As I delve more deeply into my spiritual practice, I struggle more with the idea of “either/or”. How can we sit in non-judgement when we are taking vows to refrain from behaviors we judge to be wrong such as killing and stealing? How do we advocate for peace while respecting that other people have their own truths?
My confusion, according to my Sensei, stems from the fact that I am stuck in dualistic thought, and I must strive to overcome the human tendency to organize the world into categories. It can be uncomfortable to see things as “both/and”. If something is bad, we fight against it; if it is good we support it.
If it is both…what do we do? It requires a certain degree of sophistication, maturity, and creativity to hold this tension.
While intellectually I am comfortable with this, on a deeper level I am still clinging to my habitual way of seeing the world. As it turns out, it is quite scary to let go of my rational mind. I accept that there is good in the bad and bad in the good, but I want to find, study and understand it and these things are beyond that kind of understanding.
When you follow your breath during meditation, Sensei asked me, what is between the breaths? Nothing, I answered. Theoretically, my true nature is between the breaths.
Not theoretically, he answered.
A couple of weeks ago, I spent a few days at my in-laws’ house at the beach where I was able to sit by the ocean each morning. I watched the ocean, constant flux within permanence, and I wondered: what is between the waves? Nothing. Or everything.
The whole ocean is between the waves.
The Identity of the Relative and the Absolute calls to transcend our dualistic understanding of the world.
Within light there is darkness,
but do not try to understand that darkness.
Within darkness there is light,
but do not look for that light.
Light and darkness are a pair,
like the foot before and the foot behind in walking.
It’s all there, all the time. Light in the darkness, darkness in the light; good in the bad, bad in the good. One does not make sense without the other, but don’t bother looking for it because it is outside the purview of the analytical mind. This is not the fatalism with which many approach the world, comforting themselves with the idea that everything happens for a reason and one day they may be able to understand their misfortunes. This is about recognizing the divine spark in all of creation. We are all, good and bad, sacred manifestations of life.
Each thing has its own intrinsic value
and is related to everything else in function and position…
Do not judge by any standards.
I am nothing and all things; I am a temporary expression of the eternal, a particular accumulation of molecules and energies. So are we all. Some of the molecules in my body, maybe, once belonged to the body of Jesus or Thoreau or Rachel Carson; others, maybe, once belonged to the body of Hitler or Pol Pot or Caligula or even a dinosaur or saber-toothed tiger. We are all waves in the ocean, momentarily surging forward to embody the infinite mystery.