One of the casualties of this tendency we have to turn the Dharma into an “ism” (i.e., Buddhism), is that the arts and sciences that make up the Dharma often become homogenised into some sort of “religious doctrine”, stripping away all of the freedom and value the practice once had.
Mindfulness is the art and science of bringing our awareness to the moment. It is the practice of experiencing our True Nature, as Pure Awareness.
The Buddha Śakyamuni is said to have advocated the practice of mindfulness in one’s daily activities, as a means of grounding oneself in the calm awareness of the transitory and impermanent nature of all phenomena, one of the key facets of the path to awakening.
But you see, that’s just it… he didn’t say we need to “believe something about mindfulness”. He didn’t even find it necessary to define mindfulness. He simply said we should practice it.
And that’s where the religion of Buddhism fails in a postmodern world.
As a spiritual path, one might call Zenkondo “decentralised”, in that there is no singular authority, principality or Being at the core of the practice. We embrace the divine principle as being beyond our concepts, and boundless in its diversity.
In many ways, we see the institutional religions of the past two millennia, and sadly recognise that what anthropologically emerged as an expression of the people, has nearly always become a corrupt and clericalist mechanism of control and manipulation. Religion, at its roots is always a folk-religion, but when it becomes institutionalised, the superstitions, traditions, rituals and dogma are generally “reinterpreted” to give central power, control and authority to one person or group of persons.
On this nineteenth day of the Chinese New Year, there is often a celebration of “The Hundred Gods”, particularly among certain Zen and Taoist practitioners. This celebration is intended to remind the practitioners that they are to honour the gods and traditions of other practitioners, whether they embrace or recognise such gods themselves or not.
I could not help but think about how virulently Westerners seem to attack those whose beliefs are not like their own; especially those of us for whom the god concept us unnecessary. In their pathetic attempts to define themselves, they become threatened by anything that doesn’t fit into the convenient little compartments our culture and society has created for such things.
For practitioners of Zenkondo, our spiritual path should not only reflect spiritual diversity, inclusiveness and warmth, but should encourage it.
Buddha was not a Buddhist, nor was Rav Yeshua a Christian. And given that seven of the Roman Catholic Church’s popes were Jewish, it would seem that we need to take a close look at the exclusionary, intolerant, sectarian assholes we may have become, in the name of religion!
There will be those who say that our path is heretical, and they may indeed be correct. That has never been of any interest or concern to us. What is essential is that we inspire compassion, accepting all others, and recognise that we need not disparage the practice of another, in order to justify our own. We shall always be there to lend a hand to the poor, the suffering, the sick and dying, and to those marginalised by society, religion, family or the world.
When we encounter another in need, they become the central figure in our practice — an opportunity to serve the indwelling divine principle, and to recognise our essential oneness.