Another rumination on the traps of purity, together with an alternative

This morning the Zen teacher Brad Warner posted a screen shot of a tweet from the New Age guru Deepak Chopra sharing a tidbit of wisdom, “When you reach pure awareness you will have no problems, therefore there will be no need for solutions.” Brad posted it to mock the good doctor.

Now, in my opinion, Dr Chopra deserves a lot of mocking. I even do a little in my next book.

(And, my spouse says he deserves a little slack cutting, he does on occasion call us to care in the world, too… Caution noted.)

Also, of course, there are ways in which this quote is true.

The truth of the matter is how problems are part and parcel of the world of form. And in the world of unity there are no distinctions and therefore no problems.

The catch is the world of unity and the world of form are one.

But people often get confused about that one thing. There are two confusions, mainly. One is to deny the reality of the distinction world. The other is to say it is lower and the unity world is higher. The doctor’s quote certainly carries the odor of that confusion. It implies a hierarchy of experience where differentiation is a bad thing and non-differentiation is a good thing. Which, if you’ll notice, is in fact a differentiation, but one with a twist about how we live in this world, lulling us with a siren song: it’s all one, so don’t worry.

I also saw this morning a picture on Facebook featuring a man walking down the street. Some sort of costumed figure is turning his head away from seeing a homeless man in a cardboard shelter.

Lots of people out there who in the name of religion or spirituality or economics want us to not look.

Somehow I find it especially galling when that call to ignore is clothed as “awareness.”

(This often happens when one seeks “awarenesss” without the disciplines of sitting down regularly, shutting up, and in fact paying attention. Oh, and checking in with someone who has done this longer than you, and seeing if some of the ideas that have popped up out of the silence aren’t pure nonsense.)

Let me posit an alternative…

How about a path where it is now one, now different, now both, now neither.

How about walking a path where every action counts.

Just this.

Dynamic reality, where we find joy and sorrow, loss and gain, and cutting right through it all the great unknowing..

Just this.

Lifting a glass of cool water.

Just this.

Reaching out a hand.

Just this.

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  • Maia Duerr

    Nice one, Rev. Ford. Reminds me of…

    “Soil that is dirty grows the countless things. Water that is clear has no fish. Thus as a mature person you properly include and retain a measure of grime. You can’t just go along enjoying your own private purity and restraint.”
    –Vegetable Root Sutra

  • Mumon

    I mostly like Warner’s post there. And you’re in the same direction too. To be resolutely aware of the dirt is awareness. The problems don’t ever go away; ther is no end to old age and death.

  • tyson

    Rev Ford,

    May i ask what you think of Brad’s work in general? i read his blog, but often question his depth of understanding.

  • James

    Deep is a hard thing to call, Tyson. I like him & have since he burst forth on the scene with Hardcore Zen. I believe I am the only formally authorized Zen teacher who blurbed it, my small claim to fame. Beyond his bad boy presentation, he represents a rather conservative subset of the Soto school, not my style, but absolutely authentic.

  • tyson

    Thank you. At times it seems to me that he says things just to be controversial or divisive just to get page hits. Just my limited and humble opinion.

    i did not remember that you had a blurb in his book. i lost my copy.

    BTW, i am reading The Book Of Mu right now. Good book.

  • melinda

    point taken long ago if you only knew