by Rev. Koshin Schomberg

Part X
Refining the Ore

Before confusion was caused, all was deeply within the Unborn:
Leakage of the Water of the Spirit was not allowed.
By splitting the Treasurehouse open to its center, we trample upon both inner and outer Heaven,
Destroying both with our actions.
When the Wheel turns in the opposite direction to this,
Then It has the form which reflects the excellent Light
And you are on your way to enlightenment.

Origins of Spiritual Need

Rev. Master once asked her master, the Very Reverend Koho Keido Chisan Zenji, how the wheel of suffering was set in motion in the first place. He replied, "By accident someone started the course of karma." In other words, it only takes the combination of ignorance and changing circumstances--and Presto! the wheel of birth and death is set in motion. A moment of shock, a moment of confusion, a moment of looking down--this is enough to start the course of karma.

We need not look for first causes in order to see how suffering is created and perpetuated. If we study ourselves and our own karmic inheritance in the light of meditation, we find both the kind of confusion that set the wheel of suffering rolling in the distant past and, more importantly, the way in which the wheel will continue to roll into the future if we allow it to do so.

There is an alternative to perpetuating suffering: we can turn the wheel in the opposite direction and undertake the process of conversion. The enlightenment and healing of saddened love by the Wisdom and Love of the Eternal is at the heart of this process.

Saddened Love

Rev. Master referred to the process through which the wheel of suffering is set in motion as the "saddening of love." I do not remember Rev. Master using the term "saddened love" prior to her retreat in 1976. But during that retreat she gained deep insight into the causes of suffering, and she also experienced the Love of the Eternal in great depth. She saw that this Love is our birthright, but that we easily doubt It. When we wilfully doubt It, we "look down." Whenever this happens, an imaginary gulf between ourselves and Love opens up.

The instant that the imaginary gulf between ourselves and the Love of the Eternal was created, a longing to bridge the gulf was born. Thus craving is born out of ignorance. Beings hunt for something to take the place of the Love from which they believe themselves to be separated. Yet externalized longing is easily and frequently disappointed. We desire to hold on to those we love, yet separation is inevitable. We desire health and become ill. We desire happiness, yet all beings experience pain. And so on. Where there is little wanting, there is little room for disappointment. Where there is great wanting, there is the possibility of great disappointment.

The chief ways in which we experience the disappointment of desire and clinging (insistent desire) are as sadness, grief (deeper, darker sadness), anger and despair--in that order, according to the degree of desire and clinging. Feeling is the "reaper of karma:" these states of feeling are signals of spiritual need.

Rev. Master often reminded us, "The world is not subject to our personal will." There is no enduring refuge within impermanence. We cannot make the world conform to our wishes through willpower or through wishful thinking. The disappointment of externalized longing continues until one day someone cries out, "I don't wish to continue down this path of suffering! Help!"

Our Part and the Eternal's Part

Just as gold was always contained within the ore from which it is refined, so the Love of the Eternal was always contained within saddened love. Our love, however much it may be confused, constricted and rendered desperate, is still of the Love of the Eternal.

The Love and Wisdom of the Eternal can heal and enlighten each knot of saddened love in our karmic inheritance provided that we do our part in training. The opposites--generated out of saddened love--must be kept contained within the limits of the Precepts and the stillness of meditation. When "leakage" occurs (when we lose our grounding and act wilfully), we need to return to the mind and heart of meditation. Above all, we must continue to look up.

We need to do our part in the work of conversion. And we need to not try to do the Eternal's part: "Only the Lord of the House can cause the fountain of wisdom, compassion and love to flow properly; the whole purpose of the brain is to furnish us with accurate information--it is a computer in the service of the Lord. . . . [At the time of genuine spiritual surrender] the brain cries out, 'I give up; I am a servant [of the Eternal] and no master." (Plate LX; first edition, Plate XXXVIII.)

By looking for help to the Eternal and by opening our heart in offering, we make it possible for the Love of the Eternal (in the "washing," or "reaming," mode) to expose the spiritual need. This is like exposing a seam of metal-bearing ore so that it can be mined and refined.

Refining the Ore: The Flow of Wisdom Through and To Particular Need

There is the Buddha that shows us what to do, and there is the Buddha that shows us what not to do. The major knots of spiritual need in our karmic inheritance are used by the Eternal to show us what not to do. This is essential teaching in the process of conversion, for we can be greatly helped in our efforts not to repeat the mistakes of the past if we understand what those mistakes were. Key examples of such teaching are to be found in How to Grow a Lotus Blossom in Plates XIII-XVIII (first edition, Plate IX) and Plates XXIII-XXIV (first edition, Plate XIII).

It is important always to remember that our past karma always has the potential to influence our choices. The knots of saddened love show us the origins of our own longings, and of our tendencies toward self-judgment and despair. Whether a particular jangle was made yesterday or a thousand years ago, it is a vehicle of teaching. Note that the teaching that flows through spiritual need is itself addressing our continuing need to harmonize more deeply with the Eternal. Thus, this teaching can help us throughout our lives if we take its lessons to heart. Indeed, insight into the teachings embodied in major karmic jangles can deepen through the years, and one can find many ways in which key events in our karmic past illuminate the meaning of present events.

That which is confused and pained is not necessarily of no use. The help that we can derive from our karmic inheritance in the form of teaching shows that every aspect of it functions as a Bodhisattva for us now and in the future. The Eternal tirelessly uses everything for the good of all beings.

There is also teaching that flows to the need. Again, How to Grow a Lotus Blossom contains excellent examples (see the same Plates mentioned above). Note that Rev. Master sometimes addressed teaching to a particular being from her past-life inheritance as if it was actually present. In a sense, it was present, not in physical body, but as a part of Rev. Master's own conscious experience at the time. We are not identical with beings whose karma we have inherited; and all that is left of them is now in us. Our body and mind can be the vehicle by means of which the Help of the Eternal flows to spiritual need of ancient, or more recent, origin. And we can be enlisted by the Eternal to give the teaching that is needed in order to give peace of mind and heart. We can do this if we are listening to, and following the counsel of, our own True Nature.

The flow of Wisdom through and to spiritual need is an essential part of the process of conversion. For spiritual conversion involves a major change in the way in which we view and understand the world. We are shown the ways in which externalized longing, self-judgment and despair perpetuate suffering so that we can do things in a different way. The Help of the Eternal flows as teaching to particular knots of saddened love so that ignorance can be enlightened. When this happens, the "obstacles dissolve" into Immaculacy and a shower of merit is released.

Refining the Ore (continued): The Flow of Love Through and To Particular Need

"There is nothing from the first."--This statement may not sound like a description of Infinite Love, but it is. From the point of view of our wonderful True Nature, all our thrashing about in confusion and pain is unreality. There is just the Great Immaculacy within which beings, their actions, and the consequences of their actions arise and pass as reflections arise and pass in a mirror. Nothing sullies or diminishes the Great Immaculacy, and It never despises, judges, or scorns. It is vast, benevolent Love beyond our power of comprehension. Our knots of saddened love contain the conviction of separation from that Love. They need to experience It and know It.

This is the great mystery of conversion--the way in which infinite Love heals the wounds of saddened love. When the Water of the Spirit (which is one name for that Love) flows to and through hardened knots of the conviction of separation from Love, they dissolve away. That which has judged itself, and believed itself, to be unworthy can at last rest in true peace. It is amazing how clean the universe is seen to be when we are not looking down!

Human love can play a crucial role in this process provided that "the gift of sympathy and compassion" is understood to derive from, and return to, the Eternal. We must be good disciples of the Eternal--good listeners and good followers. Then, when it is called forth by the Eternal, human tenderness can greatly help that which has believed itself to be spurned by man. Again, this is clearly shown in the above-mentioned Plates of How to Grow a Lotus Blossom.

Pure Gold

When the refining process is complete, the pure gold of the Buddha Nature can be clearly seen. There always was a refuge within our own Heart, our own Buddha Nature. And there always was the possibility of following the Eternal. Just as the gold was always present in the ore, even if not seen, so the Buddha Nature has always been present within all spiritual need, all knots of saddened love. Our karmic inheritance is the raw material of enlightenment. When we look back upon the stream of karma with enlightened eyes, we see not a single speck of dust.


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