Zen At The Movies

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In transit, coming back from a retreat, so no netcast today ...

Instead, a few jotted words on "Enlightenment", and its various interpretations ... doodlings on a train ...

Let me use a "movie theater" parable for the point I wish to present here ...

Imagine our lives are like being born into a movie show, watching a story on a screen, which we do not realize is a fiction with actors and paper scenery, just flickering light projected into an image before our eyes. Because we take the image as real, the movie deceives and imprisons us, and the scary scenes really are scary! That is much the way that we human beings cannot see through this world, and do not see how much (perhaps all) is created as a kind of illusion. This world we live in is a world of mental confusion, false categories and divisions, and thus "Delusion"

"Awakening" though Zen Practice occurs when we come to see clearly that the show is just a show, and we see the wondrous timeless light (sweeping "us" in too) that arises from some half-hidden projector beyond our view, and how the story is largely written by us too (thus change the mind, and radically change the movie script).

Almost all schools of Eastern Philosophy, Buddhism and Zen Buddhism (including Soto Zen and Jundo) are in full accord so far ...

But here is where I think that there are very different views on what "Enlightenment" truly is ...

For some Eastern schools say that the point of "Enlightenment" is to merge with the light, and completely leave the "false" movie behind. That is not the Zen view (at least as far as any teachers, old or new, of whom I know ... and at least not during the period of our human lifetimes).

For some other Eastern schools (including some flavors of Zen Buddhism), the emphasis is on somehow "GETTTING & STAYING AWAKE", as if we are to ALWAYS see that the movie is ALWAYS a lie, that we will not allow ourselves to get suckered into the story EVER, because the false story is somehow ALWAYS harmful in some way. The LIGHT is TRUE while the movie is FALSE, so END OF STORY!

But our Soto Zen view is more this:

False or not, grab some popcorn, fall right into the story, go along with the game and savor the show! 8) Let yourself get suckered in much or most of the time, for what is the point of a movie if you don't get pulled into it (what is the point of life, if not to live life ... with all the drama and comedy, tears and smiles)? That is, HOWEVER, with the proviso that we do not get suckered in TOO MUCH, and can remind ourselves that it is "just a movie" as and when appropriate to do so (for example, we refuse to buy into all the "greed anger and ignorance" themes in the film, and reject those parts. Staring endlessly at the projector is not the point, and those brief "glimpses" when we look back and see the light and the projector are useful, but just a "point of reference" before we redirect our attention to the story. When the movie gets too scary, we can remind ourselves that it is "just a movie, the monster is not real", and can reject the "birth" and "death" part of the picture, experiencing the light when we want). Back and forth, back and forth.

In this way, we see that the movie ... although it is false "Delusion" ... is ABSOLUTELY PRECIOUS AND TRUE TOO (and not merely "as a movie", but as the point of the whole theater and production!)

 The purpose of a movie is not to recall constantly the projector and light, but to experience the story. The story is JUST AS TRUE AS THE LIGHT, and is the light realized! In fact, the purpose of the light might actually be said to be the images on the screen, which are just the light itself (for what is the meaning of naked light from a projector if not the movie????) Thus, live life ... it is TRUE ... for what else is the meaning of being alive? Every scene, camera angle and line of dialogue is REALITY TOO, and JUST OUR LIVES TO BE LIVED!

Who wants to spend a whole wonderful movie that you paid $9 for if all you will do the whole time is remember that it is a lie, or stare into the projector, or criticize the plot????? 8) In fact, FORGET THE LIGHT much of the time, because the point of the light is for you to experience the movie with the light (most of the time) forgotten!

Of course, during some of the "bad patches" (like getting divorced or sick or otherwise encountering suffering), it is perfectly fine practice to remember "this is just a movie, and we are characters in it". But at other times, just grab a bunch of tissues and have a good cry through the sad story on the screen (and a frequent good laugh as well).


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