Editorial: Finding the Way in the Dark

Featured in Mountain Record 27.1, Fall 2008

It is not possible to thoroughly comprehend the path by which the buddhas from the past, one after another, have been practicing and entering realization. If you seek a reason, you must know that it is only because [sitting] is what has been used by Buddhist practitioners, and beyond this you do not need to search.
—Master Dogen

What is a calling? What makes a calling spiritual? Is spiritual the same as religious? Can one have a spiritual calling to a vocation such as medicine or parenting, or is it reserved for the work of a renunciate? Does it happen in a moment, or is it gradual? Can the nature of one’s calling be identified from the outside, or is it purely subjective?
These are some of the questions that may arise when we consider what moves us to question our lives. Daido Roshi speaks of the calling to a spiritual life as “...very intuitive, dependent on something that is deep inside each one” that leads us to practice. In Buddhism, this is called raising the bodhi mind—the aspiration for enlightenment.
It may be a deeply felt resonance or recognition, but of what? Initially such a calling may seem strange or upsetting, something that interrupts the course of our lives—its real source hidden from us. If it rings true or is irrepressible, we may turn toward it. But how? In her writing, Annie Dillard eloquently asks us “...to locate the most tender and live spot and plug into that pulse. This is yielding, not fighting.”
Finding a way to realize one’s calling and practicing the discipline required for its manifestation are as important as the sensitivity to hear it. Shugen Sensei says, “To take up the most fundamental questions of life and death... is not just to take them up philosophically. It’s to actually look deeply at our lives through those questions, to gain some genuine understanding about what this life is....”
Perhaps when we respond wholeheartedly to that call, it no longer resounds from the outside. Perhaps it is the call of our very lives, this very moment, returning us to a place not set apart. In Mahayana Buddhism, thusness is described as “...a mind resting simply in its own being.” What is it to trust, thus?
As Master Dogen teaches, zazen is the way, and beyond this you do not need to search. In this, we may not notice a calling. We may hear only the song of a bird, the roar of an engine, the whisper of the person beside us

Karin Jinfu Connelly, MRO
Mountain Record, Editor