A Pithy Pivot

There is, in this single Tweet, the entirety of a master’s degree in theology. To these old Catholic eyes, the entire arc of the history of Christianity can be found here. It is especially meaningful because he does correctly credit “the just and loving nature of [Christianity’s] principles”, yet turns incisively on this supremely pithy pivot towards how it was precisely these exalted qualities, reified in institutional power, which “justified the brutal extermination of all rationalist and spiritual opposition.”

The Tweet is over before you know it. And you have covered the central contradiction illuminating everything from the decimation of the greatness of “pagan” civilization, gnosticism, etc., down through Galileo, witch burning, the whole enslavement of Africans and the slaughter of native peoples in the New World, and the offspring of unwed mothers in Ireland being tossed into wells by the thousands, among many uncountable terrors, pogroms, abuses, and massacres. When Love turns to Law.

It’s all in one truly comprehensive Tweet.

Slaving away in a Manhattan law firm for over a year to save up the money to put myself through Harvard Divinity School — and taking on many thousands of dollars of student loans, to boot, paid back from a monk’s monthly pocket money in Korea! — had this Tweet arrived but 30 years earlier, what needless waste could have been spared!

Maybe it should be seen this way: What a decent price to pay to be brought to Cambridge, and maybe therefore to find the Cambridge Zen Center, and so therefore how worth every penny shelled out in savings and in debt to get to a place where I could find true Dharma, very low bullshit included. If going to Divinity School was what needed to be “activated”, at what cost, to be brought within the blast radius of Zen Master Seung Sahn’s clear pointing to the nature of consciousness — and the clear tools to attain that — then so be it.

But this Tweet points to something which explains why I don’t know shit about Buddhism, academically, and have read less than 10 Buddhist books ever: All the holy writings of the Church fathers had only succeeded in contracting and weaponising “the just and loving nature of the cult’s principles” so far, far away from its usefulness for humanity — all this educated violence — that something about the entire intellectual effort even of Buddhism, if it meant adding to thinking, would just distract from the opportunity being offered to just practice. I wanted the essence, the direct experience pointed to by the sutras, and no more with this realm of conceptual delusion. That’s probably the reason for going so hard core into Zen, and not giving a shit anymore about a shallower “way of doctrines”, however deeper Buddhism’s doctrinal truth may be.

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