficient to enable the animative side of us to come through. However, there is another way. You become so interested in discovering the animative side that you forget to dig! Then you see it.
Q: But what if a person can’t stop digging?
A: It is sort of spiritual suicide by digging. There is not much you can do, especially if you yourself are digging, as these people generally get secondary gain by having other people give them attention night and day.
Q: But how do we know that this animative, unconditioned side is real?
A: Unfortunately, we live in a culture in which knowledge by way of our conditioned senses dominates. If you can’t see it, it doesn’t exist. This makes it much more difficult to go on a spiritual path which seeks to connect or samadhi with our animative side. How do I convince a hardcore skeptic who is resisting everything I say? The Buddha faced the same thing. He didn’t convince the materialists and skeptics of his day in the unconditioned. And not everyone who met the Buddha won the current or sotapanna. Not all people are the same. There are sometimes huge differences between people—and some are on the same wavelength so to speak.
Q: Could you say the animative side that doesn’t realize itself can get stuck in rebirth for a long time?
A: Yes, that’s right. Being under the habit and desire for the animated, conditioned side, because of ignorance or avidya, gets us caught up in another birth in some animated form from that of a god to a lower being. This is what the 12-Nidanas are all about: always reconnecting with the animated, conditioned side—the birth-death cycle of samsara.