The Truth Behind The Truth

Is there a Truth greater than any particular tradition or way? Is it possible that a kind of guide rope was/is given to us that isn’t invented by us, that precedes human beings?  I once asked this of John Daido Loori, the founder abbot of Zen Mountain Monastery.   Tall and imposing in black robes, a tall rugged American Zen master, he answered in a surprisingly gentle and personal way.   He told me about sitting with his mother as she lay dying.   He was reciting the Heart Sutra, that extraordinary incantation of the Truth in us that goes beyond all human constructions.  But he saw that his mother, who had dementia, was very agitated so he began saying the Lord’s Prayer and she calmed down.   As he eased into the Lord’s Prayer in Italian, her native language, he saw her relax completely into sleep, into death.  I pictured her letting the deeply remembered rhythms of the prayer carry forward out of this world.   Daido Loori told me he realized that as much as he loved the Heart Sutra, the Christian prayer was doing exactly what prayer is really meant to do, which is help us prepare for death….help us go beyond this form.    This was told to me in the midst of a Buddhist conference at The World Trade Center and within a couple of months those huge forms were gone…now Loori is gone…for now, the trace those words that day left in me is that there is indeed a rhythm, a pattern, a force of compassion beyond words reaching out to us.  Madame de Salzmann  saw this Truth behind human forms.   I once heard that many decades ago she visited a venerated Zen monastery in Japan.  The abbot studied her and announced “She sees.”

In the lastest issue of Parabola, The Future, the Brooklyn born scholar monk Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi describes taking a walk on the campus of the University of Wisconsin one morning many years ago and seeing a Buddhist monk for the first time in his life:  “I was struck with wonder and amazement at the sight of this serene, self-composed man, who radiated a lightness, inner contentment, and dignity I had never seen in any Westerner.”   Many years and many large and small decisions later, Venerable Bodhi encountered that monk again and he was now a monk himself. “The workings of karma are indeed strange and unfathomable!”  he writes.

Usually I go around full of thoughts and cares, trying to control life.  But sometimes, when conditions are just right (like when it’s clear that circumstances are beyond my control), I can glimpse for myself that there is a rhythm to life and that we if could only learn to be quiet and attentive enough we could follow it, be with it, contribute our small lives to a larger Truth.

6 thoughts on “The Truth Behind The Truth

  1. “Is there a Truth greater than any particular tradition or way?”, Tracy asks.

    To think otherwise would it not also be saying there is no ONE, no UNITY, no WHOLE?.

    Traditions are paths for Man that tend toward a higher world where Tradition as we know it on Earth do not exist. Our paths are just different ways to go toward the same destination.

    If we had a level of Being, and what does that mean, that would enable us to have a wider attention a deeper and more exact knowledge would we not see that it is our understanding that is limited and blind; as for example in the squabbling of Creationists vs. Intelligent design adherents? In fact they are both correct, there is nothing to fight about. We fight in ignorance.

    Ignorance is a form which we seem to willingly inhabit. To see myself as a human form is not something I have experienced. However I have experienced many times that most of my thoughts, emotions and physical postures are forms composed of matter with quite specific densities. How did these become formed in me? We can begin to see from whence they came if and a very big IF we are quiet enough to watch.

    What brings feeling, and reason for hope, to our exchanges are the moments when our searches bring us to walk together on the same path even though you may call it the Buddhist path and I call it Christian or Gurdjieff. At that point in fact a name would profane the path.

  2. Thank you for this wonderful post. We have been two ships in the night but have never had a proper conversation. This may be our opportunity.

    This morning I felt the deep need to face the unknown, or as it has been put, ‘the state of not knowing’. Letting go of the known world is very difficult for us. We have not been educated to do so. It is not a process that is welcomed in the world we move through.

    Madame de Salzmann was a living example of this. It is these giants who have persisted in searching, vibrating in a whole other way, that remain constant symbols for my own existence. One that remains in question every moment that I am attendant. Otherwise, we are lost to the dream.

  3. I’m always quietly moved whenever there’s the unmistakable sense of what I could call “compassionate questioning”– where the sense of wonder and mystery is active and shared, and we are quiet enough to receive impressions as a Gift. So, Tracy, thanks for writing this and I’m sure the latest Parabola issue will nourish much fruitful exchange.
    Om Shanti,

  4. In reading through both the original blog and the conversation that followed, this statement stands out most to me, “…Creationists vs. Intelligent Design adherents. In fact they are both correct,…” It stands out, because it is so blatantly false; and seemingly reveals a world view that has little correlation to “reality,” since evolution is reality.

  5. Creationists vs. Intelligent Design adherents. In fact they are both correct…

    In reply to Sasha Tumbletree I say:

    The only way to know the truth is by observing these processes within our own Being. If one has not verified them in this way then there is really no understanding of either one.

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