Message from Henry: Shadows

The brighter the light the deeper the shadow.

It’s easy enough to see the mote in another’s eye. Our Lord is infinitely merciful – and we’ll torture you until you do feel his mercy…

We venerate the bond between mother and child (witness our icons), but have a child out of wedlock and we’ll take it away from you…

Our practice makes us marvelously calm, adept at defusing reactivity, and now no human tragedy moves us…

And our practice teaches that the self is an illusion so we are free to do whatever we like….

Et cetera…

There are many faces of self-deception, hypocrisy, self-delusion, which spiritual practices over the ages seem to have offered little protection against. Sometimes religion is even coopted into service as just one more further screen for self-deception.

The brighter the light the deeper the shadow, as Jung approximately said. Zen has not been immune to this. In just the first half-century of concerted Zen practice in the west, there have been a handful of scandals that have devastated sanghas. I guess we should applaud the fact that they came to light. Who knows what others may not yet have come to light.

No practice is perfect. We shouldn’t really be looking for practice to be perfect. I can’t imagine what that would even mean. What matters is that…

  • if pursued diligently, it works, meaning it helps us grow in ways we couldn’t have conceived of;
  •  it offers a path, meaning a space, available in every single moment in, which we can choose to move toward more harm, or less harm; it gives us that freedom.

If no practice is perfect, then surely the best we can do is be patient, and assume many bases will need to be covered. If the training takes 30 years, or is never fully done, so much the better. We’re not training meditators, after all. We’re training human beings.

As I once heard a monk from Plum Village say, each of us are like a group of fifty people. If one of the 50 streaks ahead while the other 49 remain in the same place, that’s not as helpful as if if all 50 take one step in the same direction. That’s good practice.


Message from Henry is from our October 2, 2017 Newsletter
Images: 1)  Winter Tree by mbll,  2) Silhouette by minalsingla104, both photos are CC0 Public Domain.
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