Many Names for One Existence

Many Names f

Yesterday I was talking with someone who is all over the place, he said, in terms of his emotional experience. I could relate, because that’s going on for me right now, too. We talked about how there can be a pseudo-spiritual idea that practice should result in a state of equanimity, in which there is no emotional tumult of that kind, and that this is not the true teaching. The consistency, we decided, that practice accomplishes is the consistency of awareness. In other words, what we’re going for is not to be in a stable and consistent experience, but rather to be in a stable and consistent awareness of our experience, whatever it may be.

The same idea is captured in the following passage from Suzuki-Roshi in Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, which I read after meditation this morning:

“Each existence depends on something else. Strictly speaking, there are no separate individual existences. There are just many names for one existence. Sometimes people put stress on oneness, but this is not correct understanding. It is best not to emphasize any point in particular, even oneness. Oneness is valuable, but variety is also wonderful. Ignoring variety, people emphasize the one absolute existence, but this is a one-sided understanding. In this understanding there’s a gap between variety and oneness. But oneness and variety are the same thing, so oneness should be appreciated in each existence. That is why we emphasize everyday life in our practice rather than some particular state of mind. We should find the reality in each moment, and in each phenomenon,”

There are just many names for one existence. This is the profound teaching that has transformed so many human lives over the centuries since the time of the Buddha. It is not that there is emptiness and there is form, to use different words for the same thing, and the point of spiritual life is to ignore or reject the form, the variety, so that we may unite with the oneness. That’s a gross misunderstanding, and one that causes great suffering. That’s the error that Christianity made over time, unfortunately, when it taught that it is sinful to enjoy the pleasures of life, and that we must reject our worldly human experience in order to connect with God. That’s not the case at all, it seems to me. The true teaching says that all is one thing. God is everything, and everything is God. This is the reality that we need to accept and understand in order to have a true and happy life, and we also need to go beyond the understanding of it. Spiritual life leads to being that reality, not just understanding it, in other words. That’s the mysterious work that we’re engaged with here.

Carry that teaching into your day today if you want to. All is one. Everything is God. This is the insight that makes sense of everything, at least to me.

Be well, take good care, and have a good practice day.

In peace,