Monday, July 9, 2012

On Being the Absolute Master

Scott Bradley


Zenkei Shibayama (Zen Comments on the Mumonkan) quotes Rinzai: "Once you are the Absolute Master wherever you may be, everything is true for you. Circumstances may change but they cannot affect you."

What does it mean to be Absolute Master? Needless to say, we cannot know until we are. Nevertheless, Rinzai spoke and thus expects that we consider.

Looked at from a Daoist perspective, the immediate reference to "circumstances" is indicative of that way of being in the world which embraces every event as Dao. This being the case, what could possibly impinge upon us? Identified with Dao, there are no personal interests at risk; there is nothing which can be lost. We are exhorted to "bask everything in the broad daylight of Heaven" and to "hand it all over to the unavoidable". The difference between doing so as mere resignation or as an expression of joyous unity is the difference between being the slave or being the master. Rinzai speaks to the infinite power in this powerlessness.

Being the Absolute Master must also speak to the realized experience of this mind being Mind, this individual human expression being Dao expressing itself. But that is precisely the ultimate experience which remains merely hypothetical and unimaginable until it is true in us.

Like most of what I write here, the primary purpose, after creating an occasion for my own reflection, is to offer the same for your own consideration. My thoughts may or may not be helpful, but the real purpose here is to provide a resource for your own reflection. The real meat here, if there is any to be had, is in the raw quote above.

Perhaps here is a good place to reiterate that my take on this process is that the endeavor has value whether realized or not. Yes, the finding of purpose in the pursuit of the realization of purposelessness is contradictory, yet until one has reached the other shore, it is also unavoidable. In this accommodation I probably break from Zen, but then my aspirations are more limited than those of Zen in that, for me, incremental growth is more important than a hypothetical satori, which I see as beyond any attempts of mine to effect in any case.

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.

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