Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Excruciating Inner Anguish

Scott Bradley

"Any Zen man without exception has to experience excruciating inner anguish before he attains satori, which fundamentally changes his whole personality."

Well, there you have it. Zenkei Shibayama doesn't mince his words.

This doesn't just happen, of course; we have to make it happen. It must in some sense be self-inflicted pain; one must want it so bad that, until one gets it, it is agony.

The path which I follow is the complete antithesis of this. I figure I've already had enough self-inflicted pain in my life without looking for more. Affirmation and acceptance is the path I pursue. Where does it lead, if not to satori? I'm more interested in how it manifests at this very moment, and if it isn't to bliss, at least it isn't to excruciating inner anguish, which may or may not — and probably wouldn't given its rarity — lead to satori.

Of course, I have philosophical issues with this prerequisite of anguish, but in the end I understand that I am really in no position to disagree. Only I must deal with own unique situation — a situation that has a great deal more to do with my experience and make-up than it does with the ideas which emerge from it. As for Zen, I'm willing to concede its right to anguish in the hope of satori.

"There are many teachings from the Orient, but none of them can lead you to true enlightenment, true emancipation, except Zen Buddhism," said Nyogen Senzaki (1876-1958).

Well, there you have it, again. And once again, I am in no position to argue, especially since I don't even know that there is any such thing as enlightenment, in any case. What I do believe, however, is that "death cures all ills." I may be wrong, but I figure if there is any hobnobbing after death (which I think highly unlikely), I'll be hobnobbing on an equal footing with everyone else, enlightened or otherwise. Whatever the consequence of all this anguished attainment, it is of purely temporal benefit. Zen would have me believe otherwise, of course, believing as it does in the need for 'salvation', but here I must respectfully part ways. I do not believe that anything is lost, or that there is any 'me' to be saved. But then, I really can't know.

Zen has lots to offer anyone interested in personal transformation, whether they buy the whole package, or not. And although Zen cannot accept us in our appreciating but uncommitted and unanguished approach, we, at least, can accept Zen — just as we can accept all the others who do ‘know’.

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

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