The A(R)M

[Thomas Merton]

On what is truly good:

The more one seeks ‘the good’ outside oneself as something to be acquired, the more one is faced with the necessity of discussing, studying, understanding, analyzing the nature of the good. The more, therefore, one becomes involved in abstractions and in the confusion of divergent opinions. The more ‘the good’ is objectively analyzed, the more it is treated as something to be attained by special virtuous techniques, the less real it becomes. . . . This is, in fact, nothing but organized despair: ‘the good’ that is preached and exacted by the moralist thus finally becomes an evil, and all the more so since the hopeless pursuit of it distracts one from the real good which one already possesses and which one now despises or ignores. (Way, 23)

On happiness

“My greatest happiness consists precisely in doing nothing whatever that is calculated to obtain happiness. . . . Perfect joy is to be without joy . . . if you ask ‘what ought to be done’ and ‘what ought not to be done’ on earth to produce happiness, I answer that these questions do not have [a fixed and predetermined] answer’ to suit every case. If one is in harmony with Tao – the cosmic Tao, ‘Great Tao’ – the answer will make itself clear when the time comes to act. (Way, 24)

On the absolute

[For Zen,] The Absolute is in no way distinct from the world of discrimination. . . . The Absolute is in the world of opposites and not apart from it. (Zen, 3-4)

On the aim of Zen

The chief characteristic of Zen is that it rejects all these systemic elaborations in order to get back, as far as possible, to the pure unarticulated and unexplained ground of direct experience. The direct experience of what? Life itself. What it means that I exist, that I live: who is this ‘I’ that exists and lives? What is the difference between an authentic and an illusory awareness of the self that exists and lives? What are and are not the basic facts of existence? . . .

The whole aim of Zen is not to make foolproof statements about experience, but to come to direct grips with reality without the mediation of logical verbalizing. (Zen, 37-38)

On Christians and Zen

Is it therefore possible to say that both Christians and Buddhists can equally well practice Zen? Yes, if by Zen we mean precisely the quest for direct and pure experience on a metaphysical level, liberated from verbal formulas and linguistic preconceptions. On the theological level the question becomes more complex. (Zen, 44)

On the message of Zen

Now in Zen, what is communicated is not a message. . . . It is not a ‘what.’ It does not bring ‘news’ which the receiver did not already have, about something the one informed did not yet know. (Zen, 47)

‘Zen teaches nothing; it merely enables us to wake up and become aware. It does not teach, it points’ (Suzuki, Introduction, 38). The acts and gesture of a Zen Master are no more ‘statements’ than is the ringing of an alarm clock.

Merton’s Prayer

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going, I do not see the road ahead of me, I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. (Thoughts, 81)”

-‘Encounters With Merton’ (1972) by Henri J.M. Nouwen; pages 130-133

About kylegrant76

Eye am that Eye am
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