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July 20, 2015

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thank you for something that challenges my fixed ideas.

I was weeding my email today and thought I would share this as an "open letter" with you & your readers. I wrote this to my Zen teacher on July 18th:

I was working with Frank today, and we were talking about my general indifference to vegan food. He commented "You are a meat eater, aren't you?"
I said, "True, but I'm not a Buddhist."
He asked "What are you then? Christian? Atheist?"
I said, "No. I don't know. What do you think? I don't believe half of this stuff."
He said "I had more doubts than everyone! I doubted everything the Buddha said! Now I believe everything. I have no doubts." Then he added "Shifu would be surprised to hear me say that.."
And I asked what seemed to be the pertinent question, "You were convinced by realization or by reconditioning?"
And Frank said "By realization."
And I asked, "You are enlightened, then?"
And he said "No, that's not necessary. Do you think all these people volunteering are enlightened?"
Me: "No, of course not. So, what you're saying is that you had other beliefs and you reconditioned your mind and now have different beliefs?"
Frank: "No."
Me: "It's either one or the other. You *do* know that the whole idea behind everything we do here is to awaken, don't you? All the masters said that. If that doesn't happen...you've missed the point of Buddhism."
Frank: "But when we do all these things we are walking the Path. Walking toward enlightenment."

At this point in the conversation something that I had been thinking about for the past week clarified for me: what it means to live in the Dharma-Ending Age. The masters of old practiced like they were escaping from a burning house and their hair was already in flames, and we practice like enlightenment is no big deal...just as long as we keep this big, expensive concern operating and expanding and everybody contented. The masters of old deliberately created occasions of stress, and all we do is to try to reduce it by keeping really busy. Well, I will not go on with this thought....

My beliefs, your beliefs, Frank's beliefs...why should I care about them? My Christian friend "knows" what is true. The Islamics "know" what is true. The Mormons "know" what is true. Etc, etc. And what else is this except being re-conditioned? Testing out a set of beliefs and seeing 1) if it appeals to you aesthetically and 2) whether you can tolerate the cognitive dissonance and 3) whether in the long run you can use them for a lifetime?

Why was I upset when JGS left? Because *he manifested*. I never took a class from him, or even had an extended conversation with him, but every time he spoke to me, there was the Dharma walking around in its reality. It wasn't what he taught or said or did. It was what he was, and is. And, I'm sorry to say this, but everyone else--and I know you monks have advanced. I know you have attained--treats enlightenment like it's no big deal, and that endless "expedient means" and classes are somehow more important.

Re: your last sentence. That's why they call our time the "Dharma Ending Age".

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