Friday, February 27, 2015

An uncrafted compassion, part III: The seed of Being



For you Westerners, it is Swedenborg who is your Buddha, it is he who should be read and followed!

—D. T. Suzuki

I've said, before, that the purpose of Being is to be for the good, to express goodness; and yet there is, as always, great dimension to this question.

The inner practice of the Fourth Way, in its modern form as passed on by Jeanne de Salzmann, places an emphasis on Being; which may sound like an oddly existential way of understanding religious effort.

From the beginning, one might ask, why should we wish to Be?

Are we not being, already, just by virtue of the fact that we are here?

And even if we aren't — even if there is some unidentified and perhaps unidentifiable deficiency which renders us not — should we care?

Why, in other words, even bother with all this nonsense?

Wouldn't it make more sense to just open a beer and watch the game?

 I don't think so.

Mankind is, for the most part, born with an instinctive sense that we lack something essential. What it is, we may not know, but there is a longing, a wish, to be completed — and merely consuming things, whatever they are, does not appear to scratch that inner itch sufficiently. This is where the religious impulse begins; yet itch-scratching, it turns out, is a rather complicated affair.

 We always think that our stake in this game is a personal one; and yet, under the influence of higher forces, the higher energy (or prana, the Holy Spirit) that de Salzmann calls on us to come into a relationship with, we discover that the action of inward Being is anything but personal.

 It is, in a word, compassionate; this is the whole point of being, to come into relationship. Compassion is, by its very nature, coming into relationship — and it is, furthermore, coming into a relationship that acknowledges the other, that at its root begins with consideration for the other. Here we inevitably encounter the idea of outer considering— putting oneself in someone else's shoes. But just putting on their shoes isn't enough; compassion demands that we put on everything they are.

This is the essence of the unselfishness which Swedenborg called us to; and although the man is largely forgotten in the present era, his message is unavoidable if one understands what he said. When D. T. Suzuki called him the Buddha of the West, he did not understate the case: Swedenborg's essential understanding of what a relationship with God consists of was, at its heart, a compassionate practice. Our modern impatience with Swedenborg's language obscures the majesty of his message, true; but that is our own failing, not his, because he was unerring in his presentation.

We cannot understand compassion unless we understand Being. Mankind does not lack compassion because compassion is missing, he lacks compassion because Being is missing. It begins here; Being is a seed, and the plant of compassion grows as naturally from the seed of being as any plant.

All one has to do is tend to it.

Hosanna.

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