The mystical waters of my life flow deep, both internally and externally. Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha (1656-1680), the “Native American” woman—affectionately known in my neck of the woods as the Lily of the Mohawks, lived just 4 miles from my home. She will be canonized as a Saint this coming October. This area in which she lived, along with the North American Martyrs, is considered to be very sacred. The Shrine of the North American Martyrs, with its massive “Coliseum” and adjoining grounds, has always been a place of spiritual refuge and comfort. There are accounts by many who have experienced a strange and glowing “blue-flame-light” appearing at dusk, gently hovering through the deep ravine that contains the remains of the martyrs. Along with Kateri, Hildegard of Bingen—the 12th century Rhineland, Abbess, musician-composer and visionary Mystic—was recognized formally as a Saint earlier this year by Pope Benedict XVI and will be declared a “Doctor of the Church” this coming October; this will be an honorary title she will share with such Saints like John of the Cross and Saint Teresa of Avila—the great Carmelite Mystics. Over the years I have sensed Kateri’s presence while contemplating and walking through those sacred grounds in Auriesville and have also experienced some mystic revelations while meditating along with Hildegard’s rich and vibrant polyphonic music.
Along with my mystical-spiritual and creative development, I had come to realize that spirit is not confined to any exclusive formalization or set-in-stone parameters that prohibit the many and diverse ways in which it is constantly revealing itself. During the early 1990’s a priest-buddy of mine (who left the priesthood to get married back in 1997) and myself began to study an interesting book called, “Meditations on the Tarot”, which is a fascinating study of the spiritual-significance of the Major Arcana of the Tarot; interestingly, this particular book is looked upon favorably by theologians within the sphere of the Vatican itself. An eclectic work, it helped to foster my own eclecticism in spiritual matters. In 1999, while surfing the net still operating under Windows 95, I came across a most unusual sounding website entitled, “Dark Zen”. It was dark-looking in stature with a funny-looking “White-figure” in the left-hand plane (Bodhidharma perhaps?) I had recently become interested in Zen Buddhism, in particular with a work entitled “Zen Catholicism” as well as Thomas Merton’s writings like “Zen and the Birds of Appetite.” This Dark-Zen thing sounded rather odd. What was it? Could it be some kind of people involved in the dark arts—Satanists under the guise of some weird kind of Zen? After going back to it after a while I realized that, rather than being something dark and evil, it was somehow akin to my own interest in the apophatic mysticism of John of the Cross and his Dark Night; although, its originator, someone named Zenmar, assured me to be careful of that because pure apophaticism actually goes through the motions of “negating twice”—meaning that since all was “sunya” to begin with, why attempt to negate what is already negated? After some time, I began to become intrigued with Dark Zen, with Zenmar and his foremost Dharma-student, Tozen.
Throughout late 1999 and going into 2000, it was becoming apparent that some kind of schism was occurring between Zenmar and Tozen. While both shared the same kind of Mystical-Lankanian (Lankavatara Sutra) foundation, they each emphasized differing nuances and methodologies. So, Tozen, along with those dharma-students who resonated with his teachings (myself included) formed a parallel school on Yahoo named, TheUnbornMind-Zen school of the Unborn Mind (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/TheUnbornMind/?yguid=223571710) . It needs to be stressed at this point that the whole basis for an “alternative zen” understanding, one that radiates with the earliest records of the Lanka (Such as the texts found at Tun-huang in the early 20th century [ref: The Bodhidharma Anthology and Zen Dawn: Early Zen Texts from Tun huang] really has its roots and driving force with the presence of “The Zennist” (http://zennist.typepad.com/), formerly Zenmar. His tireless and ongoing resolve to make the Buddhist/Zen world aware that there is indeed an alternative understanding out there that contrasts itself sharply with the predominate and “materialistic-milieu” notions of Buddhism, along with the over-emphasized stranglehold that institutions like Soto Zen—with its incessant focus on Dogenism (zazen—sitting zen). His Zen, like Tozen’s, emphasizes the authentic mystic-spiritual side (Buddha-gnosis) of the equation that has been hidden, sorely neglected, and oftentimes ridiculed throughout the millennia.
Over the years, the Tozen-teachings in particular, have enlightened and enlivened my spirit. Suffice [at this point] to say that my inner-spiritual-life-spirit is now Lankavatarian. In light of this, my path reflects the teachings of the ancient Taoists who stated that one ought to embrace familial and social commitments (like my own embrace of the duties of the exoteric church) when they are young, but that when they reach middle-age and beyond (I’m now retired at 55 due to ongoing health issues) the “inner-path” (or inner-light) needs to become the primary focus. Having discovered the True Light of the Buddhadharma, one would be a fool not to refine it…refine it by holistically [body-mind-spirit] developing the hidden elixir within (the Primordial Bodhi-seed) which is its true Essence that is reflected in the new Spiritual Maturity of a Bodhisattva—One in Nirvanic Union with the Dharmakaya. It is the development of this Bodhichild, even within this present lifetime, that will be able to transcend the swift moving currents of karma in all the realms of the Bardo.
I have many fond memories of the old Dark Zen site. It is clear, Zenmar offered an interpretation of Buddhism as novel as it was ancient. Who would have thought 12 years have gone by, what a blink of an eye. The elixir has not run out and tastes ever sweeter.
Indeed, they were grand times; as you say, the grandness is as sweet as ever.
Hello. I googled Catholic priest and the Bardo and came up with your site. Are you familiar with Father Keating and Ken Wilbur and The Integral Life Institute? I have learned a bit about the Bardo and shared this in a Catholic focus group earlier this week. I don’t think the priest leading the group was all that pleased. But it was in reference to when Jesus died and descended “into hell” and then was resurrected. Of course, I thought of the Bardo. Anyway, Ken Wilbur’s mantra of “transcend and include” is welcomed in combining Catholicism with other religious thought and mysticism. Are you familiar with Kurt Johnson and David Robert Ord’s book “The Coming Interspiritual Age” ?
Many thanks for your post.
Am somewhat familiar with Ken Wilbur but am not familiar with the other references you mentioned. Will have to check them out.
There really should not be any dismay concerning the Bardo as its “stages” (please continue reading the rest of this series, The Lankavatarian Book of the Dead) intersect quite nicely interspiritually….meaning are experienced by all during their life and “afterlife” cycles.