I remember once being taught that in order for a thing to qualify as art it had to have the power to arouse emotion, imagination, and reason. In addition, it had to be able to survive. No matter how highly critics praised a "work of art" if it passed into obscurity or failed to excite one generation as it had another, it very likely was never art at all. It was fad or fancy, a piece of historical interest and nothing more.
To be worthy of our effort, a religious practice must also meet these four criteria. It must constantly challenge us by stimulating our imagination, stirring our emotions, and making us think.
And it must also endure. In the same way that a work of art stays in our minds long after we are beyond the range of its sight or sound, so must a religious practice abide in us long after our introduction to it.
Just as we need time to evaluate art, we need time to evaluate a religious practice. Seventh World Chan is the study period. We learn about the Path. We practice the techniques and calibrate our responses. Does Chan feel so right and get under our skin so much that we are ready to commit ourselves to it for as far ahead as we can see?
If we do decide that we have indeed found a treasure, we can formally claim it as our own. We can receive the Precepts. Simple or grand, it's a nice ceremony, an important rite of passage. It's as if we go from courtship to marriage. Now we can participate fully in all that Chan Buddhism offers. Now we are endowed with all of its treasures.
Then, like any other bride or groom, we turn our attention away from the outside world and direct it into the sacred, private, interior chamber in which our "Other" dwells. We have somebody else to worry about, somebody we enjoy pleasing, somebody who looks after us in the most wonderful way.
We know where we belong. Where once we were isolated - a voice that no one seemed to hear - we now have marvelous communion, not just during prayer and meditation, but all the time and everywhere. We cannot fail to prosper because all we need is what we are.
A Daoist would say that after such a marriage we are ready to engage the Valley Spirit and then to begin to create the Divine Child... to complete the Orbit so that we can enter the Empty Circle.
That's a nice thought to end with.
- Reverend Ming Zhen (Chuan Yuan) Shakya (email)
The Seventh World of Chan Buddhism
Chapter 20: Conclusion, Page 1 of 1
Last modified: July 11, 2004
©1996 Ming Zhen Shakya (Chuan Yuan Shakya)