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Friday, November 14, 2008

Authenticity

I looked up ‘authenticity’ in the Thesaurus, and found that it was listed under the general heading of TRUTH. Authenticity was itself listed in the sub-set including genuineness, realness, naturalness, lifelikeness, literalness, artlessness, unaffectedness, honesty, sincerity, unadulteration.

Then, I came across an old issue of Mountain Record (Zen Mountain Monastery’s quarterly journal) and its theme is: AUTHENTICITY. I am no longer surprised by the many many synchronicities I see all around me in my life, though they still delight me.

In Daido’s Dharma Discourse, he says, “Our state of consciousness is revealed by our presence, before anything else. We can’t hide it by being silent or by avoiding interaction.” I am reminded of how Thay has often repeated to us that the quality of our practice is revealed as much, or even more so, by the way we get up from our cushion, how we drink our tea, how we invite the bell, than how we sit.

Daido goes on to talk about “Great Functioning” which “happens after we’ve let go of the notion of a self; after we’ve become free of our restrictive habit patterns and our mind has merged with thusness. ‘Great Functioning’ is also used to describe the functioning of the universe itself, because when the self is forgotten, the universe is all there is. The consequence of this great functioning is unconditioned compassion. Once you realize that you are the universe, there’s no way you can avoid taking care of it. People ask, ‘There’s so much to do – how do I know what to take care of?’ When your mind is free of hindrances, you know what to take care of. You take care of what is right in front of your nose. As each dharma arises, you practice that dharma.”

Whoa! Can you see what he is pointing to here? Haven't you had times when you were in just this state? And yet, the inadequacy of words really becomes apparent here, because it has nothing to do with 'self' when this ‘great functioning’ is functioning. For 'me,' the area where this ‘great functioning’ is most likely to occur is when ‘i’ am teaching or sitting with a student/client. There is no agenda; no idea about what they need or what ‘i’ must do. There is attention to what is arising and the response arises in relation to that.

Any yet, there are still many areas of my life where that isn’t happening, and because it is not a function of self, ‘i’ also understand there is literally nothing (no-thing) ‘i’ can do! So ‘i’ rest in uncertainty, notice when my heart contracts, and breathe into it, letting the contraction itself wake me, as it comes into contact with whatever it is that is the source of this commitment to stay open, to not let the contraction completely implode.

“Authenticity does not arise only from teachers or from an institution. It originates within each of us – we must personally demand it of ourselves. And this rigorousness and authenticity should be present in everything we do, whether it’s Zen practice, packing boxes, taking out the garbage, managing a corporation, or raising a child. To be authentic means to live our lives with integrity, commitment, and awareness. The ability to live in this way is no small thing – in fact, these days, it’s a rarity. We must cherish this ability. We must cultivate and practice it, so that it’s brought to life” writes Daido.

In Myotai’s Dharma Talk in this same issue, she is describing the response of students to a koan. “What comes up? Don’t you want to have the right answer? Most students will usually want so badly to just get it right. We come into the dokusan room for face-to-face teaching, we’re working with this koan, and we’d like – to be honest – to somehow get on the next one. Yes, we’d like the spiritual transformation, but we also don’t enjoy being stuck on the same koan for years, facing our own dullness. Others have presented something that the teacher recognized. There must be a way to get it right.”

And then she adds, quoting a capping verse from a koan, “He’s put the line in the water; The greedy will be caught.” We try to get something, to have something, to know something. Get on that line, get in the cage: there’s our life. What I have come to see a bit is that whether one tries to ‘practice hard and diligently’ or ‘do nothing, let go,’ if it’s a strategy, it is not authentic.

Actually, more relevant to me than formal koan practice is how to relate to the koans that life presents to us continuously. Am I trying to ‘solve’ my life like it’s a puzzle all the time, or am I able to remain open, free of particular agendas and notions about how the world should be according to frank? if I am ‘authentic’ to the situation, then this becomes similar to how Krishna describes karma-yoga (the yoga of action) which is to say, free of attachment to outcomes.

Thinking of my various relationships, for instance, I see how it has been only relatively recently that any of them are truly ‘authentic.’ In most of my previous relationships I have altered how I am in order to meet expectations (whether real or perceived), and I have placed conditions on the expression of my love. I have been attached to outcome, to conditions themselves.

In the Editorial, Suion writes, “If authenticity means being true to oneself, why does it seem to be so difficult to find?” Why should authenticity require work, searching, and struggle? Meredith Monk speaks of the artist who must not be so quickly satisfied. She must “work through the easiest and most superficial solutions in order to discover something deeper.” When we settle for the “good enough” or when we mimic the behavior of those around us (our teachers most notably) we end up in what Ezra Bayda calls “the substitute life.” This isn’t merely the “artist’s” issue; we are all creators of this particular manifestation of life, we, you, I, need to see how and where one settles for the easy and superficial, and move in closer and deeper.

We walk this ‘path,’ yet as Myotai and Gary Snyder both write, there is a limit to the metaphor of the ‘path.’ Nobody has gone here before. The very forms of practice contain “the danger that we see it as a technique, a method, an exercise that offers a solution. And it’s not that there is no resolution, it’s just that it’s not what we think it is. It has no fixed form,” writes Shugen.

Karen Armstrong strikes a resonance in my heart when she writes, “The great myths show that when you follow somebody else’s path, you go astray.” And Gary Snyder, as usual, nails it when he writes:

“All of us are apprenticed to the same teacher that the religious institutions originally worked with: reality… It is as hard to get the children herded in the car pool and down the road to the bus as it is to chant sutras in the Buddha-hall on a cold morning. One move is not better than the other, each can be quite boring, and they both have the virtuous quality of repetition. Repetition and ritual and their good results come in many forms. Changing the filter, wiping noses, going to meetings, checking the dip stick – don’t let yourself think these are distracting you from you more serious pursuits. Such a round of chores is not a set of difficulties we hope to escape from so that we may do our ‘practice’, which will put us on a ‘path’ – it is our path. It can be its own fulfillment too, for who would want to set enlightenment against non-enlightenment when each is its own full reality, its own complete delusion.”

As long as I resist the life that has been given me, seeking something that fits some pre-fabricated idea, I am by definition being inauthentic. Responding to just this as it arises, perhaps life can be lived through me as an authentic manifestation of the universe itself! Wow! That would be nothing! ☺

.: posted by Poep Sa Frank Jude 9:34 PM


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