the benefit of engagement in politics

only love can do that

 

Forget the self and you’ll help others.

Deshan Xuanjian

 

The spiritual benefit of engagement in politics comes from going into rather than away from the imperfection. And if you are diving right into the heart of delusion, naturally this means into the heart of your own delusion. There’s always a chance that such a plunge might increase self-knowledge more than it increases self-righteousness.

The point here is that you have to forget all that spiritual stuff about what a good person you are or intend to be someday, something that is anyway unlikely to be attained. The spirituality in politics might not be visible to others or even to yourself. Down there in the heart of delusion you look like a demon too, just like the rest of us. You’ll have to adapt your fashion sense to having horns and fangs.

This is the force of Bismarck’s famous comment about the art of the possible: in order to bring about any sort of transformation you have to work with what is actually the case, rather than what you might have wished for or pretended — in the world, in others, in yourself.

When I accepted how the world is, I noticed that empathy is part of how it is. It’s not easy to explain; it doesn’t have a reason. Empathy seems to be a basis for spiritual work — for the bodhisattva way. Empathy also doesn’t seem to be entirely personal. We didn’t work for change because we liked each other or the people who might benefit; there was empathy even when people were behaving in ways that I might find painful.

 

John Tarrant

bring me the rhinoceros

 

patiently let go and accept

do non-doing

 

Do not attempt

to force a good feeling into place.

Patiently let go of doubt, fear, anger,

and distrust. The Sage aids those

who quietly accept the

Unknown.

 

Perseverance in stillness,

in both thought and deed, forms

a noble heart. The ultimate fruit of

a noble heart is complete

peace of mind.

 

third and sixth changing lines

from The I Ching, or Book of Changes

Hexagram 52, Ken / Mountain

 

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yield and you can stay centered

she keeps her heart clear

 

Allow yourself to yield,

and you can stay centered.

Allow yourself to bend, and you will

stay straight. Allow yourself to be empty, and

you’ll get filled up. Allow yourself to be exhausted,

and you’ll be renewed. Having little, you can receive

much. Having much, you’ll just become confused.

Therefore the sage embraces the oneness and

becomes a pattern for the

whole world.

 

She doesn’t display herself, so she becomes illuminated.

She doesn’t justify herself, so she becomes distinguished.

She doesn’t boast, so she is recognized.

She doesn’t claim credit, so she advances and endures.

She doesn’t contend, so no one can contend with her.

 

“Yield and you

can stay centered” —

Is this saying meaningless?

Stay whole, and all things

return to you.

 

The Tao te Ching of Lao Tzu,

Chapter 22

 

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the essential thing

bottomless yuanwu

 
The essential thing in studying the Way is to make the roots deep and the stem strong. Be aware of where you really are twenty-four hours a day. You must be most attentive. When nothing at all gets on your mind, it all merges harmoniously, without boundaries — the whole thing is empty and still, and there is no more doubt or hesitation in anything you do. This is called the fundamental matter appearing ready-made.

As soon as you give rise to the slightest bit of dualistic perception or arbitrary understanding and you want to take charge of this fundamental matter and act the master, then you immediately fall into the realm of the clusters of form, sensation, conception, value synthesis, and consciousness. You are entrapped by seeing, hearing, feeling, and knowing, by gain and loss and right and wrong. You are half drunk and half sober and unable to clean all this up.

Frankly speaking, you simply must manage to keep concentrating even in the midst of clamor and tumult, acting as though there were not a single thing happening, penetrating all the way through from the heights to the depths. You must become perfectly complete, without any shapes or forms at all, without wasting effort, yet not inhibited from acting. Whether you speak or stay silent, whether you get up or lie down, it is never anyone else. 

If you become aware of getting at all stuck or blocked, this is all false thought at work. Make yourself completely untrammeled, like empty space, like a clear mirror on its stand, like the rising sun lighting up the sky. Moving or still, going or coming, it doesn’t come from the outside. Let go and make yourself independent and free, not being bound by things and not seeking to escape from things. From beginning to end, fuse everything into one whole. Where has there ever been any separate worldly phenomenon apart from the buddhadharma, or any separate buddhadharma apart from worldly phenomena?

This is why the founder of Zen pointed directly to the human mind. This is why The Diamond Sutra taught the importance of human beings detaching from forms. When a strong man moves his arm, he does not depend on someone else’s strength — that’s what it’s like to be detached from forms.

To develop this essential insight, it is best to spend a long time going back into yourself and investigating with your whole being, so that you can arrive at the stage of the genuine experience of enlightenment. This is what it means to study with boundless, infinite enlightened teachers everywhere in every moment.

Strive sincerely for true faith, and apply yourself diligently to your meditation work. This is the best course for you.
 

Yuanwu

zen letters

🪷