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TitleMyths to live by
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Myths to Live By

Page 140

of Occidental psychological therapy hold that what we all most
need and are seeking is a meaning for our lives. For some, this
may be a help; but all it helps is the intellect, and when the
intellect sets to work on life with its names and categories,
recognitions of relationship and definitions of meaning, what is
inwardmost is readily lost. Zen, on the contrary, holds to the
realization that life and the sense of life are antecedent to
meaning; the idea being to let life come and not name it. It will
then push you right back to where you live -- where you are,
and not where you are named.
There is a favorite story, frequently told by the Zen

masters, of the Buddha, preaching: of how he held up a single
lotus, that simple gesture being his whole sermon. Only one
member of his audience, however, caught the message, a monk
named Kashyapa, who is regarded now as the founder of the
Zen sect. And the Buddha, noticing, gave him a knowing nod,
then preached a verbal sermon for the rest: a sermon for those
who required meaning, still entrapped in the net of ideas; yet
pointing beyond, to escape from the net and to the way that
some of them, one day or another, might find.
The Buddha himself, according to his legend, had

broken the net only after years of quest and austerity, when he
had arrived at last at the Bodhi-tree, the tree (so called) of
enlightenment at the midpoint of the universe -- that center of
his own deepest silence which T. S. Eliot in his poem "Burnt
Norton" has called "the still point of the turning world." In the
poet's words:

There, at that tree, the god whose name is Desire
and death, by whose power the world is kept turning,
approached the Blessed One to unseat him; and assuming his
fair character as the inciter of desire, beautiful to look upon, he
displayed before the Blessed One his three exceedingly

Page 280

p. 95.

1. Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass, Version of the
First (1855) Edition, section 48, lines 1262-1280, edited with
an Introduction by Malcolm Cowley (New York: The Viking
Press, 1961), pp. 82-83.
2. Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1.4.6-10, abridged.
3. The Gospel According to Thomas 99:28-30 and

95:24-28; translation by Guillaumont, Puech, Quispel, Till, and
abd al Masih (New York: Harper & Row, 1959), pp. 55 and 43.
4. Whitman, op. cit. Section 52, lines, 1329-1330; p.

5. H. Heras, S.J, "The Problem of Ganapati," Tamil

Culture, Vol. III, No. 2 (Tuticorn, April 1954).
6. Thomas Merton, "Symbolism: Communication or

Communion?" in New Directions 20 (New York: New
Directions, 1968), pp. 11-12.
7. Ibid, pp. 1 and 2.
8. Ibid., pp. 1 and 11.
9. Aldous Huxley, The Doors of Perception (New

York: Harper & Row, 1954), p. 54.
10. Ibid., pp. 22-24.

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