Later, that very same lawyer spoke up during a discussion about the causes of structural violence and how institutions help to create it. He said, “It’s not about greed, it’s not about consumerism. It’s about patriarchy.” Suddenly, all these quiet nuns were up and talking. It was a very lively discussion. Later, I did worry that once this encounter got published as a book half of my friends were going to end up excommunicated. I’m not sure how they handled that.

 

vessel

 

So, on one hand, we have “keeping silent and refraining from discussing the Way is truly an extraordinary practice. This is hearing what is impossible to hear, encountering what’s impossible to encounter.” If our minds are filled with noise, how will we be able to hear what is impossible to hear? Obviously, we won’t. The definition of the term “mystical” says: “Having a spiritual meaning that is neither apparent to the senses nor obvious to the intellect. It is direct subjective communication with ultimate reality.” It’s the kind of communication that we can’t process intellectually. We can’t see it, hear it, smell it, taste it, touch it, or think it. It is very subtle and slippery, impossible to nail down or explain. Yet we’re somehow aware of its presence, and it has a real impact on us. And in order to perceive it, we need to make room for it. We need to be quiet, open, and receptive. That’s the only way we’ll ever access the mystery of this human life.

“Yet, if even all contrivances are cut off, there is still the pit of liberation called ‘dharma attachment.’” That’s the other extreme—complete renunciation, cutting ourselves off from the world, from communication, from any kind of activity. This is what Yunmen called one of the two sicknesses of our practice. Needless to say, in order to function in the world we have to get ourselves out of the pit of liberation. As I have said countless times, it’s not enough to get to the top of the mountain. You have to keep going down the other side and back into the marketplace, where your life takes place.