Tuesday, November 8, 2011
Zen and Faith
Last Sunday our senior minister told the story of comparative religions specialist, Huston Smith, who told the story of his 30 days with a Zen Roshi in Japan. He found it almost impossible to sit in meditation for 12 hours a day and when he would have his daily meeting with Roshi, he always got the koan wrong. At the end of the 30 days at his last meeting with the Roshi, he complained about his lack of learning about Zen. The Roshi said: “Oh the meaning of Zen. It is simple. It just means total gratitude for all that has come, total service to all that is now, and total responsibility for all that is to come. And I am grateful that you were here.”
That not only is Zen; it is the essence of faith—whether religious or secular. It is what St Paul talked about in his “faith, hope, and love—but the great of these is love.” Faith situates us in the past, tradition; and acknowledges that we are all who came before us. Hope orients us to the future: the world as it could and should be. And love commits us to all to which and to whom we are not related. Faith as gratitude. Hope as responsibility. Love as service.
But they are all one in the fullness of existence—our being now, our being here, our being with, our being whole. In other words, total presence in memory, in consciousness, in relationships—all integrated in the whole.
I am my memory, my place, and my relationships. So as I age and my memory starts to slip, as I begin to lose position in the world, as my relationships get smaller and fuzzier, and I become more scattered, I realize that I am indeed on a trajectory from being to nothingness.
Then I remember the words of my own Zen Roshi when we lived in Hawaii. “Let your ego shrink,” he said, “to nothingness. Or let it expand to embrace the cosmos. It is the same.”
So as I let go of my memory, my position, my loved ones, my consciousness, and my whole self, I begin to enter and embrace the cosmos. I start here, now, and with you in total gratitude, service, and responsibility.