March 31, 2011

While the truth is formless like the Void, it can express its existence in any form. Therefore, truth does not have to be Christian–or specifically Catholic or Protestant–nor does it have to be Islamic or Buddhist. Truth does not have to be Theraveda, Mahayana or Vajrayana Buddhism. Truth is simply the truth, and it is universal.* When I first went out to the Vairocana Zen Monastery to work with Miao Tsan and Jay, the man who did the original translation of Just Use This Mind from the Chinese, I wondered what they would think about my own philosophies, so much more Western and traditional than the book. I wondered if they would try to proselytize me, or make me be a Buddhist, like many of my Christian friends who want people they meet to know Christ. I wondered if I would be able to fit in at the monastery. There’s a professor at University of Houston named Brene Brown whom I respect very much. She’s a shame researcher, and the applications for her findings are endless. One of the subjects she talks about is authenticity. Under that larger category, she explains the difference between “belonging” and “fitting in.” “Fitting in” is the chameleon thing: knowing how to be whatever the crowd you are with needs or wants you to be. “Belonging” means knowing yourself and being comfortable with that, wherever you are. Having spent many years trying to fit in–as a book lover with party animals, as a Texan in New York, as an editor with teachers–I have gotten pretty adept at reading the signs, knowing what to say and what to left unsaid in order to make no waves. The first thing I learned at the monastery was that fitting in was unnecessary. I was welcomed as I am. It is easy to belong in this place. It is founded upon the idea that the superficial things that make us feel so different from one another are only shells created by our thoughts and our karma, the results of our past actions. When we can understand our thoughts apart from these karma shells, we have the chance to see the truth. The truth can dwell in any of our shells. We come closest to understanding it when we choose a path that helps us shed our dependence on our shell. That’s an enlightening thought. It explains how a Western mom who reads Utne Reader and Southern Living with equal passion, studies Henri Nouwen and appreciates Adam Sandler movies, likes vegetables but prefers steak, teaches Sunday School and enjoys a little wine can belong at a Zen monastery. It’s a universal joint. * p. 39 Just Use This Mind