HOW TO GROW A LOTUS BLOSSOM: Reflections in a Disciple's Life

by Rev. Koshin Schomberg

Section XIX

Supreme Mind in words can never be expressed,
And yet to all the trainee's needs It does respond.

--Great Master Tozan, The Most Excellent Mirror, Samadhi


The Unseen and the Unseeing

The Eternal is eminently practical in the ways in which It responds to need. And because the Eternal has no selfish interest, It continues Its benevolent activity whether we see (much less understand!) the way in which we are being helped or not.

I have described my retreat in 1997 in Section VIII of these "Reflections in a Disciple's Life." In that retreat, I meditated with a question. Beginning in the spring of 1998, in the midst of another retreat, I was given the answer to my question. Yet at the time I did not see the way in which a question meditatively pondered in the fall of 1997 was answered very precisely and pragmatically the following summer. It is only in looking back seventeen years later that I am seeing this.

The Question

In the fall of 1997, I meditated with the question of the nature of my discipleship following the death of my master. This was a deep question.

Rev Master Jiyu-Kennett was, is and always will be my master: this was not in question. In the months following her death, I had a strong sense of the responsibility of my continuing discipleship. Of course, I am only one of my master's disciples. And "each man his karma makes and must carry for himself."--I am responsible for my own training, and I felt that responsibility in a new way after my master's death.

Since the purpose of discipleship to a human master is the establishment and perfecting of discipleship to our "True Master" (as Rev. Master put it), the question that was in my heart following the death of my master was, in its essence, the question of how to be a true disciple of the Eternal. This is a practical question: "I want to be a true disciple. How do I do it?"

Every deep spiritual question has its origin in deep spiritual need. Deep spiritual need cries out for the Help of the Eternal. There was a cry for help in my heart in the fall of 1997. It took several months for all conditions--both internal and external--to ripen. Then the answer came.

The Answer

The answer to my question came in many parts, and at many levels, simultaneously. Three parts of the answer stand out in my mind.

In Section IX of these "Reflections in a Disciple's Life," I have described the spiritual surrender that intiated my retreat in late May, 1998. In this surrender, everything was released into the hands of the Eternal, including all efforts to find an answer to my question by means of my intellect. Now the Eternal had a much more open field within which to do Its work.

I think of this surrender as the first part of the Eternal's answer to my question. My experience of this great event in my life was that I allowed the door to open just a tiny bit, and then the Eternal majestically swept in and reclaimed that which is of Itself--all that which I think of as "me."

I could no more think of this as "my" act of surrender than I could think of the light that comes from the sun as "my" light. When I was a boy, I often heard pastors in churches that our family attended speak of "giving all the glory to God." If what the pastors meant is that we grieve our own hearts if we attribute to the exercise of our own volition that which the Eternal gives us out of Its infinite Benevolence, then I am in complete agreement.

The second part of the Eternal's answer can be expressed (with the help of a little imagination) as follows: "To train as My disciple, you need to orient more fully toward Me. In order for this to happen, I have to Help the spiritual need that you are carrying--especially self-judgment and dark grief. When my Help meets that need, you will be less confused about how to take refuge in Me, and you will hear My guidance more clearly. Remember, it is always your choice whether or not you will pay attention to My advice and follow it."

The third part of the Eternal's answer came in the very practical teaching of the "Five Aspects of Meditation," which I briefly described in Section XVIII of these "Reflections in a Disciple's Life." Again, this part of the Eternal's answer can be imaginatively represented in the following words: "If you wish to train in discipleship to Me, here is how to go about it: ask sincerely, offer wholeheartedly, wait patiently, listen carefully, follow gladly."

Another Beginning

As I gradually emerged during the winter and spring of 1999 from the long retreat that had begun in May of the previous year, I knew that I was once again making a new beginning. The nature of training had not changed, and at the same time I had a new perspective on everything.

In the years since my retreat, I have marvelled on many occasions at the wonderful, practical Benevolence of the Eternal. It sustained, healed and taught me during the most intense months of my life. It is right there in the midst of the sometimes-messy unfolding of the events of daily life. It lacks for nothing and seeks nothing for Itself. It always does the best for everyone.

For me, Rev. Master Jiyu-Kennett's training provides the example of the highest level of training in discipleship to the Eternal. To train in discipleship in the Way of Ancient Buddhas is the greatest challenge, and the greatest privilege and joy, of which I know.


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