Monday, October 08, 2007

The holiness of the mountain

“I wish I could say it gets easier, but even years on, you still make mistakes. You just keep trying,” one of the ‘graded’ Ju Jitsu students told me after class on Friday.

“It is poetry in motion,” Kelly tells me of martial arts, happy that I am giving Ju Jitsu and Kung Fu a try.

“What is true in martial arts is true in all of life,” I think to myself, peaceful though mentally and physically drained.
Tired and unable to study last night I picked up a stack of photocopied and highlighted pages from Robert Pirsig's “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” that Kelly had long ago given me. In one section she drew my attention to Pirsig's description of the failure of his character Phaedrus to summit the holy Himalayan mountain of Kailas (Kailash), “the source of the Ganges and the abode of Shiva…” Phaedrus made the all too human error of making the journey about him, his experience and growth. For those who made it, on the other hand, “each footstep was an act of devotion, an act of submission to this holiness.”

Pirsig calls Phaedrus an “ego-climber” and the other a “selfless climber.” And for the selfless climber, as the cliché goes, it is not the destination that matters but the journey.

Being in love and with Kelly has brought me well above the clouded peaks of Mount Kailash. My mistake is in trying to make a destination of this journey called love. I recall the famous sutra by Dōgen, “The Rivers and Mountains Sutra." In it he describes the pilgram’s recognition that the mountains too are walking; those who fail to see this fail also to see their own walking, they fail to see their own relationship with reality.

Relationship is evolution, and love is the highest evolution. What the pilgrim recognizes atop Mount Kailash is not that his journey has ended, because it has not, it cannot end. The pilgrim recognizes that the true journey has only just begun. And that journey is living life fully in every step. Ha! What a joke the great religious masters play on so many of us! And sadly how few seem to get it. So many devotees will live their whole life for that one journey. And then, once they’ve been there and utterly failed to recognize the meaning of it, they will spend the rest of their poor lives raving about it like lunatics, going on about “that moment” way back when and exhorting others to go, go, go… Others, in dissapointment, will ridicule all climbers and every mountain.

But those who reach the summit in that rare stride of selflessness – they realize that it’s just another hill! They see the other holy mountains in every direction, and the fools and sages atop each of those hills as well. For them the moment is just a moment like any other, the journey up becomes meaningless, for it has passed, and the way down is meaningless, for it has not yet come.

Every step through in these noisy, unfamiliar streets of London is a moment on Mount Kailash. There is no difference. Sometimes the fool stumbles on, clinging to the past and yearning for the future. Other times in these streets a sage walks, alive in the moment and the love therein. For he knows that the holiness of the mountain is the holiness of every step.


Gary said...

I really enjoyed this post, Justin.

I particularly liked your use of climbing Mount Kailash as an analogy for "this journey called love." Yes, relationships are where our spiritual metal can be truly tested! If we maintain our practice as part of our relationship, and maintain our relationship as part of our practice, then the two will complement one another. It's when we compartmentalize the various aspects of our lives (such as love, work, meditation etc.) that life doesn't work so well.

Seeing London as a spiritual place is really cool, too - I can't say that I ever saw it as such when I visited there as a resident of the UK! But you're absolutely right on this one as well: every where we are is a 'spiritual place' just as much as Mount Kailash, the Vatican, or Mecca. Looking about it now, I realize that this study is a 'holy place' where awareness can be awake to the reality of this moment, letting go of the distractions of past and future.

Thanks for some thought-provoking words, Justin.
Gary at Forest Wisdom.

Buddhist_philosopher said...

Thanks Gary - Getting settled here in SE London has been trying and it has been in those rare moments when practice, love, noise, concrete and all the rest become one that things have gone so well. A good time/place for practice :)

Kelly said...

I agree, babe. If you can succeed in London, then you can succeed anywhere.

This is my new thing with DC. If I can conquer crazy traffic and insane honking and constant noise, then, SURELY, I will be a better mother to our future kids when they get LOUD, CRY, SCREAM and throw temper tantrums.

Perhaps, then, city living just prepares us to be better parents?

Hm. Okay, it's a stretch, but it makes the current situation feel a hell of a lot better! =)

Buddhist_philosopher said...

Hia Kelly! Yes, I agree, learning to find peace in this madness is great training for having kids :) I am sure (or at least hopeful) that then, changing diapers at 3am, we will look back on these times with gratitude.