"God, in his works, doesn’t depend on the human to have a place in himself where God could work. Rather, this is the poverty of the spirit: that the human stands there so free of God and all his works that God, to work in the soul, is himself the place in which he might work – and he does this very willingly." Meister Eckhart, 1260-1328
Eckhart says that when the soul becomes more open, more selfless, and finally so empty that it no longer even offers a site for God’s presence, God makes his/her own place to be and works there “very willingly” (German: sehr gern).
Why does he add that observation that God does this “very willingly”?
It is a direct report from Eckhart’s personal experience. The principle of being, the primal source that works, miraculously alive and aware in all things and in us, is eager.
When Bodhidharma, in the first koan of the Blue Cliff Record, tells Emperor Wu that the holy truths are empty and without holiness, when he says he “doesn’t know” who he is, the Emperor fails to understand. He thinks Bodhidharma is being nihilistic.
Perhaps Emperor Wu hasn’t yet studied the above passage from Eckhart, or those passages where Kuehlewind points out that “emptiness” in the East is what we call “light” in the West. Let’s not blame the Emperor too harshly for the oversight: Eckhart won’t be born for 400 years, and Kuehlewind won’t be born for over a thousand – and anyway we have the Emperor’s same problem, even if we’ve read Eckhart and Kuehlewind.
We need to find how, with his apparent denials, Bodhidharma is pointing positively to the true holiness and to his own rock-solid identity. This holiness and this identity are not objects to be known by consciousness, but aspects of the living principle that works before consciousness and before any objects known by consciousness – before selves and before God, for example.
We can say such things, but to meditate a koan is to know them from the inside, to be them, not to possess them in consciousness as if they were facts or information.
Kuehlewind: “There is no spiritual information.“
The mind starts out open. Since the Fall, and each instant falling anew, it closes down onto apparent knowledge, thoughts, contents, articles of faith, information. Then it is quite an undertaking to let it return to openness, to light.
And was it worth the detour into this ignorance that calls itself knowledge? Why would things be set up so as to allow such a detour? Why not have everything stay open from the get-go? Why descend into having, and a world to have?
Dante said the detour was worthwhile, in spite of all the suffering. Sheik Hisham Kabbani said it was worthwhile, that the drop returning to the sea isn’t quite the same drop, after its journey up into cloud and down as rain, and running as river, then back at last to the sea. Christ said it was worthwhile: the return of the prodigal son. But we have to find out for ourselves, by going home.
For next week, let’s work with this, the Blue Cliff Record's 7th Case:
A monk (named Hui Ch’ao) asked Fa Yen, “Hui Ch’ao asks the Teacher, what is Buddha?”
Fa Yen answered, “You are Hui Ch’ao.”
This koan seems close to the dialogue between Jesus and Peter when Jesus asks who the disciples think he is, and Peter affirms that Jesus is “the Christ, the son of the living God.” Jesus replies, “You are Peter.” (Mt 16:15-18) The koan, too, transmutes an abstract, third-person issue into a concrete, second-person recognition.
And while we’re at it, who are you?
All blessings to all,