Friday, February 29, 2008

satisfaction

The classic pop song line of the modern world is probably "I can't get no satisfaction."

It seems to be the swan song of western civilization, and perhaps civilization in general. After all, mankind, in his relentless pursuit of what he thinks is satisfaction-- a supposedly sated state in which he has grabbed, eaten, or screwed everything of an external nature within his vicinity--is well on in the process of trashing the entire planet. All because of a slavish devotion to the very crudest form of materialism: the idea that satisfaction is gained by acquiring or manipulating the external.

No idea is more ubiquitous, and no idea could be more mistaken. Real satisfaction, lasting satisfaction, can only arise from within a man, and must do so, initially, independent of his external circumstances. Satisfaction must stem from the organic state, from an inherent right work of the body and mind itself which begins before the external is encountered.

Anyone who has had a taste of this kind of satisfaction will know that it arises in places that cannot be defined, and is the result of ingesting substances we cannot even see. It's the satisfaction of the spirit, not the flesh: the satisfaction of a fine vibration of ordinary impressions, rather than gorging on overwhelming stimuli created and calculated only to impress.

In Dogen's Shobogenzo, the very last chapter--a stand-alone masterpiece in its own right-- is entitled Hachi-Dainingaku: "The Eight Truths of a Great Human Being." Here we find the following:

"2) To know satisfaction (to take within limits from among things already gained is called "to know satisfaction.)

The Buddha said, "If you bhiksus desire to get rid of all kinds of suffering, you should reflect on knowing satisfaction. The practice of knowing satisfaction is the very place of abundance, joy, and peace. People who know satisfaction, even when lying on the ground, are still comfortable and joyful. Those who do not know satisfaction, even when living in a heavenly palace, are still not suited. Those who do not know satisfaction, even if rich, are poor. People who know satisfaction, even if poor, are rich. Those who do not know satisfaction are constantly led by the five desires; they are pitied by those who know satisfaction. This is called "to know satisfaction." (Nishijima and Cross translation, Dogen Sangha press, p. 210.)

It would be difficult to make it clearer that real satisfaction never arises from reliance on the external. Yet all of us doggedly pursue "happiness" through outward life, outward practice, outward relationship, as though it were something we could catch.

Something we could grasp.

If we are made free through an absence of grasping, what is it that we should not grasp? Only an inner vision can help us find an answer to that question.

This type of satisfaction arises as a result of inner unity. Only by fostering the proper flow of inner energies between centers--a work conducted by unifying the relationship of the inner flowers--can we hope to begin to understand what that means. This is what my old group leader Henry Brown used to refer to as impartiality. Henry used this word often, and he never meant objectivity when he used it: that is something different.

Impartiality is wholeness of the parts, the welding into a single unit of the various inner organs that receive vibrations of various intensities.

In a state where energies are in relationship, satisfaction is inherent. It arises from within the organism to meet the circumstances: the circumstances do not flow into the organism to create satisfaction.

Through impartiality, satisfaction is derived from all states and all circumstances.

Because of this, perhaps we might say that impartiality leads to objectivity, because in an impartial state the weight of external factors is equalized. Our usual judgmental attitude evaporates and is replaced by an acceptance that does not reflexively value--and thus also reflexively devalue--outward circumstances. Circumstances become "just so." We cannot do this; but it can be done in us, as in, "thy will be done."

This particular state of receptivity is a mystery, because even from within it, we may not know where it comes from or where it goes. Such questions, however, no longer matter; the nowness of the present state and our ability to receive our lives become the priority. In not knowing anything, we know everything.

The potential for satisfaction lies within us, not outside of us, and it is very real--ultimately, more real and more durable than anything the "ordinary" or external world, the coarse world of the five senses, world can offer.

Only, however, by diligently pursuing an inner journey towards wholeness can we begin to approach the idea from a practical point of view.

May your roots find water, and your leaves know sun.

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