This month’s topic reminds me of a discussion I had with myself one night. I asked myself if people are inherently good or bad. Since I let go of religion, I hadn’t figured out how to answer this question. I felt frustrated because I thought a reasonable argument could support either viewpoint. I wanted an answer but had no real basis on which to choose the right answer. Then, I thought about how I act when I’m assuming the people around me are inherently good. The issue, I decided, isn’t whether either position is right. I have since chosen to believe people are inherently good because it motivates better behavior on my part. I think I am a better person when I’m trusting the goodness in others.
That said, I think I would apply a similar thought process to this idea of whether there’s a place for the rebel and the monk in Zen. I think the question of whether there’s a place for either is moot because periodically one or the other will surface. Once either role has surfaced, its presence has already affirmed its place. In response, I need to muster the highest level of awareness and wisdom I can. I need to attend to the rebel or monk that’s here, now. Either one rises because it needs my attention, or it’s pointing me to something that needs my attention. My compassionate attention. It’s helpful to practice compassionate presence with whatever arises. It’s not a matter of one role being intrinsically appropriate. Every experience or state can serve awakening to the extent I’m present with it. Any state, in my practice, is less harmful to the extent that I cultivate compassion along with my sense of presence.
I like the quote at the end of Kosho’s email signature: “It’s not outside. It’s not inside. It’s not both inside and outside. It’s not neither outside nor inside. Everything’s a mess, yet all is well.” (Ezra Bayda)