Sunday Sermon
(dedicated to the Ministry's new Alter boi, Brittany)

"Never think that I believe I should set out a "system of teaching" to help people understand the way. Never cherish such a thought. What I proclaim is the Truth as I have discovered it and "a system of teaching" has no meaning because the Truth can’t be cut up into pieces and arranged in a system."

These words, from the Diamond Sutra, are attributed to the Buddha. The subdivision of reality into tiny fragments is part and parcel of Western Academic practice. We who study philosophy, literature, religion - all the humanities really - have a tradition, centuries long, of slicing and dicing human experience. Many of us can't even conceptualize the Truth of which the Buddha speaks, the kind with a capital T. Everything is situational, distinct, thoroughly analyzed, and segregated according to the theoretical position of the scholar. My chosen field and my chosen religion clash in a most uncomfortable manner...

I call it my "chosen" field, but really it is simply the only academic pursuit for which I am suited. I am hopeless at mathematics, and though I enjoy scientific pursuits, in class there was always a bit too much memorization and not enough mixing of things that change colors or blow up to keep me interested.

My "chosen" religion is a different matter. After being unable to reconcile ("swallow" is the word I wanted to use there) the dislogic of the various forms of Christianity I was exposed to as a child, I began an informal search. I talked with Jewish friends, read up on Islam, had a brush with the local Hare Krishnas, read the Satanic Bible (much to my grandmother's chagrin), I will even confess, sheepishly, to reading L. Ron Hubbard's Dianetics. It wasn't a constant effort - it wasn't until about 4 years later that I read Taking the Path of Zen by Robert Aitken Roshi. At once, the difficulties I had experienced with previous faiths cleared. Here was a path that didn't ask me to believe in anything other than the possibility that perfection exists within us all - a far cry from the doom and gloom offered by the various sons of Abraham. I made the decision to be a Buddhist about 6 months after that first reading.

Yet, here I am, 19 years later, still forcing the Truth into subsets. This red box here is called Marxism. The stack of folders on the couch is known as Freudian theory, and the tea crates and gin bottles by the door - that's Orientalism. For a few more years at least (grad school) I must wander through them, taking from them and adding to them like all those students before me. The search for Truth becomes secondary to the quest for a string of letters after your name, and soon you're subdividing and segregating like a pro.

Luckily, Truth abides. It will still be there when I am done with this academic steeplechase, and all of the boxes and crates can be stacked in the front yard for a great bonfire.

Go in Peace.
(Just step over that jumbled pile on the floor - that's Post-Modernism.)


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