Sunday: The Transcendent



A Zen Master once said, "Enlightenment is an accident; spiritual practice makes you accident prone." Sometimes we question the wisdom of our daily routine practices: we may do spiritual exercises, we may jog; we may meditate or do Tai chi, yoga or zazen or some other form of prayer or some other inner soul-searching, study, or reflection. What's the point, we sometimes ask ourselves? Where is all this routine leading? Am I getting anywhere with all these daily practices? Sometimes our progress, at best, seems minimal. Sometimes we wonder if we're not going in the wrong direction even with all of our spiritual routines. Someone once said that nothing is so impatient as watching our own lack of progress on the spiritual path. But if we persist in our efforts, daily, weekly, monthly, even for years, one day we wake up and realize that we have experienced a profound inner change. Our life, slowly and gradually, has come into a new sense of order and harmony, and we are at peace with ourselves and our world.



In “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” T. S. Eliot has his character (who is bored with the humdrum routine of his life) declare, "I have measured out my life with coffee spoons." At times we all feel tired and weary of the sameness of our days. Perhaps we have structured our life too much. In Sanskrit, 'maya' means ‘to measure,' to divide up life into mental categories or constructs. In the same language, 'daya' means measurelessness or beyond measure. When we feel too constrained and stifled by the routines and patterns we live in, perhaps we need to release and let go of our mental constructs. Maybe we have allowed ourselves to become trapped by utilitarianism; we seek function rather than meaning, artifice rather than beauty. When we are driving home in the evening, if we see the billboards but miss the sunset—perhaps it’s time to let go to a renewal of awe and joy for the gift of this vast measureless universe. We are each a tiny dot at home in an infinite ocean of consciousness—so relax into wonder.



In India there is a delicious fruit called an apple custard. The outside is red and resembles our apples; but the inside has an exquisite custardy texture and flavor. We can go all over our part of the world and never encounter a fruit with such an unusual flavor. When we wish to experience something beyond that which we already know, sometimes we have to travel to where we have never been. Likewise with our spiritual growth and development; to experience a new or deeper realization about the meaning of our life, we may need to spiritually stretch beyond where we've come so far. We may need to release the old, known way and allow ourselves to experience the unknown and, like the apple custard, to taste the joy of unknown good.