Is there something we need to face?
When we know that what is given in our lives is an expression of the Divine Seed, we express it in thought, word and deed. When we reach a place of knowing that everything we receive is given by God then we speak from the place of our first-hand knowledge of faith. When we speak with authority from our faith, the words spoken or written are happily sovereign. The happiness or blessing is nothing added, but rather an expression of what is already there and the sovereignty comes from leaving no doubt between the action and the worry of the effect of the action. This is the no will (via negativa) of Meister Eckhart.
In the words of two very different spiritual women we read the same message. Ayya Khema, a Theravada nun, offers us a short and practical way to practice no will. Her shorthand practice is “Recognize, No Blame, Change.” This practical approach is quite similar to Julian of Norwich’s message of the three wounds, “Contrition, Kind Compassion, Yearn for God.” Julian gives us the hard facts of this practice when she calls them “wounds” whereas Ayya Khema states them more dispassionately. Very simply these saintly women direct us to the life and practice of no will especially when we make a mistake, are offended or hurt. They offer a 1, 2, 3 approach to understanding and practicing no will.
The three steps are 1) Recognize and be contrite, 2) Don’t contrive a will, God’s will or any other will for such a contrivance leads to blame, praise and harm, and ?nally, 3) Change, go with God, Dharma; remember everything is of God, Dharma.
It’s a simple, clear practice but it’s tough because our will or what we might call God’s will blames, praises and harms and there we stay stuck spinning our spiritual wheel in the mud of some constructed me.
For the spiritual adept it is this gap between the thought, word and action on one side and the change or spiritual leap on the other side where no will occurs. Why does this happen‘? Here is a little story for clari?cation.
A teacher went to visit one of his students in hospital. The student was a Buddhist monk who had permanently damaged his knees making it impossible for him to ever sit crossed-legged on the floor again. It was a big loss for him since sitting was part of his main spiritual practice.
When the student saw his teacher he began to whine and moan and cry out to his teacher, “This shouldn’t have happened! This shouldn’t have happened! ”
His teacher replied, “If it shouldn’t have happened, it wouldn’t have happened. But it did happen! ”
Consolation, although sometimes necessary, is not a spiritual teaching. This student needed to face what had happened and his teacher leapt over the student’s will, and all other contrived wills of moaning, groaning and whining in an attempt to help the student let go of his hard luck story. The student’s striving for something else, more or less, was indicative of the will still being at the wheel. The teacher attempted to help the student to drop it and face the situation directly without any idea or contrivance between what happened and his experience of what happened. When we are full of self-will or any idea of will there is no room for Dharma, no room for Truth. In this simple example the student did not want to face Dharma which is quite common even for spiritual adepts. He might have been under the false impression that God was somewhere else, or he might have had an idea of how God should be. He didn’t like what happened and thought a spiritual life should be different than what was happening.
The work of God occurs in the gap. But it is not be claimed by the ego as “GOD’S WILL” since we do not know what that is even though we think we do. We know it by what is given much like the student. It is there in what is given that we practice. What shows up in the hermitage is the practice. And what is given is without justification. We do not need to justify what happened. Justification is the work of the mundane sel?sh mind and although it is of God it tends to interfere with faith; it is muddied. The mundane sel?sh mind diminishes faith and obstructs the spiritual adept from ?nding God in equal measure, everywhere. It is the essence of the story of Job and possibly the story of man of us.
This realization of no will is great, happy news. Whatever arises in the hermitage is given to awaken. The monk in hospital was a lucky monk; his teacher pricked his delusional bubble giving him a chance to be free, to leap into the lap of Buddha. Truth requires we know everything is of God right where we are. Everything else is but a dream, a bubble and a phantom. We work with it every day knowing it comes to awaken us.
Composed for Raven’s Bread by Yao Xiang Shakya
Paul and Karen Fredette, minister as a couple to hermits world-wide. This began when the quarterly newsletter, Raven’s Bread, Food for Those in Solitude, was passed on to them in 1997 by the originator, Bede Jagoe, OP who had spent a number of years in eremitic solitude in India. You can subscribe to the Newsletter at http://www.ravensbreadministries.com/