I would call myself a Seeker. But that sounds so pretentious. After all aren’t we all, in point of fact, seekers in our own way? I guess I am still seeking the meaning of life, that elusive Holy Grail that so many of us long to possess and call our own. And maybe that journey of self-discovery is the true meaning of life. I can tell you in all honesty that at this point in time I don’t know. And that self-confessed not knowing is probably the beginning of knowing.
That Small Inner Voice within me has been shouting for me to wakeup for quite a while now. Get back on the path it whispers in a very loud and insistent voice. Resume your quest—for time she is a passing. And a quick look in the mirror will quickly confirm that fact. I do know that one has to be still in order to truly hear what that Small Inner Voice has to say. I used to heed its advice more readily.
“Wisdom says I am nothing.
Love says that I am everything.
Between the two my life moves.”
Sri Nisargahatha Maharaj
(attribution added for clarification after the fact)
For about fifteen years, from the ages of 40 to 55, I followed a traditional Zen Buddhist/Taoist path towards what I hoped would eventually be enlightenment. Sometimes formally, and at other times less formally. It spoke to me in a way that Christianity never did. Although I was confirmed into the Lutheran church when I was about sixteen (late in life), it was never a good fit. It came about as the result of two parents struggling to preserve a floundering marriage, rather than any special conviction on my part. And by eighteen I had adopted a new religion: The United States Marine Corps.
In Vietnam, Thailand and Japan I had some brief brushes with Buddhism that evidently planted some seeds. Because when I blew up my life for the second or third time in my late 30’s and early 40’s I felt a tug in that direction, and the Small Inner Voice whispered: Give it a try, you certainly don’t have anything further to lose. The cornerstone of Buddhist practice is formal sitting meditation, and through daily meditation I learned to be still. To be still and to observe. At the time it was an amazing revelation, and quite literally changed my life in many ways.
As to true enlightenment, well lets just leave it at: I had a few minor glances in that direction. The flame flickered briefly for a moment or two.
“The one ultimate truth lies beyond the grasp of the mind.”
I abandoned my practice twelve years ago (after almost fifteen years of daily practice). I’m not quite sure why—part of it, I think, was that the religion was getting in the way of the spirituality. That the physical trappings of Buddhism, its rituals and traditions, seemed to me to be interfering with the direct communication I was looking for. But that’s probably an excuse. Truth be told I have trouble with authority, tradition and routine. It is not the original spiritual teachings of religion that I have a problem with, but rather it’s the human aspect of religion—the politics, the judgements, pronouncements and human foibles that muddy the waters and distort the message. The net result of abandoning my practice, however, was the inevitable sense of being overwhelmed by life and its distractions.
I have proved, to my own satisfaction, that one should seek [a] way as opposed to [the] way. For there is only one true path to enlightenment and it is [you] and me. Every wisdom tradition has its mystics. And at that level they transcend names and labels, they transcend the scriptures and texts, they transcend ritual and dogma. They see the trappings for what they are: Tools. Simply tools. They do not confuse the tools with the TRUTH. The truth is universal and all-encompassing. And it resides within each of us.
Whether we are Christian, Taoist, Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu or any other name we wish to call ourselves, we share [the] Universal Truth. And whether we call that Universal Truth God, Tao, Buddha Nature, Disneyland or simply Love it doesn’t really matter. We are all interconnected with everything. It’s when we see ourselves as something separate (disconnected) from the whole that we become irresponsible. We no longer see ourselves as being accountable for the consequences of our actions. But we must be accountable.
As I get older and feel more and more of life’s distractions falling by the wayside, I have a yearning to reconnect with my Buddhist practice. Daily sitting meditation is a very real way to connect with that higher power within each of us. You may wish to call it prayer, I do not. Meditation is not asking for anything, or even being grateful for anything—it is simply sitting still and observing one’s mind playing its games. And in so doing we come to understand the connection between the Little-i (ego) and the Big-I (Universal Truth, Tao—God). I do miss at times the guidance of a teacher, and the community of fellow practitioners. But will I ever embrace the dogma of formal religion again?
Right now I would answer no. But life has a strange way of turning things around—so a future answer just might be yes. For the present just reconnecting with my sitting meditation practice, being still, and watching the mind’s thoughts coming and going without attachment is probably a step in the right direction. A little step, but an important step. For meditation is an important tool to live a balanced life in an unbalanced world. So I will continue to be a Seeker.
“What you are looking for is what [is] looking.”
Saint Francis of Assisi
A brief postscript: These soliloquies, these rumination’s, are my own unanswered questions and pondering’. I do not have the answers. I repeat, I do not have the answers—and that should be entirely obvious by now. But I am looking, just as many of you might be looking. I am not endorsing one religion over another, or one wisdom tradition over another. I truly believe that they are just different paths to the same mountaintop, and once we reach the summit the view will be the same regardless of the path we took to get there. I would just like to encourage anyone who is struggling (like me) with the meaning of life to begin their own journey of discovery. It may take you to some interesting places. SFD