by Scott Bradley
by Scott Bradley
The spiritual authenticity of any teaching is, I believe, in inverse proportion to its prescriptive character.
A prescription is something applied from without. Yet authentic spirituality arises from within.
The Zen masters prescribe that we should look within ourselves to find Reality for ourselves. And they feel shame at having to do so. Yet, as some suggest, they soil themselves on our behalf. They speak. Like Zhuangzi, they utter "reckless words". Such is the nature of the human experience. We must make messes. And if words are rat turds in the soup, they are also the only way of offering the bowl to other hungry hearts.
But these masters also knew when to stop. Knowing when to stop is, for Zhuangzi as well, a core requirement for both one's own development and assistance in the development of others.
Imperatives always imply a prescription. Do this. Don't do that. This is contrary to the spirit of authentic self-realization. Yet sometimes we must make a mess. And sometimes we must understand that a mess has been made for our benefit, and see imperatives as suggestions, mere pointings.
All dogma is prescriptive. This is the Truth. This is the Way. Yet it is to where there are no dogmas that we wish to go.
All religions are prescriptive. Buddhism is prescriptive. Indeed, the Four Noble Truths are presented in a classic diagnostic form: this is the symptom (suffering), this is the disease (existence), this is the cure (nirvana), this is the medicine (the Buddhist way). Perhaps these religious prescriptions can be skillful means, necessary messes. Mostly they are just obstructions.
Can you think for yourself? Can you find your own way? Can you stand on your own and make your own destiny? This is authentic spirituality. And my contributive rat turd.
You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.