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Hubert Benoit
On Faith in our Creative Principle

According to Zen man is of the nature of Buddha; he is perfect, nothing is lacking in him. But he does not realize this because he is caught in the entanglements of his mental representations. Everything happens as though a screen were woven between himself and Reality by his imaginative activity functioning in the dualistic mode....

Man... does not know that there is in him something invisible which works in his favor in the dark. Identifying himself... with his imaginative mind, he does not think that he is anything more. Everything happens as though he said to himself: 'Who would work for me except myself?' And not seeing in himself any other self than his imaginative mind and the sentiments and actions which depend on it, he turns to this mind to rid himself of distress. When one only sees a single means of salvation, one believes in it because necessarily one wishes to believe in it.

However, if I look at the life of my body I observe that all kinds of marvelous operations are performed spontaneously in it without the concourse of that which I call 'me.' My body is maintained by processes whose ingenious complexity surpasses all imagination [note that Benoit was a medical doctor]. After being wounded, it heals itself. By what? By whom? The idea is forced upon me of a Principle, tireless and friendly, which unceasingly creates me on its own initiative.

My organs appeared and developed spontaneously. My mediate dualistic understanding appeared and developed spontaneously. Could not my immediate understanding, nondualistic, appear spontaneously? Zen replies affirmatively to this question. For Zen the normal spontaneous evolution of man results in satori. The Principle works unceasingly in me in the direction of the opening of satori (as this same Principle works in the bulb of the tulip towards the opening of its flower).... An old Zen master said: 'What conceals Realization? Nothing but myself.'

I do not know that my essential wish ~ to escape from the dualistic illusion, generator of anguish ~ is in process of being realized in me by something other than my personal 'me.' I do not believe that I can count on anyone but myself: I believe myself therefore obliged to do something. I take fright in believing myself alone, abandoned by all; necessarily then I am uneasy and my agitation neutralizes by degrees the beneficial work of my deeper self. Zen expresses that in saying: 'Not knowing how near the Truth is, people look for it far away... what a pity!'

This manner of thwarting the profound spontaneous process of construction is the work of mechanical reflexes. It operates automatically when I am not disposed to have faith in my invisible Principle and in its liberating task. In other words, the profound spontaneous process of construction only makes progress in me in the degree in which I am disposed to have faith in my Principle and in the spontaneity, always actual, of its liberating activity....

My participation in the elaboration of my satori consists, then, in the activity of my faith; it consists in the conception of the idea, present and actual, that my supreme good is in process of being elaborated spontaneously.

One sees in what respects Zen is quietist and in what respects it is not. It is, when it says to us: 'You do not have to liberate yourselves.' But it is not in this sense that, if we do not have to work directly for our liberation, we have to collaborate in thinking effectively of the profound process which liberates us. For this thought is not by any means given to us automatically by nature. The outer world unceasingly conspires to make us believe that our true good resides in such and such a formal success which justifies all our agitations. The outer world distracts us, it steals our attention. An intense and patient labor of thought is necessary in order that we may collaborate with our liberating Principle.

Arrived at this degree of understanding, a snare awaits us. We run the risk of believing that we must refuse to give our attention to life....

We must proceed otherwise. At moments when outer and inner circumstances lend themselves to it we reflect upon the understanding of our spontaneous liberation, we think with force, and in the most concrete manner possible, of the unlimited prodigy which is in process of elaboration for us and which will some day resolve all our fears, all our covetousness. In such moments we seed and re-seed the field of our faith; we awaken little by little in ourselves this faith which was sleeping, and the hope and the love which accompany it. Then we turn back to living as usual. Because we have thought correctly for a moment a portion of our attention remains attached to this plane of thought, although this plane penetrates the depths of our being and is lost to sight.... In the measure in which this second subterranean attention develops we will perceive a less compelling interest in the world of phenomena; our fears and our covetousness will lose their keenness. We will be able to learn how to be discreet, non-active, towards our inner world and we will thus become able to realize this counsel of Zen: 'Let go, leave things as they may be...' Be obedient to the nature of things and you are in accord with the Way.

From Chapter 13, Obedience to the Nature of Things, in The Supreme Doctrine: Psychological Studies in ZEN Thought, by Hubert Benoit, with an introduction by Aldous Huxley (currently published under the title of Zen and the Psychology of Transformation: The Supreme Doctrine). A new translation by Graham Rooth, also including The Interior Realization, is published under the title The Light of Zen in the West.


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