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December 02, 2013


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With children one learns to meditate with many distractions. For some people the best lesson in compassion they will receive is caring for children or elderly and I do not realize an eternal vow of homeleaving is necessary for awakening to occur; I do think dedication to mindful practice is essential as is skillfully managing one's life so there are minimal distractions. But I think it is not so that only in monastic retreat does one awaken. Through the contemplation of dependent origination, even the most complex and chaotic doings of samsara can be contextualized as both real and unreal. The awakening the occurs on the city bus is no less valid than that under a haystack. The important thing in my opinion is a posture of mental release -- not the time one practices renouncement, but the sincerity of faith behind it. Finding this spiritual strength amid so many material distractions can be difficult, especially when we are confronted at every billboard and storefront with the immediacy of our desires, and so easily we construct physical, legal, and barricades of ettiquete, to shield us from the horror that permeates all things.

Beautiful or scenic natural surroundings can be auspicious toward awakening, but let us make no mistake: one can find enlightenment even after a lifetime of futile pursuits and sins, even in a prison cell, if we are willing to confront the very origin of our experience in consciousness and are dedicated enough to negate the influences of mental dross and defilements through sublime transcendent consciousness and right actions.

One way this is realized is through selfless interaction with others and complete immersion, so to speak, in society. In this sense, I equate homeleaving with a spiritual trek, in my case extending over a decade, and it was not mere tourism. Great mystics throughout the ages have taken peregrination practice as a sincere path, and though destinationless wandering is not of the same character as monastic reclusion, there is nothing which excludes such practices as lengthy expatriate sojourns or pilgrimages as helpful toward enlightenment, as far as I am aware.

Methexis: Sure, if you are awakened already. But without first awakening (this needs underscoring) such practice is the practice of delusion. This is why modern Zen, for the most part is a dismal failure. Shên-hui said:

"All those who want to learn the Way must achieve Sudden Enlightenment to be followed by Gradual Cultivation."

This advice appears to follow the bodhisattva-yana which commences with bodhicitta followed by the bhumis.

Zen masters who wrote advice to lay Zen practitioners such as Dahui and Foyan never advised this. Not even once! How come?

They say: practice exactly when children have ear infections. If not then, then when? Surely it can be beneficial to retreat into solitude, but if it was essential, it would be in every single one of Dahui's letters. Instead, he advises something more interesting. To bring up a saying at the very moment of the ear infection of your child.

You can retreat in your own room. Nature is delusion. You're retrograding into Hinayana mentality.

For what is nature, if not exactly Disneyland? Birds singing songs, Sun and Moon elbowing each other in the sky, photosynthesis - I can hardly imagne anything more cartoonish than that!

Forget cutting wood and carrying water: hier ist die Rose, hier tanze.

Dave St.Germain: Hopefully one awakens before the retreat ends.

Then what, the retreat ends, and one goes back to get married and live in suburbia?

Or does the transformation never end?

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