What if we stopped trying so hard to defeat uncertainty? We use concepts, ideas, philosophical and semantic structures in the hope of pigeon-holing the seemingly frightening truth of the complete fickleness of existence into submission. And yet every time we invariably find out that it was a totally futile quest.
In these past few months I’ve been going through a steady process of having the carpet pulled out from under my feet. Through the curious play of life, the onion layers of my identity, which I hold oh-so-dear, are being peeled away by the ever-changing waters of existence. Mind you, there’s nothing especially spectacular going on. It’s the usual growing up / adulting stuff of life. Financial insecurity, a new professional direction, moving to a different continent and other such usual “meat & potatoes” of adult life.
At the same time, from a spiritual point of view, something very interesting started to take place. My usual compulsive habit of chowing down tons of spiritual resources as a kind of inspiration-fuel for my practice has started to grow extremely boring. What previously amounted to a kind of spiritual binge, consuming endless books, films, lectures and podcasts about the spiritual journey in general, and the Buddhist path in particular, suddenly stopped fulfilling its intended purpose – inspiring me to practice.
And yet, incredibly, my practice itself steadily continued. But the conceptual and intellectual mind games that I always played with myself have lost their taste. What came instead is something which seems to be much more valuable. An actual interest in my situation, in each new moment of now. Dropping all the BS from the practice, even the most subtle conceptual underpinnings of the very structure of my psyche, have brought me to the reality of my experience as it is right now. No fireworks, no “breakthroughs”.
All this reminded me of a passage I read by the Japanese Zen Master, Kosho Uchiyama Roshi:
“The most important point to bear in mind here regarding the Buddhadharma is the expression mantoku enman, or perfect harmony. To have goodness emanating naturally from your character is living more truly by Buddhism than having had some so-called Kenshō or Satori experience. There should be no doubt that living out your life, acting and being in perfect harmony, is indeed living out the life of the Self. A Satori which is unrelated to your personal character is nothing more than a kind of drunkenness. It is no more than the elation you might get from taking drugs. Needless to say, this has nothing to do either with religion or with the Buddhadharma.”
So, even though there is still much work to be done, and there are many important experiences to be had and discoveries to be made, at least the vale of “spiritual materialism” seems to finally be lifting. And in the face of the experience of utter uncertainty that inevitably replaces it, I once again find how the Perfection of Forbearance, the most underrated of all spiritual perfections, is actually, in many ways, the most significant one to cultivate.
So let’s see – what is it that lies beyond the known? What indeed…