I opened a can of worms in yesterday’s post by touching on greed which, in Zen terms, is seen as one of the Three Poisons along with anger and ignorance. As I do whenever I come upon a new aspect of my rollercoaster practice, I sought guidance from someone more experienced.
I’d heard of Ruben Habito but never read any of his work. In his early twenties, this man went to Japan from his native Philipines, was ordained a Jesuit priest in Tokyo, completed doctoral studies in Buddhism, and taught at Sophia University. He took up Zen practice in the Harada-Yasutani lineage which combines the Soto and Rinzai traditions, returned to teach theology at Southern Methodist University, to marry and have children, and to found a Zen center. Along the way he left the Roman Catholic priesthood. Ruben Keiun (“grace cloud”) writes:
Greed works in each of us in very subtle ways, more subtle than we can detect perhaps. That sense of wanting something in particular, because “if I don’t have this, then I am not OK,” can gnaw at us and propel us to act in greedy or needy kinds of ways. …
Greed comes from an insecure ego that has not realized its grounding in the True Self, that which is of infinite value and worth just as it is. This deluded ego of mine thinks that my value and worth would come from things like recognition by others, or by having certain possessions, and so on. Greed is that tendency for us to want to expand the deluded ego by accumulating things, absorbing or taking in things, gorging in “more and more stuff,” whether material, psychological, or even spiritual, into our little insecure selves.
From the standpoint of our Zen practice, the way to extinguish this poison then, in the different forms that it manifests itself, is to take the opposite direction — to empty oneself. Concretely, we are advised to just breathe in and breathe out, and in the process, to let go and empty ourselves of anything that we tend to cling to. Just let yourself continue to practice this way of emptying, and at some point, you may be able to “see through” that which is behind your delusion, namely, that unsatisfied ego that craves this and that. Seeing through things in clarity can be a very liberating moment, enabling us to celebrate “what is,” independently of what one has or doesn’t have. (more …)