by Rev. Koshin Schomberg

Chapter 3
The Gordian Knot of the Spirit

The roots of the lotus are nurtured in the mud just as Right Understanding is nurtured in this world of delusion if only we use everything, including adversity, as an opportunity rather than an impediment to our training.

--Rev. Master Jiyu-Kennett
How to Grow a Lotus Blossom, Plate LXI (first edition: Plate XXXIX)

Four Strands of Rope

Four strands of spiritual rope form the Gordian knot of causality that perpetuates suffering. These strands are externalized longing, self-hatred, self-judgment and self-doubt.

Externalized longing is greed; all hatred is based in self-hatred; judgmentalism and doubt are the main forms of delusion, and all judgmentalism is based in self-judgment, while all doubt is based in self-doubt.--So here we have greed, hate and delusion--the "three fires," or "three poisons."

Greed, hate and delusion do not make a pretty picture. However, they constitute the mud within which the lotus plant of training/enlightenment has its roots. In fact, the greed, hate and delusion from which we suffer, and which so need conversion, constitute our potential for enlightenment.

The Knot

These four strands of rope are tied in the hard knot of self, which is the hard knot that lies at the heart of our karmic inheritance.

We can pick at this knot for years. Then one day the Sword of Buddha's Wisdom gives it a good whack and it falls apart.

Here's the amazing thing: there is nothing within that knot. What does that mean for greed, hate and delusion?--There is nothing to gain, nothing and no one to blame, no one to judge, nothing for doubt to stick to.

Rev. Master called this the "fullest Nothingness you could ever imagine." Thus, when Cosmic Compassion looks at our body and mind (the "five skandhas") and, indeed, the whole world, It sees that all the many aspects of existence that It surveys are "in their self-nature void, unstained and pure." So if one day we see with the eyes of Cosmic Compassion, then we see what It sees: we see an ocean of Immaculacy.

For this "fullest Nothingness" is the Great Immaculacy. It is not negative, futile emptiness, nor is It something that can be grasped and held onto. It simply is, and It is Love, It is Goodness, beyond our wildest dreams.


Who swings the Sword of Buddha's Wisdom?--It certainly is not me. A sword of that magnitude has to be swung by the Eternal.

Since that Sword can cut through all delusion, Its benefits are great indeed. How can I live and train so as not to impede Its work?

The best way I know to keep from impeding the work of Cosmic Wisdom is to bow within adversity--and to bow to adversity.

We would like to be able to shake off adversity as a dog shakes off water when it comes out of a lake after a swim. But some adversity sticks to us like glue--sometimes for years. The sheer difficulty can stretch us to the breaking point. Under such strain, it can be very difficult not to look down and sink into a hell of chronic complaining. And here is where Buddhist training can enable us to turn the seeming impediment into an opportunity (see the quote that heads this chapter).

How to do this?--Sit down in meditation, face the adversity, open the heart to the Eternal, ask for help, offer everything: "Please help. I am willing!" Just sit with the pain and difficulty, giving the Eternal a chance to help. Work throughout the day on looking up rather than down; catch the complaining when it starts up; refrain from feeding negativity through non-Preceptual actions of thought, speech and body.--And keep going in this training, immersing oneself in it to such an extent that one forgets ideas of ability and inability, inadequacy and attainment. When we are just doing what needs to be done without insistence or expectation, the Eternal can get a word in edgeways.

Most of the time this does not necessarily feel like any kind of transcendence of suffering. Yet every time we bow to adversity as to our Teacher, we take a transcendent step, regardless of how we are feeling at the time we take it.

We can refrain from doing that which impedes the Sword of Buddha's Wisdom in Its work. Then, when all conditions have ripened, the Sword cleaves the knot of impacted greed, hate and delusion. And suddenly sangsara--the world of suffering--has become Nirvana!



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