Dancing: A Zen Priest Plays A Little With Buddhist Cosmology

Dancing: A Zen Priest Plays A Little With Buddhist Cosmology July 5, 2018





A friend asked me if I had any particular thoughts about Buddhism and cosmology.

He seemed particularly interested in the classical Buddhist understanding that dukkha is said to mark the entire universe.

In the moment I said, no, I don’t.

But, that isn’t precisely so…

As a Buddhist of a modernist turn I do not hold the traditional cosmologies firmly in favor of a light embrace of our contemporary scientific world-view. Or, rather, I look for complementarities, without particularly grasping any as an ultimately accurate analysis.

Here’s how I’ve come to see it.

The universe seems to be in a state of becoming and falling apart. It is in flux. There is a tension between some need to order, or maybe the word pattern is a bit better, and a need to pull apart. I call that tension the buzz. Where I differ from classical Buddhism, is that I don’t see the buzz as hurtful or wrong or anything negative. It just is.

Kind of a dance.

In our human condition, however, with our biological need for order, which here seems more accurate than “pattern,” the buzz gives the lie to our desire for permanence for our loved and ourselves – beyond, that is the briefest of moments, and that grasping tightly even as things pass away results in hurt. Dukkha. Everything rises and falls. And then something rises out of that. And falls. The buzz. Awakening is living with it fully without fear or clinging as things rise and fall away.


So what does that mean for us here and now? Putting it together for me right now at this moment, as I look to turn seventy in days?


I look at our American Republic and how we have managed to put ourselves into the hands of an avatar of our national Id. And the evils that follow. And. Also. In the meantime we live on a planet shuddering at the actions of human beings in quest of short term gain. We seem at the edge of the carrying capacity of the globe for our species, which have included our disrupting what is in fact a pretty fragile ecological system.


I live within a tension between despair at the human condition and our apparent inability to act with care and respect for each other and the planet that dances with a deep body-knowing it is all okay in a universe that doesn’t actually need human beings.

The buzz.

Or, if you will, a dance.

I think of my life as the sands are pouring out, nearly gone. I think of who I am. Of the joys and sorrows. Of the privileges and limitations. Of love.

And loss.

I know I over work the term dance.

But, I haven’t found much better to describe the condition of intimacy that is our rising and falling. Sometimes leading. Sometimes followings. Sometimes sitting it out.

And eventually, well, every dance ends.

Or, something like that. There are dances and then there is the dance itself.

And, perhaps, maybe, it even seems like it might be so, the dance itself continues…

Just dancing.

Just the dance.


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