Blog entry

christianity / buddhism

song of the day: rikki don't lose that number / steely dan
word of the day: subite / sudden, hasty, unexpected; hastily producedor constructed

had a great time last night with Lucinda Vardey and her husband John. they came into Boulder to meet and hang with Ken Wilber, and also to spend some time with a small gathering from the local integral community. Lucinda started the evening by simply saying "let's talk about God" and i knew i was going to dig it. right off, i found her presence and vibe to be quite moving. i really did get a hit of love and clarity from her that registered as physical feelings in my body, stomach, torso, neck- her love and devotion to the spiritual life is compelling and rung my bell in a beautiful way. beyond that, i dig her perspective on the complementarity of mystic traditions (the common, unified core of kabbalah, sufism, esoteric buddhism, vedanta, christian mysticism, etc), while at the same time emphasizing the absolute necessity of picking ONE of these and digging a very deep hole there. only from that depth of understanding and long term commitment in your tradition can you then be freed to move among all the various traditions and go party with every body else, as it were. but you always, every day, every hour, remain in your steadfast commitment to your teacher (buddha, christ, etc) and those teachings.

and this brings up a very cool thing i feel occuring in my life.

i think the injury that was my experience of christianity is beginning to heal up and be included in a positive way. this is occuring because of my relationship with christians. when i was about 10 or 11 years old, when i was sitting in church, i had a few insights. first, i didn't like the feeling i got from looking at all the droopy, anesthetized people regurgitating hymns and statements in unison. it was my first sense of "this is programming. these people are programmed." from that, i started to really get how the whole thing was a myth, back then i just thought of it as a very elaborate story that people used to orient their lives. but it didn't add up, even for a kid of 11 years old. one of the main things to "sink" christianity for me back then was my complete confusion about how there could #1, be a God that was infinite, unbounded, and unlimited, and #2, why that God's behavior and personality was so finite, bounded, and limited. i decided at that point that i still believed there was something that was God, but that people were contorting it and twisting it to match their (finite, limited, bounded) personalities. i didn't communicate this to the church or the its community, because i saw how it went over when my buddy Bruce spoke up at our communion training and said something like "this whole thing does not make sense. i don't believe in this." to the pastor. not good. Bruce caught some deep shit back home with mom and pop. so, i decided i would go through the motions (you had to attend church in my family, it was required). there were worse things than having parents who were committed to a life of decency, kindness, and integrity. so i was present enough in all that to have them be ok, but i had officially dismissed it in my head and heart as a viable option for life.

for the next ten years or so (from the time i was 12 until i was into my 20's a bit), God was an unknown agent. i thought all organized religion was bullshit, but i didn't think spirituality was bullshit. so, i channeled my amorphous, undirected interest and longing for something "bigger" than myself into drinking and drugs. i got really into altered states, over and over again getting fucked up. it was pretty fun, but i really had problems putting the breaks on. my breaks were passing out. so, hospitals, treatment, that kind of thing. i went to hell on a couple occassions, and by that i mean i literally experienced the hell realms while on drugs, and that was an incredibly motivating experience. i realized if i died while in that state, i would get stuck there. so, i went to treatment. twice. all the while, i still thought organized religion was bullshit. human Love? awesome? Mystery? all good. orthodoxy? piss.

around the time of Nomen Est Numen (one of the CDs i released with Triad Records), my buddy dirk, the guitar player extraordinaire, told me "you gotta read this fucking book". Dirk had read every book ever on all kinds of esoteric / hermetic / mystical subjects, and he rarely got so lit up about something. so, i read the book, it was Ken Wilber's Sex, Ecology, Spirituality, and it blew my fucking mind. it was the first major eureka, the first major certitude i'd experienced since i had first played the guitar. it changed my life, and among many, many other insights, i suddenly really got the difference between exoteric (outward form, orthodoxy, belief-based and conventional) and esoteric (inward, mystical, emperical via direct, immediate experience of what is) spirituality. that same week i started meditating, and became a buddhist. at the same time, i appreciate (although only cognitively) that it's not a matter of christianity vs buddhism, or islam vs hinduism, etc. it's a matter of depth or dimension within each or any of the traditions. the deeper you go into any of them, the more they begin to resemble each other. this is generally the track from exoteric, outward forms toward inward, interior practices which unfold as more intimate, direct experiences of an Unknowable. plunged all the way into any tradition, an adherent disappears into the same Unity that underlies all reality. there's a saying in Zen "Reality has no opposite" which i modified slightly to "Love has no opposite". and way down, or way up high- whatever metaphor you prefer- it all drops away to the same One.

but i was still a buddhist snob for a long, long time (and still have that a sub-personality, i'm working on it). my feeling was, if it's not Zen, it's shallow. i looked at Vajrayana and thought "they are such bad practioners. look at their dirty, messy cushions. they are horrible sitters. bad with discipline. and they are obsessed with forms, they are addicted to ornamentation." i looked at christianity, islam, every tradition, and had all kinds of judgements. and then a funny thing happened, i started to have judgements about Zen. i discovered it had its own orthodoxy, its own ideology, its own conventional traps, and they were some of the worst because they were the orthodoxy of non-orthodoxy, the ideology of no-ideology, and so on. but it was definitely there. and worst of all, i discovered i was a fundamentalist. i was an absolutist.

of course this didn't all happen in a perfect, linear line. messes of mushy muck moving all over. i eventually realized that every tradition was both perfect and fucked up, including Zen. i realized the central, primary problem was ME, not my tradition, not the World. my fractured perspective was fucking up a perfect world, in a sense.

in the heart of hearts, Zen is my practice, and i couldn't tell you why. it just happens to be home for my heart, and i knew that from the very first time i stepped into a zendo. but my family, my sangha, the community of my spiritual life includes any person, in any tradition that is in love with the Mystery, that is sincerely devoted to the great Unknowable presence that rests at the center of each being.

and Lucinda Vardey had such a beautiful perspective to share on all this last night. as she was speaking, saying how the Christians NEED the Buddhists, and the Buddhists NEED the Christians, and so on, in every religion, in every tradition, it really hit me in my gut how profound it was- how perfect and miraculous that i'd been born into a christian home. i truly feel my soul has been a buddhist practioner for many lifetimes, and that's why it was so important and fortunate that i was born into a christian home. can i remember that it's been christians that cared for me and brought me up, providing me with the security and safety and freedom so that i could go out and discover whatever i may have to discover, whether it was christian or not. i really beleive that is the expression of Christ's love through the peopel i have known. without any question or hesitation, my parents raised me and loved me unconditionally without exception, and it wasn't because they were christian and so was i, and it wasn't in spite of the fact i became a buddhist, or any other reasons. they are human beings who loved a human being who is their son. religion is just one of the ways we can express our love, our humanity. family is one of the ways we express our love for God, through our devotion to each other.

when you get down to it, i think all practices, all traditions are the same. it is the practice of being a human. what is it to be human? an infinite puzzle, ever unfolding.

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