Present: Ven. Karuna Dharma, Rev. Kusala, Al Albergate, Gordon Gibb,
Anita Merwin, Michael Kerze
reported on his the World Parliament of Religions in South
Africa. where he was one of the representatives of Soka Gakkai
International. The Parliament had about 5000 participants
and was stimulating but overwhelming.
Kerze: The topic we concluded with at our last meeting was
verb and noun in our traditions in respect to logos and dharma.
Kusala: Might we think of this in terms of messenger and message?
The messenger is the verb and the message is the noun. In
a Buddhist context, even great Buddhist teachers are not the
message. When you see a practitioner, do you see a verb or
a noun? When you see that person's practice, does the message
become apparent to you. When I went to Northern California
and visited a Thai forest tradition center, I found they didn't
need to talk a lot. They were up a 4:30 in the morning, they
had their practice, their work, their lunch, and throughout
the day, they didn't talk a lot. They receive questions in
a formal setting. They sit there and you sit here and you
watch them do stuff, open the mail, etc. They didn't have
to say anything and you saw Buddhism. However, I have to say
a lot sometimes for people to see Buddhism. For me the verb
is the person and the noun is the message.
Gibb: I would see it a bit differently. At one moment the
messenger is the noun and the next moment he can be the verb.
Where we get stuck is when we have named a verb a noun.
Kusala: Yes, we can make the messenger into the message. In the case
of Chogyam Trungpa, from Dharmadatu, he died in his early
40's from cirrhosis of the liver. He articulated some of the
most incredible teachings I have ever heard. But was his life
Gibb: In all fairness to him, it would be difficult for
me to sit and listen to someone who was so overtly an
alcoholic. What can you teach me? You have to have your
act together. But then, I'm wondering, if the message
for all the obstacles he has is that he is still able
to transcend himself through his writings. They don't
come out of a vacuum. Part of his foundation is his alcoholism.
The insights are not separate from that condition. But
I am not entirely convinced. It still has not illuminated
his alcoholism. It gives me confidence, however, for all
the obstacles I have overcome, that some are still very
much alive and yet I can still be of value. The message
that is me is that I can still work with those obstacles
Merwin: When you have an alcohol or drug addiction, I have
heard it short circuits something in the brain. If you do
short circuit something in the brain, you may reach somewhere
we don't know about. It could be a transcendent place from
which you can write.
Karuna Dharma: I find Chogyam Trungpa to be very interesting.
He produced very wonderful students so there is something
going for him that they could see. He not only wrote but
he could speak quite well. And when he did speak, you
did not see his alcoholism. To me, he was both the message
and he produced the message as well. He was a very interesting
guy; he spoke here in the early 70's. He did not speak
of his problems but of the dharma. His Tibetan teachers
said he was the best dharma teacher they had in this country.
I think the best dharma teachers are those who had rather
questionable lives in their early youth; that way you
understand people quite well. Before he would accept someone
as a student, he would bring them into his room and say,
this is what I have done in my past life. You must know
this if you still want to be my student. He was totally
Kusala: It reminds me of something Ram Dass said: if you are neurotic
in LA you are probably going to be neurotic in New York. You
will just relate to it a little differently. As your spiritual
progress increases, it does not mean your personal quirks
disappear but that your relation to them changes. They are
not so much your enemy, but old friends come to visit.
Kerze: This is one of the elements you see in AA. Those who
are in the program are often very honest and humble, and can
be very arrogant too. They are in a process where they have
to confront human weakness and their own. The first step is
to acknowledge: I am an alcoholic.
Kusala: The first step for me would be to acknowledge: I am a monk.
That the precepts become the signposts for monks and nuns.
It would be much harder to walk a straight and narrow path
with marriage and family and friends and being in samsara
as opposed to having these wonderful signposts which say:
right speech, right action, etc..
Kerze: I still don't have clarity about the
verb and noun, messenger and message. In Christianity,
Jesus is both. Last time, I think Jim Fredericks said
something about Logos and Dharma.. Logos, word, as verb,
as noun. Certainly when word became flesh, it became
a noun. Yet the noun is also "I am."
Kusala: If I think of Jimmy Swaggart on tv. Is the messenger always
the message in Christianity?
Kerze: No. It is specifically Jesus.
Gibb: But doesn't Paul say: it is no longer Paul but Christ
who lives in me. I don't hear that as unique to Paul, but
as a practice for all to emulate. The I and the Thou are both
separate and one.
Kerze: Isn't Paul saying that I am not the message, Jesus
is the message. And that what I say and do that is worthwhile
is Jesus as the Father acting through me. So don't look at
me at the message. Don't say your are one of Paul's men, or
one of Peter's men, but say you are one of Christ's men. He
says that in Corinthians.
Gibb: What I hear is that Paul isn't the message but Paul's
transformation that reveals the heart of Christ. There's a
resonance of the message that comes through him. So that the
messenger, who is Christ is also Paul. The message is not
Paul but the Christ that is coming through him as it would
through anyone who has turned themselves over to Christ.
Kerze: As the message comes through, the messenger is both
identified with the message but also, in the case of Paul,
the person through whom the message became available to other
people. Is that what you are getting at?
Gibb: But the embodiment of the message shapes, on some level,
the message. Christ shapes the message of the ancient promise,
and Paul also embodies the message which comes unique through
Merwin: In my sense of the spark of God within us as Christians,
we can full identify with that spark of God within us. We
can utter the message and be the messenger. But none of us
are really there. I believe with Chesterton that the last
Christian died on the cross.
Gibb: I am wondering if that is right, that only one unique
person could live that way, and the rest of us can do just
second best. Anita Merwin: I would not put it that way. My
husband belongs to a group called Unity Christianity. They
refer to Jesus as our elder brother. I was really offended
at one Good Friday service when there was no reference to
Jesus at all. I can't identify with Jesus as elder brother
because that places Jesus closer to me than the love and power
of Jesus is, in reality, yet I sense that there is that element
of Jesus within me. Occasionally, though it can merge and
resonate totally with that Christ. But that is rare.
Kusala: I feel the exact opposite way about Buddha. That when people
elevate the Buddha away from brotherhood and deify him, that
takes him further away from me. When I see the Buddha as someone
who walked the earth and had some of the same distractions
as I do today, then I feel a connection and closeness to him.
I don't want him to be anything more than that, though it
seems others do sometimes. When I look at the Buddha and how
morally perfect he was, it has such a humbling effect on my
ego. When I look at myself, I see all the work that needs
to be done. But this man, this human being accomplished the
task at age 35. And here I am at 50. Siddartha was human,
and Buddha was also human.
Merwin: I don't know if we are as radically
different as our articulation is. Jesus was human. But "Christ" is
Gibb: What I hear is an affirmation of the divinity and humanity
of Christ as indivisible, yet also a need to divide them so
Jesus can be placed high enough and I will never be like him.
Kerze: I don't think we would promote something like that.
What I think about the revelation of Jesus is that: I am that
person in need, hungry. Is that God? What a wonderful way
to look at that person! This is holy! That is very specific,
very particular to this human at this time. This is incarnation.
The elevation of Jesus is there just as the elevation of Buddha
is in Buddhism. Buddha is a human being and he is more than
a human being.
Gibb: I don't hear that enjoined when talking
about human beings. That human beings are human beings
but they are also like Jesus, more than human beings.
I am not hearing the same language for "the human being."
Kerze: The topic was to talk about verbs and
nouns, and I've been thinking about that literally. Are
we going to frame this in terms of language? There's
human being in a naturalistic description and then there
is human being in a sacred description. The two don't
coincide. In the sacred description, every human being
is a son or daughter of God, manifests a specific intention
of the divine. We have to be careful with "human being." Are
we using it in naturalistic or theological terms? We can't
slide between the two without some caution, otherwise, we
run the risk of confusion. Is a human being just a human being
or more than a human being? What's your reference in all the
places you are using "human being?" And then applied specifically
to Jesus, a naturalistic explanation only permits naturalistic
explanations. To say he is fully human and fully divine at
the same time, we've moved out of the realm of naturalistic
explanations. We are using a different kind of language.
Naturalistically, Jesus is fully and completely human. But
that naturalistic description is completely coincident, one
to one identification, with the divine nature. And that's
a theological, not naturalistic statement. And any human
being, naturalistically, can share in the divinity of God
and that makes you what? More than human?
Merwin: When Raimundo Pannikar concludes the Mass, he says:
Go and serve the Christ in each other. He never uses the words
priests use, when you are to day: I am not worthy to receive
you. He just omits it. He comes out of a Hindu-Spanish background.
He's bridged all this stuff. In the article I gave you, he
says he is a Catholic priest, a Hindu, an initiated Buddhist,
and he sees himself that way.
Kusala: When I reflect on Buddha nature, I see it as a potential that
can turn into a realization. The problem of merging divine
and human in Christ: I am divine, I am human, is not a problem
in Zen. It is just a koan. Does a Catholic look at that aspect
of Christ as potential or full realization? Are you always
Kerze: Remember what Christ means: Messiah.
So we should talk about Jesus Messiah and then question
that. It isn't messenger; it means "anointed one." It's from a Greek word for oil. The
word comes out of the Jewish context where you anointed kings
and priests and holy objects. And it was a promise. It could
be refreshing to use Messiah instead of Christ, because the
Christ talk is often Lord, Lord, Lord, whereas Jesus often
identified himself as shepherd, shepherd, shepherd. And that's
quite different than Lord who commands sovereignty. There's
been a lot of emphasis on sovereignty and not enough on the
servant. That's where the "Lord, where did I see you?" comes
into play: when I was hungry, you fed me. Not, when I was
up there with the vestments on and the crown. That's not there
in the Gospels. There is also the universal authority of the
Messiah, "At whose name every knee will bend." What is the
authority of the Messiah? To serve the other.
arrange our next meeting when we have information about Jim
Frederick's teaching schedule and Ven. Dr. Ratanasara's return
from Sri Lanka.