Making Footprints Not Blueprints

S07 #02 - Faith in ourselves, our neighbours, and ourselves as neighbours - A thought for the day

September 09, 2023 Andrew James Brown/Caute Season 7 Episode 3
Making Footprints Not Blueprints
S07 #02 - Faith in ourselves, our neighbours, and ourselves as neighbours - A thought for the day
Show Notes Transcript

The full text of this podcast can be found in the transcript of this edition or at the following link:

https://andrewjbrown.blogspot.com/2023/09/faith-in-ourselves-our-neighbours-and.html

Please feel to post any comments you have about this episode there.

All four pieces can be found at the following links: 

Introduction:
A gentle call to adopt Imaoka Shin’ichirō’s creative, free spirituality found in his “Creed of Life” 

Statements 1 and 2:
Faith in ourselves, our neighbours, and ourselves as neighbours

Statements 3, 4 and 5:
Faith in a universal cooperative society

Statement 6, 7  and 8
Faith in one's own spiritual community and a creative, free religion or spirituality

The Cambridge Unitarian Church's Sunday Service of Mindful Meditation can be found at this link:

https://www.cambridgeunitarian.org/morning-service/
 
Music,
"New Heaven", written by Andrew J. Brown and played by Chris Ingham (piano), Paul Higgs (trumpet), Russ Morgan (drums) and Andrew J. Brown (double bass) 

Thanks for listening. Just to note that all the texts of these podcasts are available on my blog. You'll also find there a brief biography, info about my career as a musician, & some photography. Feel free to drop by & say hello. Email: caute.brown[at]gmail.com

A short thought for the day” was offered to the Cambridge Unitarian Church as part of the Sunday Service of Mindful Meditation.

—o0o—

Last week I introduced you to the “Creed of Life” written by Imaoka Shin’ichirō, the Japanese advocate of free-religion or, if you prefer, a “creative, free spirituality.” I suggested that the congregation in Cambridge where I am the minister should seriously consider informally adopting it as its own highly diverse community’s centre of gravity to help it continue its journey towards the creation of a meaningful, contemporary, creative, free spirituality. As part of this consideration, over the next few weeks, I’ll briefly walk through each of his eight statements. But, today, before I continue, Joy Magezis has written a poem in response to Imaoka sensei’s “Creed of Life” and I thought you might like to hear it.

Faith in True Inner Goodness
Many names for this Energy
Buddha Nature, God Within
True Self, Higher Being

Often it’s clouded over
Seemingly sunless on hazy day
Yet getting beyond clouds
Warm, loving light shines

So many layers of fear
Sadness, greed, hatred
Breeding anger, ill-will
Me first to survive

Survival of True Nature
Is beyond birth and death
As wave returns to ocean
Beyond ego grasping illusion

Illusion that each separate
When so interconnected
Needing Earth, Sun, each other
Just to be alive

Alive in this instant
Late summer bounty
Courgettes, cucumbers to share
Most importantly, loving kindness

Kindness, greatest wisdom
But capitalism suppresses
Loving community can build, radiate
If we practice mindfully together

Together, such power
Of concentration, insight
For creative free spirituality
True Goodness for all


Thank you, Joy. And I’ll return to some of Joy’s words at the end of this piece.

So, it’s important to begin my words this morning by reminding you that none of Imaoka sensei’s eight statements stand alone, all are intimately related to each other. However, one has to start somewhere, so I’ll take them in the order which he offered them to us and point either backwards or forwards to the others as I go along. I’ll begin this week by taking the first two statements together: 

  • “I have faith (信ずる shinzuru) in myself. I recognize my own subjectivity and creativity and feel the worth of living in life (生きがい ikigai). Subjectivity and creativity can be rephrased as personality, divinity, and Buddha-nature.”
  • “I have faith in my neighbour. The neighbour is oneself as a neighbour. If I believe in myself, I inevitably believe in my neighbour.”

It’s vital to be absolutely clear from the outset that Imaoka sensei’s understanding of self is not of the kind encouraged by the rapacious, acquisitive and selfish form of capitalism known as neoliberalism in which our culture is still so deeply mired, and that has damaged our world so much in the post-WWII period. Instead, drawing deeply on a basic insight he discovered both in Buddhist thought and in the thinking of the French philosopher Henri Bergson, he recognized that the self is not a discrete, permanent “thing” but, instead, something that is always-already part of an eternal, universal, free, creative, and unifying process involving a relational trinity of self, neighbour, and cooperative society, and where the cooperative society does not simply stop at human community but is something which, as statement four makes clear, “further unites [us] with all things in the universe.”

Although Imaoka sensei was born into a devout Jodo Shinshu Buddhist family, he became a Christian during his Middle school years and eventually spent the first three of his post University years as a liberal Christian minister before resigning and becoming an organizer for, and then secretary of, the Japanese Unitarian Association, before it ceased to exist in a formal, institutional fashion in 1922. It was from then on that he began to articulate the creative, free spirituality we are now exploring together, one in which for him, he conjoined both Buddhism, the Buddhism of his childhood, Liberal Christianity, Unitarian Christianity and Shintoism, along with more humanist philosophies connected, particularly, with Confucianism. 

Anyway, this early connection with Liberal, Free and Unitarian Christianity meant that he held the human Jesus in very high regard and his understanding of in what consists the “self” is clearly influenced by Jesus’ teaching that one must love one’s neighbour as oneself. But in Imaoka sensei’s thinking, as his second statement reveals, he draws something implicit in Jesus’ teaching explicitly into the open when he states that self and neighbour are not to be understood as separate entities but somehow as being the same thing, the neighbour is oneself. Every time I think this thought, a striking line written by the French poet Arthur Rimbaud comes back into my heart and mind: “Je est un autre” — “I is Somebody Else.”

But, just because there is no such thing as a separate, independent, permanent self, this does not mean there is no such thing as a self. The very fact that we are sitting here neighbourly considering this matter together in community — whether in person, or on-line or in print — clearly reveals that selves exist, and because we are the kind of entities we are, we have no choice but to start with ourselves and ourselves as neighbours. But, as Shakyamuni Buddha and Jesus realised, although we have no choice but to start with ourselves, the point is, of course, not to remain there but to let the impermanent self reveal to us how its existence always-already gracefully and beautifully relies upon all other things as they creatively intra-act together.

Now Imaoka sensei’s hope was that it was possible to create the kind of creative, free spiritual and educational community that could genuinely help people establish such an awakened self. As he explicitly says in a later essay (“I believe in a Universal Cooperative Society—My articles of faith at 100”), it is a self that is not concerned merely to satisfy earthly desires, nor one that is a slave to material things and the flesh, but rather a “vigorous self” or “creativity” (there’s Bergson again) which is not isolated from society but is constantly trying to progress and improve by striving for unity. It was this kind of vigorous and creative self in which he had such faith and which made him feel that life is worth living, that which gave him his ikigai.

This making of a whole self, something I reference every week at the end of the Sunday Morning Service of Mindful Mediation, Music and Conversation is, I think, clearly becoming one of the community’s central aims as a group of people seeking to leave behind old and restrictive religious ways and to transform itself into a genuinely creative, free spiritual community. One of its primary, day-by-day, week-by-week tasks is, therefore, to form and shape the selves of members and attenders as neighbours because without such selves the ideal cooperative society — which Imaoka sensei was happy also at times to call the Kingdom of God or the Pure Land of Buddha — simply cannot, for us, come to light and be seen all around.

And, although it’s sometimes easy to slip into thinking meditation is merely a pointless exercise or a fashionable life-style choice that gets nothing important done, it’s actually the primary way to bring into being the kind of selves in which Imaoka sensei, I, and I hope many of you, have complete faith and which makes us feel the profound worth of living in life, which gives us our ikigai. As Joy said in her poem, “If we practice mindfully together” then such a “loving community can build, radiate.” Together, as selves who are simultaneously others as neighbours, “such power of concentration and insight,” such a “creative, free spirituality” can truly help to bring to light “True Goodness for all.”

In the truth and goodness of all this, I assuredly, have faith and helps me feel, deep in my bones, the worth of living in life. It is my ikigai. And I hope all this can be true for you, too.