Not Two

A chap who had been coming here regularly wrote an email to me today letting me know that:

Zen training is not for me and I have arranged to go to an ashram in India, travelling on the 23rd Oct. And further on in the email he wrote: I am not a religious man and prefer a practical hands on, spiritual approach. Something like, try everything deeply, until something fits deeply.

Here is part of my reply:

I find it interesting that you say I am not a religious man and prefer a hands on practical, spiritual approach. You know, I might have said that! I probably did say that on my application for my first introductory retreat, way back when. So what is the difference, (between being a religious man and a spiritually orientated one)? Is it to do with difficulties around so called organized religion? When I think about it we are, of all the schools of Buddhism, known for our ‘hands on practical approach’. Yes, and we certainly are organized too, however from where I sit life would be a shambles without it! Now the ‘religion’ part I can see how you might be struggling. Nothing is an obstacle in the end of course…

So for all the people who will be in flight soon, including my correspondent, here is a short scripture which I recite silently when taking off and landing:

Invocation for the Removal of Disasters
Adoration to all the Buddhas.
Adoration to the limitless teaching.
Peace! Speak! Blaze Up! Open!
To the glorious, peaceful One
For Whom there is no disaster,
Hail! Hail! Hail!

Zen is a Religion Thanks to RB for quoting Rev. Master Jiyu-Kennet on the subject of religion.

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8 thoughts on “Not Two”

  1. Hello, Rev.Mugo-san!
    Not Two, I totally agree. I may have told like this guy when I was younger.I don’t like to belong to any organized religion. As my master put it, I’d rather like to be religious or spiritual wherever my life unfolds; that is, for me, to remind myself I’m only a part of the whole existence, and my mind is only an illusion. I often forget that, however! Thank you for letting us know the invocation.

  2. Hmm, I’m not sure that I’d dare recite “blaze up” when taking off :) but it’s a wonderful scripture. I agree that the OBC approach is ‘practical hands on’, and of course it’s spiritual. I didn’t even know that Buddhism is considered a religion when I first joined, and I don’t much care what people call it, so long as the practice is true.

    My Oxford dictionary says religion is a ‘system of faith’ or ‘a pursuit or interest followed with devotion’. Funnily enough, it goes on to define ‘system’ as ‘an interconnecting network’ or ‘a person’s body or mind’. I feel very lucky to have found it!

  3. I thought Buddhism was a philosophy until Throssel monks told me it is definitely a religion.It bothered me once but not any more.I think being a religion somehow said to me it’s serious. It works & that’s what counts.

  4. I just got back from the temple here and only had a religious, spiritual and practical hands on approach the whole extended weekend! :0) All the best! Jack

  5. I think that one of the problems here is that the word ‘religion’ is so loaded with historical and cultural meaning, and has such uncertain etymology, that it means different things to different people.

    For me it’s a very uncomfortable word, and I duck when I see it coming. What the person using the word means, and what I hear are probably very different.

    By the way, my experiences of going to Throssel have been very much of a ‘practical, hands on, spiritual approach’.

  6. Yes, religion has a pretty bad rap, and not only in the west. People feel the need to travel to “other dusty countries” in order to sidestep the pain that has been caused under the name of religion in their own country.

    The wonderful reality is of course that spirituality is everywhere, and being organised is helpful; combine the two, and voila! there’s religion again. How can we escape it? I think what might help is to see more clearly the negative conditioning that each of us associates with what is essentially a neutral concept. To see things for what they are, as it were…

    In Gassho


  7. Hum. Interesting. This subject has certainly caused some pondering, which is good. Thankyou for putting pen to paper.

  8. From: Allendale

    Did not explain myself very well in the email to Rev Mugo. Doctrine was intended more than religion. The Buddha’s teachings can be training manuals for spiritual growth rather than the various religious structures they have become.

    Swami Rama who founded the ashram I am going to was not religous. He also founded a hospital, a medical school and a university. All are welcome at any of the institutions regardless of religious background.

    The 17th Karmapa Thaye Dorje puts it very well, speaking of the Dharma: “But, the most important of all is to always have the base of Dharma be very very pure. To have a very clear understanding of it that is not based on a worldly way of religion. Buddhism also is not a religion, it is simply a method. It is simply a method to make us behave better, think better, work better.” (
    Chin, chin, George

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