Monday, August 28, 2006

Ke, Ku & Chu (The 3 Truths)

So lately, I've been thinking and reading a lot about the above concept in Nichiren Buddhism. I've been taking an inventory, of sorts, of many things in my life, and figuring out how each item/thing/idea fits into these three truths.

For starters, let me define some terms. Ke(ketai) is defined as the truth of temporary, physical or material existence. Ku(kutai) is defined as the truth of non-substantiality or the spiritual aspect of life. Chu(chutai) is defined as the Middle Way, or that force or energy which binds and harmonizes ketai and kutai. Ke and Ku are two different but inseparable aspects of chu.

In the book I am reading The Buddha in Daily Life - Richard Causton, it states that the three truths are not three separate things but, rather, a means of looking at the entirety of life from three different, though interrelated perspectives. He gives the example of comparing a piece of paper to "our friend John". Side A would represent John's physical appearance which corresponds to ke, Side B would represent John's character which corresponds to ku. However, John's character is only known to you by way of his physical actions, which include: his speech, his gestures, his eyes, and facial expressions etc. So in a sense, you can say that one can only discover the ku of John as it becomes his ke. Each of these, in turn, represent the whole of John's life, which corresponds to chu. Chu is the "essential self" aspect of our life which keeps our physical and spiritual aspects consistent with each other through time. Another way to put it, is Chu is Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, or the rhythm and Law of life itself.

So basically, the important point I took from reading this, is in realizing that there is no fundamental distinction between the physical and spiritual aspects of life. And we, as humans, are representations of the entire process as it was/is/and will be.

From a bodywork perspective, this has intense implications. If my ku is manifest through my ke, then what does that say about what my mind contains? In what ways do I, or don't I reside in a state of chu - or the essential self/Middle Way? How is my spirit manifesting in my body? The book then goes on to tell the story of a woman who basically, after many months of intense chanting and study, made herself asymptomatic from severe epilepsy. At the end of her "treatment" there were no physical manifestations of epilepsy. In the two years I have been practicing, I have read many stories such as this, as well as experienced variations in my own life.

So back to labeling, sorting, and naming things. I started to think about these processes, and how they are showing up in my daily thoughts, actions, and activities.

I started to wonder about pain. Specifically physical pain, but keep in mind, stress can manifest as physical pain, one can be "worried sick", depression has numerious documented physical manifestations. Therefore, where is the line drawn? Is my neck pain, whose onset was a knarly car accident, and made worse by 4 or 5 surgeries, any different than the types of pain I mention in the previous sentence? Does pain exist on a continuum, or is all pain ke? Or is all pain ku? Pain is felt along neural pathways. This pain impulse can be measured, and quantified. If the types of pain I mention, are indeed, pain, then will we come up with different measurements of this pain based on it's root cause?

I'm not sure if I'm come up with any answers or solutions, but it's very fascinating to think about. I've chanted and cried myself out of intense physical pain, on more than one occasion. Is this me attempting to reside in chu? Or is this a placebo and am I still as deluded as ever? Ultimately, it doesn't matter. I've decided that the more I can observe the transitions, and manifestations of each of these truths in my life, the more capable I will become of letting them move on to whatever dynamic form they will take next.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The One and the Many: Binary vs. Manifold

So I have this trouble: I can't seem to stop trying to debate Christians. Not just Christians, but Calvinists, which can make for some pretty heated argument, given that my primary experience with Christianity was through Catholicism, and that I'm now a vaguely pantheistic, gnostic Buddhist doing my best to understand and apply the still new (for me) concepts in the Lotus Sutra, and in Nichiren Daishonin's interpretation thereof. Kind as the Calvinists have been (and seriously, they've been awfully hospitable), it's pretty clear that I represent something insidious.

Anyway, through a series of meetings and digressions, I ended up in this side debate. While the principle I'm defending, in large measure, is pantheism, my relation of that to the doctrines of reincarnation, the ten worlds, and other Buddhist concepts make this argument relevant. Moreover, as Protestant Christianity has, as you can see from the argument, actually taken steps to ensure that the debate can be shut down by a seductive but specious assertion that only the existence of an anthropomorphic, triune deity can create the necessary preconditions for rationality--therefore operating on the assumption that our having the debate at all is proof that God is a scold and Christ is the Messiah--I think it's useful for us Buddhists to at least contemplate throwing a few rhetorical elbows to ensure that our theology is defensible on an intellectual, as well as spiritual, level (though the latter is obviously more urgent).

Some schools of Buddhism posit themselves as atheistic or agnostic; others do acknowledge some sort of deity; most place themselves as squarely pantheistic. Since Nichiren Buddhism holds forth no specific assertions on the matter of deity--or, I should say, since I've yet to encounter any such assertion--it seems to me that the question is fairly elastic, provided that principles like Ichinen Sanzen, mutual possession, kosen rofu and the Law are respected. Were you to quiz the three contributors to this blog on the matter of deity, I guarantee you'd get three different answers. But when we chant Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo, those differences matter not at all.

My differences with Christianity are a little more difficult to navigate. There are many sects of Buddhism that hold that Christ was a boddhisatva; I'm more than willing to hold to that. On the other hand, Calvinists insist on a literal interpretation of the Bible; look at the clever-but-tortured reasoning by which they reconcile the idea of a young (less than 10,000-year-old) universe with the fact that we see the light from stars whose light couldn't possibly have reached us in that time. Now, at root, most of them will tell you that belief in a six-day creation isn't as important as belief in the singular divine status of Christ and the resurrection. Fair enough, but that "singular divine status" becomes something of a sticking point. If the important part to Christians is, "I am the way, the truth and the life, no man comes to the Father but by me", then there's clearly a point at which their truth, as expressed, specifically excludes all other paths to truth.

It's a tough puzzle, from this end, because I try--per JJisaFool's reasoned directive--to stick to what's truth, rather than focusing on what's not. But when trying to elucidate my truth, I often runs into opponents who will insist that their truth both excludes and rationally trumps mine. Inevitably, to assert my truth, I must reject at least some part of theirs, and become mired in a hermeneutic battle with those for whom the conclusion is what guides the process of reaching one.

Anyway, take a look at those links. Interesting stuff.