I'm not a Buddhist. I don't know what I am, belief-wise. So I suppose that could make me a Buddhist. Buddhism isn't big on beliefs.
Hakuin, an 18th century Zen master, extolled doubting in a fashion that is worlds apart from faith-based religions like Christianity.
If you keep on doubting continuously, with a bold spirit and a feeling of shame urging you on, your effort will naturally become unified and solid, turning into a single mass of doubt throughout heaven and earth. The spirit will feel suffocated, the mind distressed, like a bird in a cage, like a rat that has gone into a bamboo tube and cannot escape.
Granted, that isn't uplifting. But Buddhists are much more into being real. And reality, as we all know, is filled with suffering. Plus, doubt.
Hans, a long-time friend, and I had one of our never-ending Sunday coffee shop conversations today. We're always on the edge of figuring it all out.
Problem is, our figuring proceeds apace philosophically without knowing what "It" is. So that keeps us on this side of the edge. But we had a good latte-fueled time talking about the view from where we are.
For both of us, that's looking more Buddhist'ish, whether or not we use that term.
Hans still has a fondness for Sant Mat and the teachings of Radha Soami Satsang Beas, though he's never been initiated into the RSSB fold. And I was a true believer from 1970 until whenever my doubts started to bubble up out of the mud of blind faith that I'd plastered over them.
Today we talked about the importance of saying it like it is. Not the big capital "I" It. Everyday "it" – our relationships, thoughts, emotions, activities, hopes, fears. In short, life as each of us is living it now.
There may be a there and then after death. Hans and I don't know. Nobody on earth knows, since every person living is still alive.
Hakuin and other Buddhists aren't much concerned with there-and-then's. They're into what's going on here and now, coming to grips what who the heck is trying to figure it all out, which is a whole different thing from tying down "It."
In "Hakuin on Kensho" editor Albert Low comments on Hakuin's Zen teaching.
The boundless light is not a light that we can see, but the light by which we see. In the unawakened state we ignore this light…We overlook the fact that we know this world. We ignore the truth that the world is as it is because we know it to be so.
…Hakuin is saying that deep, deep questioning must pervade our lives. "What is it?" Everything must point to this question: "What is this?"
We use words and expressions such as knowing, intelligence, supreme wisdom, mirror wisdom, bodhisattvas, or Buddha-nature.
We wonder what the words mean and so use other words as definitions, and then wonder in turn what those words mean. What use are all the jangling words? And what is asking the question?
Back in the 1970s and 1980s, Oregon (where I live) was part of the Canadian Radha Soami Satsang Beas organizational structure. I was the local RSSB organizer, the secretary. I reported to Jiti Khanna, the RSSB representative, who lived in Vancouver, Canada.
I liked Dr. Khanna a lot. He was wonderfully unassuming. Our Salem group (sangat) frequently would invite him down to give a talk (satsang).
One year I picked him up at the motel where he was staying with his family. I drove them over to the community hall that we'd rented for a Sunday satsang and potluck.
Quite a few people had come for this special occasion, a chance to hear the guru's representative talk about the RSSB teachings.
I went up to the podium and welcomed everybody. Then I introduced Dr. Khanna, who was sitting in the front row, and sat next to him.
After a few seconds I saw that Dr. Khanna was still in his chair. He was calmly looking at the podium. I waited a bit longer. Then I understood what was going on.
Dr. Khanna didn't expect that he was the star attraction. He apparently was totally comfortable with driving all the way from Vancouver, spending the night in a motel, and then being just another attendee at our Salem RSSB get-together.
I thought I'd made it clear that we wanted him to speak, but he was in the moment. Sitting still. Watching the podium. Waiting for the talk to begin.
I nudged him. "Dr. Khanna," I said. "You're the speaker."
He turned to me. "Oh, very good." He stood up and proceeded to give a wonderful extemporaneous satsang for 45 minutes or so. Warm, humble, inspiring.
I can't remember anything about what Dr. Khanna said. Just how he said it.
It didn't surprise me when, in the early 1990s, we heard that he'd resigned as RSSB representative and taken up Buddhist practice.
Since, I haven't heard much about Jiti Khanna. There have been some posts about him on a Radha Soami discussion site, including this mention of a TIME magazine letter mentioning Sant Mat that apparently was written by him.
I hope Dr. Khanna is doing well. I'd like to know how his spiritual trajectory from Sant Mat to Buddhism to whatever has proceeded.
Most likely: quite nicely.