Editorial – June 2019 – A New Spirituality?
What kind of spirituality does our world need today?
It is an unimaginable challenge to try to innovate by oneself without relying on personal ideas, our preferences or dislikes. Every personal opinion is limiting for others, but also for oneself. Every evolution must be inspired by a true mind of compassion, that is to say free of all traces of ego.
Zazen is a spirituality which is always new, beyond fashions, which gives immediate access to oneself, and as Master Deshimaru would often say, is the essence of religion. However, the Zen tradition also uses a lot of ritual to accompany and transmit the practice, and this really upsets a lot of followers and sympathisers. The question of whether ritual is well – founded or necessary must be asked, as it seems that its use is discouraging people who aspire to a spirituality that is free from traces of the past.
The collection of rituals practised by a group comes under the term liturgy, which means ‘service for the common good of all.’ The life of a group, a nation, a sangha, structures and organises itself by adopting a form, a religious or lay ritual, put in place via group meetings or practised on the occasion of certain life events ( birth, death, marriage, changing seasons). In the West, it seems that our system of reference, based on a cartesian and scientific approach, alongside the residual image of the ‘christian’ religion of our parents, has become an obstacle and constraint to our spontaneous acceptance of zen.
However, whether we realise it or not, we are always subject to personal or group rituals which continually reaffirm our life choices. This is how we do our morning rituals, brush our teeth, get dressed, take coffee, arrange our affairs, and even satisfy our addictions.. Everything is a ritual ! And in our collective life, how many rituals there are in school, the army, a football stadium, any group, the boy scouts, wine lovers… all of which lead us to formalise a secure group identity. Zen rituals, whatever the intention guiding their appearance over the course of time, have for their goal to affirm the non-separation of essence and form (Ku soku ze shiki) The practice of ritual in an awakened mind continually reaffirms this non separation between the ‘me’ and the ten thousand things, between me and the whole universe.
Our essential truth resides in total adhesion to the present moment, the only reality of our existence. So , whatever we do, what we practise with a free heart is what we are. The‘me’ disappears to reveal the Buddha, the Reality of all things.
The conscious implication, free and fully accepted, of a liturgy filled with meaning, helps to realise this non- separation from the essence. Everyday life manifests in a disinterested form which helps our mind to come back to the source. It is like a meditation which continuesright into the activity of the body and the thoughts. This is how rituals and ceremonies become pure presence which transforms the totality of ourselves. This is what it is to create a new spirituality which lives in the everyday.This is zen in its completeness. It is with this mind that we can create a spirituality that speaks to all beings. •
“Is there anything outside the instant?
Acting without considering their
confidence, forgetting all self interest, the
person who, with full attention, with a
simple gesture places a stick of incense in
the bronze pot at the foot of the Buddha,
manifests the truth of the awakened
~ Nan Shan