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

by Rev. Koshin Schomberg

Section XXVIII
The Everyday Mystical

If from your experience of the senses Basic Truth you do not know,
How can you ever find the Path that certain is no matter how far distant you may walk?

--Great Master Sekito Kisen
Sandokai (Harmonizing the Real and the Apparent)


The Meaning of "Mystical"

My Webster's Dictionary gives some good definitions of the word "mystical," especially the following: "Having a spiritual meaning, reality, or the like, neither apparent to the senses nor obvious to the intelligence;" and ". . . manifesting an individual's direct communion with God through contemplation, vision, an inner light, or the like, as [in] mystical rapture."

In modern popular English usage, the word "mystical" seldom has the above meanings. Mostly, it is used in a derogatory way to signify some form of imaginative self-delusion. This degraded usage reflects the prevalent materialistic dogma in which skepticism of all things spiritual plays such a prominent role. Thus, activities such as spiritualism (the effort to contact and make use of the knowledge and powers of spirits) are called "mystical," when in fact such activities have nothing to do with the spiritual training and experience that constitute genuine mysticism.

Genuine mystical experience does exist, and it is not as rare as one might think. Certainly it is not reserved for a special class of human being. Many people who have had such experience do not talk about it. Sometimes this is because they doubt their own experience; sometimes it is because they know that they risk exposing themselves to others' doubt and criticism--possibly even persecution.

The mystic seeks union with God. Mystical experience is the experience of this longed-for union. Mystical experience does not stand in opposition to the normal experience of the senses. Rather, mystical experience includes that normal experience and reveals its full depth of spiritual meaning.

The Buddha of Everyday Life

When we do not recognize Buddha in the world around us, the root problem is not in the world: we need to clean our spiritual spectacles in order to recognize the Great Immaculacy. And whether we do that cleaning or not (which is entirely up to us and is not the problem of the Great Immaculacy), the Great Immaculacy is. Whether we recognize It or not, It is always right here, right now, and Its Great Compassion is always supporting us.

Why do we not recognize Buddha in the world around us?--Because we do not treat various aspects of that world as Buddha.--And why do we not treat these aspects as Buddha?--Because we do not treat ourselves as Buddha. In other words, the root of non-recognition of Buddha lies in our own opinion of ourself.

To truly meditate is to treat every aspect of body and mind, every aspect of our experience, as Buddha. For when we meditate truly, we do not judge and we do not cling or push away: that which is present in consciousness at this very moment is treated as Buddha simply by accepting it with an open heart, allowing it to arise in consciousness and pass away naturally.

Meditation shows us that we have the capacity to do the essential mental and spiritual act that makes recognition of the Great Immaculacy possible. This mental and spiritual act can be brought into the activity of daily life through the practice of mindfulness and through Preceptual practice. What is needed is a whole religious practice in which mystical training can open the door of mystical experience. In truth, that door swings open by itself when we stop doing that which forces it shut.

One more essential element is needed--a teaching that explains how to do the training, and that also reveals important features and obstacles within the spiritual landscape that the trainee will be traversing. Some of that teaching can be got from books, but the fullest and best way--and the way in which trainees down the ages have been led by their own Buddha Nature--is to be found within the master-disciple relationship. A master does far more than "teach" in the usual sense in which we use the term: the master is used by the Eternal to represent Itself for the disciple. It is as if the Eternal is saying to the disciple, "You long to recognize Me. There are those who give their lives to me without counting the cost. Here is one of these people who I give to you. This person is not Me, and I will use this person to represent Myself for you. And since I am your own True Self, this person will always represent your own True Self for you." Thus, while discipleship is always, at the deepest level, discipleship to the Eternal, the Eternal makes use of the human master to help the disciple all through the disciple's life.

The Urgent Need to Awaken

Imagine a man who is asleep in his own house. He is having a beautiful dream. The house has caught on fire. Is the man better off if he remains asleep and continues to dream the beautiful dream? Or is he better off if he wakes up and gets out of the house before he, too, catches fire?

Few people prefer to extend a beautiful dream if it means incurring destruction. But few indeed are those who realize that worldly life is a dream and that, however difficult the process of awakening might prove to be, it is necessary to awaken from the dream in order to save their true spiritual life.

No one can give another person the deep sense of urgent need that motivates the true mystic. Our own suffering, our own spiritual longing, and the ripening of the seed of faith within our own heart bring us to this sense of urgency. The person who knows that the house is on fire, and that he needs to get moving in order to avoid being burned up, is already half-enlightened.

The sense of urgent need expresses itself in seriousness of purpose, commitment to one spiritual Path that constitutes a whole way of training, and reverence for the teaching and for those who have Transmitted it, especially one's master. Genuine mysticism can never be divorced from this seriousness of intention, commitment and respect. There is much confusion on this point in the modern world, but such confusion has always existed. As Great Master Dogen emphasized eight centuries ago, much of this confusion comes from the fact that few people have as yet had the opportunity to meet and train with a true master.


In human history, some people have come to some degree of awareness of the Oneness of all existence through reason, or through a combination of reason and intuition. Those who have sought union with the Eternal have gone the route of contemplation rather than reason. This is not to say that reason has not served some mystics well, but only that one cannot think one's way to enlightenment.

The Oneness found in genuine mystical experience is Oneness within the Eternal. Within the Great Immaculacy, where is self? Where is other? As Rev. Master so often said, "It is enough to know the Lord of the House."

If we think this Oneness is far from us, It seems far from us. If we think we are not worthy of It, It seems remote indeed. If we offer these very thoughts, these very opinions and judgments, to the Eternal in pure meditation and just BE with an open heart the Immaculate Oneness is there breathing in and breathing out. It was always there; It will always be there. If I go hunting for It, I cannot find It. If I forget about searching for anything whatsoever and just take refuge in stillness, when I least expect to find It, there It is.

"When I least expect . . ."--How much is expressed in those few words! How are we to recognize Buddha if we allow our view of the world to be shaped by our own expectations? As Great Master Kanchi Sosan (Chinese: Seng-tsan) wrote, "The Way is only difficult for those who pick and choose." We cannot be demanding that the world suit itself to our desires and be recognizing Buddha at the same time. So we have to give up our insistence, or give up our search for union with the Eternal. If we prefer to give up insistence, then lots of bowing will stand us in good stead.


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