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Digressions . . .
I'll put my longer-knuckled scribblings here so as to minimize contamination to the whole domain.
9/2/99--Greetings fellow travelers through
earthspace and cyberspace and through all our many worlds of delusion and
enlightenment. I hope this message finds you happy and full of zest
I just read that word in William James's "The Varieties of Religious Experience" which I'm in the process of reading-about ten pages a day. It is based on lectures he gave in the first two years of this century and I've come to wonder, in terms of Shambala's (see Reviews page) top ten spiritual books of this century, might it not be considered? I find it most expanding to read it--helps to loosen the hold of some narrow ideas of my own making I harbor. Out to sea with you. He doesn't say much about Buddhism or Hinduism, but what he does seems well-considered and remarkably well informed for that time. And I love what he has had to say about the sort of Christianity I was raised in. I think I could safely say it lies smack dab in the "once born" category of belief (as opposed to the twice-born which are reborn, converted, and so forth.). He says that both Buddhism and Christianity are twice-born religions but there's once born in Christianity (Emerson, Christian Science) and I'd say that Jodo-shin Shu is once born in that it emphasizes that we are already saved. According to James's classification, I'd also say I was from the Mind Cure wing of a Healthy-minded (once born) type of Christianity.
My father was a reader (the closest they've got to a minister I think) in the Christian Science Church who resigned to study the works of a Christian Science drop-out named William Walter. I'll tell you more about it someday. It's pretty interesting to me. I learned a lot from it. My father is like my first teacher. Most people at Zen Center didn't have a positive feeling about their religious upbringing. My wife Elin loved her church and some of the Jews I've known in Zen Center have a strong place for Judaism in their hearts, but so many people had rejected their religious heritage. William James shows that a lot of people have had some terribly deep experiences in various types of religions though he only gives examples from Christianity. I think it would be great to have a 100 year anniversary edition of "The Varieties of Religious Experience" with an updated version for 2002, the year it was published. It's been in print ever since. Here, read about it. I just found this: http://www.psychwww.com/psyrelig/james/toc.htm. [Doesn't seem to be working now.--DC, 11/24/99]Who could do such a book? It could be a group of essays. Ken Wilber could write it himself. One of the niches he might be said to fill is the William James of our time. Of course, James was terribly experience oriented and that's sort of the opposite of Suzuki's approach, but he had his big mindedness and would immediately recognize the value of Suzuki's approach and would possibly say that it was very a Healthy Minded religion which includes the twice born. I think he would also enjoy Suzuki's inclusion of contradictions though he hasn't mentioned that sort of opposites-in-the-whole sort of practice. Any comments greatly appreciated.
I read the first third of the book while I was recently at Tassajara, Zen Mountain Center, the monastery Shunryu Suzuki founded in the wilderness near Big Sur CA (though you get there through Carmel Valley. My eight year old son Clay and I were there for ten days and we both had a wonderful time. It's guest season and Tassajara is turned toward taking care of up to 80 guests a day. Everyone is working very hard and things are quite cheerful these days. I sat zazen in the mornings and some of the evenings and washed guest dishes and messed around with Clay. He actually worked full time for the first two days--in the kitchen and on both guest and student dishes. I'd never seen him do anything like that. Then some guests came in with a seven year old boy and four and nine year old girls and Clay became a guest. Nobody said a thing, but three days later after they left I had to gently point out to Clay that he was part of the student contingent and not the guests--they eat different food. But the dinning room crew continued to show great compassion toward him and he got some of their breakfast and dinner dessert goodies. We also hiked in water shoes up the creek and down to the narrows several times. He remembers where we saw a rattlesnake in the creek last May and he knows the plant that grows near poison oak that is an anecdote for it and he rubs it on himself anywhere he's touched the vile weed. We walked down creek all the way one day and saw crayfish and swam across hidden pools. And we jumped into the big deep pool at the narrows.
Clay got along well with people too. In May he'd broken down in tears because the older kid who came with us had such good manners and he didn't like being called a brat. "Don't call me a brat," he said. "I won't when you're not." "I'm not a brat," he said. "Good, I won't call you one then." And he was fine after that. But this time there were just a few reminders to wear shoes or sandals and to be quiet. As a matter of fact I got asked to be quiet more than he did--something that always happens to me at quiet places and I humbly try to be of accord. One night we did guest dishes well into zazen and made a bit of a racket, but what made some of the folks in the zendo have to suppress laughter was when we walked by the zendo talking (I thought zazen was already over) and he asked me who would win if a grizzly bear fought Superman. He was thinking a lot about wild animals. I told him a story about a fox (I'll retell later) and a student had seen a mother and young mountain lion near the bathes one night and I told Clay that he'd better not go there by himself because they'd want to eat him and he stayed very close to me at the bathes that night and told me he didn't appreciate my saying that last part. He said, "I'm scared," and I said, "There's nothing to be afraid of here," and he said, "You just told me that there are mountain lions out there that want to eat me."
It was easier for me to go in the creek than the paths because I have a heel injury (I tore my plantar facia) and I could almost always step on rocks so that mostly my arches were in contact. I used crutches some at Tassajara to reduce the wear on my heel. Dishwashing wasn't hard on it though. I have super heel cushions in my REI hiking shoes and I can keep off my heel standing up. I work at a stand up desk and only occasionally use a stool. My back never gets tired that way. I also like to sit on the floor in the house and work. I can take some chair time but not too much. Anyway, Tassajara was a buddha-send for Clay and me. The zendo has a great feeling and he and I went to the hot sulfur baths about three times a day, ending almost every evening with time in the outdoor pool looking up at the black sky filled with the clearest stars and Milky Way. On the way in at ten at night we chanced on two amateur astronomers with a twelve foot telescope. We saw a galaxy with its spiral arms and a cluster of stars. It was a first for me as well.
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