Tuesday, October 25, 2011


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.


  1. While I won't deny there's lots of silly dogma out there (the pope railing against birth control, etc.) I think a lot of spritual prescriptions are simply methods and techniques that can be useful. Like any drug, they can be come addictive, obstructions as you say. You can use the prescriptions to overcome something; there is useful wisdom to be found in traditions. Whether it is useful to you is up to the patient.

  2. There are certainly some useful bits of turd out there but it is in small measure to the amount of bull turd.

    I'd fully agree that the less said the better. that's one of the most important interpretations from chapter one TTC that I take.

    Nothing our silence are surely the most powerful teachings, or sitting by a river, or anywhere in fact, in a cow turd. But none of us can stop ourselves from saying more. And that's the way.


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