Posted on Aug.13.2007 @ 09:01AM EDT by stephen
We recently reached the end of the year, and what do you know, we’re right back at the beginning. Of course the calendar is man-made, but it’s the same in the natural world. There’s a cycle of seasons; you reach the end, and you’re at the beginning.
It may seem obvious, how it goes round and round like this. But consider: if you’d just been born, even with a fully developed intellect, would you automatically know that the world operates in these circular cycles? Maybe it’s something we learn through experience.
Zen isn’t different from life, so we also find many circles in Zen teaching and art. Zen Master Seung Sahn illustrated his teaching with the Zen Circle. Points around the circle have particular meanings… but the big meaning is the metaphor of the circle itself. You start at zero degrees, and you progress to 360 degrees, which is the same point. It illustrates that the truth, the goal, the pure and clear thing, is not something separate in space or time. It’s already appeared in this moment.
Our teaching style doesn’t say, “You must struggle for decades or lifetimes, and then attain holy ‘egolessness’” or whatever. But rather: “Just now, before the thought of ‘I/my/me’ even arises, everything is already perfect and complete.”
The circle metaphor stands in contrast to the more common image of spiritual life as a path to a mountaintop. This path image puts me in mind of people who climb Everest. Climbers speak of a problem they call summit fever. It’s not just the craziness caused by oxygen deprivation, but a psychological affliction. Climbers can become so focused on reaching the summit that they lose all reason. They don’t consider that after they summit, they’ll still have to climb back down! They make stupid decisions in striving for the peak at all costs; it turns out that most climbers who die do so on the descent.
Metaphorically, that’s what it’s like to follow a path. When you strive to reach something, you don’t clearly perceive and respond to the reality of the moment.
On the other hand, if we see that we’re going around and around in circles, there’s nothing special to look forward to, or to look back on. Then it’s possible to connect with just now. In walking meditation, as we go around and around the room, we can return to a meticulous awareness of the moment, the breath going in or out, the pressure of the floor against the soles of the feet.
Sitting meditation is similar. Trains of thought appear and disappear, over and over again in circular rotation. When I recognize that the thinking cycle is going nowhere, it points back to the clarity of What am I doing right now?
Ken Wilber is a writer and modern philosopher, popular in spiritual and New Age circles. In constructing his view of human development, Wilber has used the metaphor of a ladder. You start with body-consciousness, then move up to the next rung of emotional consciousness, then intellect, then witnessing and other spiritual rungs, higher and higher. He provides an interesting map of this process, but it lacks any sense of circularity.
One of his critics argues that Wilber and his group are missing half of reality. Wilber focuses entirely on development, but existence is more than growth and development, it’s also decay and death. To avoid facing this other half of the circle is like having summit fever, with a mind clouded by refusal to see the whole picture.
If we look at the full circle, it becomes clear. A hundred years ago, I didn’t exist. Then I got born, so now I do exist. A hundred years from now, I’ll be dead, I’ll have returned to that same point of not-existing that I started at! In Buddhism, we say that emptiness becomes form, then form becomes emptiness. First zero, then one, then zero, around and around and around.
Sometimes, I get distracted for half a second, then my attention returns. Sometimes, I get an idea, and keep thinking about it for months before letting it go. These circles, large and small, are encompassed by the circle of life — appearing out of emptiness, and eventually disappearing back into emptiness. It all points back to one thing. We’re not going anywhere, so we’ve got precisely one thing: What is this moment?
From - http://home.comcast.net/~sresnick2/mypage.htm
Reply from stephen
Quote: "All the circles are connected with ladders dynamically; a line cuts through all the circles and curves upward; within the circles, spirals gyro-move up and down, left and right. "
One must be very careful about the term ladders in Buddhism. No Rusty, Buddhism is not a children’s game of “shoots and ladders”. There is no aspiring, only being.
Jacob's Ladder refers to a ladder to heaven described in the Book of Genesis (28:11-19) which the biblical patriarch Jacob envisioned during his flight from his brother Esau.
The Christian interpretation of this passage is based heavily on Jesus’ words in Book of John 1:51. In this view, Jesus is seen as being the ladder, bridging the gap between Heaven and Earth, being both the Son of God and the Son of Man, tying into his mediatorial role.