Thursday, May 18, 2006

Empty-Handed I Go


Empty-handed I go, and behold the spade is in my hands; I walk on foot, and yet on the back of an ox I am riding; When I pass over a bridge, Lo, the water floweth not, but the bridge doth flow.

It just isn't safe to go anywhere or do anything without an umbrella of insurance for protection these days. If we want to set out on the dangerous roadways, we must make sure that we have automobile insurance, first to ensure that we can protect ourselves and afford to repair any damages caused by other drivers, second, to compensate others for damages we have caused, and third, to protect us from those who do not have insurance. We must also have insurance to pay for our expensive medications treating serious conditions with few alternative treatments, and the majority of medications which mask problems that can be treated without medication, but require discipline, which is what is truly lacking in the patient. There is insurance for the home, for the teeth, and for our pets. We live in constant fear that everything will be taken from us and so we try to ensure that we are protected. The walls we build are never high enough.
In the spiritual world, we see many who grasp hold of Buddhism for whatever reason, but leave a small portion of their old ways and beliefs behind, like a bit of insurance, just in case it turns out that things turns out badly. It seems that we want a little bit of spiritual insurance so that if the Buddha can't magically solve all of our problems, we can go back to our old religion and cash in our insurance, proving that we never left in the first place. If we imagine two Olympic sprinters tied together at the ankle by an eight foot rope, one sets of to the north and the other to the south, and soon, they will turn in a circle or pull against each other. We cannot set off into the open ocean without form when our ship is still heavily tied to the shore. Until we are brave enough to live without that bit of insurance, we will not know the fruits of the path. As Eiji Yoshikawa says in the final sentence of Musashi, "The little fishes, abandoning themselves to the waves, dance and sing and play, but who knows the heart of the sea, a hundred feet down? Who knows its depth?"

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