[Note: This post refers to a previous Church of the Churchless symbol, shown below.]
Our church's symbol is part of the Ten Oxherding Pictures that express the essence of Zen Buddhism. This picture is number eight in the series. In the words of Kakuan Zenji, it represents an evolved Zen realization:
This "I" (person) which had been seeking, and the essential self (ox), which has been the object of our search, did not exist at all.
Click on the link above to read the whole story of the Ten Oxherding Pictures. What I like about this stage, number eight, is the emphasis on going beyond ideas about spirituality or enlightenment.
"If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him!" Buddhists are fond of saying. And not just Buddha: also Jesus, Mohammed, Moses, Lao Tzu, Guru Nanak, every spiritual teacher. And not just these people are to be killed: also the concepts that comprise the shell of their teachings. For only then can the kernel of truth be released.
All this destroying takes place entirely within our own minds, of course. The empty circle above signifies an eminently wise consciousness, one that sees things exactly as they are, not as they are conceived or imagined to be.
There is nothing more important in spirituality than maintaining an open mind. But it is difficult to loose the rigid hold with which most of us cling to familiar dogmas, theologies, belief systems, philosophies.
If deep down the universe truly is One, as both scientists and mystics say it is, then the essence of us is the essence of the cosmos. Crystal clear reality, plain and simple. To realize this, we just need to let go of what isn't real and be aware of what remains.
The science fiction author, Philip K. Dick, expressed this truth wonderfully simply:
Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away.