A Distinctly Western Buddha….


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 James Joyce/Stephen Dedalus, circa 1904

  Thanks goodness for the internet, WordPress, and now YouTube. They afford me—and everyone with a connection in fact—an outlet, a medium through which to communicate.

The problem or challenge of course, as curious, seeking, reading and watching audience, is separating the wheat from the chaff, unearthing the gems and nuggets of gold in a mountainous pile of… whatever.

There are living, breathing organic socio-historical reasons (if you can use such a word in this context) for where we are today and the rapidly increasing mountainous pile.

Call it a metaphorical Babel, a wild ungovernable cacophony of tongues and opinions and beliefs. At least each one of us has the right—and perhaps even the responsibility—of sifting through the noise for our own personal truths and foundational beliefs.

The Omphalos Cafe recognizes and accepts things just the way they are. As crazy and out of synch with the times as this may sound, the world is beautiful and perfect just as it is. This, right here and now, is the mythological Golden Age, mainly because there never has been such a thing.

There is only Life.

Any desired change must and will flow out from within us.

The task and challenge is for us to awaken to that fact. That’s what we work towards here at the Omphalos Cafe, if you haven’t already guessed.

Here’s how a Buddhist master puts it:

“When not enlightened, Buddhas are no other than ordinary beings; when there is an enlightenment, ordinary beings at once turn into Buddhas.”—Hui Neng, from The Perennial Philosophy, Aldous Huxley

And here’s how a medieval Christian mystic puts it:

“God is in all things as being, as activity, as power.”—Meister Eckhardt

My last post and YouTube video were on the subject of James Joyce’s staggeringly vast masterpiece Ulysses. The gist was that no one truly understands what’s going on in the book because they’re caught in old ways, old habits of thought, old notions of English ‘literature,’ and not perceiving with clear unclouded eye something genuinely new in the air. They take Bloom for a sort of ineffectual bumbling everyman and pretty much dismiss Stephen Dedalus altogether.

But listen to each of them in the moments leading up to their first true meeting:

Dedalus, who I called a brooding Buddha-to-be, half drunk and whirling-headed, experiences a breakthrough vision along the lines of “all things are Buddha things,” but of course from a Christian perspective:

“Florry Christ, Stephen Christ, Zoe Christ, Bloom Christ, Kitty Christ, Lynch Christ, it’s up to you to sense that cosmic force…. Be on the side of angels. Be a prism. You have that something within, the higher self. You can rub shoulders with a Jesus, a Gautama, an Ingersoll.”—drunken epiphany of Joyce, from the brothel scene of James Joyce’s Ulysses

And Bloom, outside and trying to prevent a British soldier from knocking Stephen’s block off for a silly drunken perceived slight, urges the gal between them:

“Speak, you! Are struck dumb? You are the link between nations and generations. Speak, woman, sacred lifegiver!”—Bloom to Cissy Caffrey, Ulysses

  Joyce, in his Joycean way, is pointing towards higher plains. Higher realms (though I distrust the word ‘higher’) he himself attained. The ‘enlightenment’ (another word we should all distrust), as Hui Neng said, which turns ordinary beings like you and I into Buddhas.

The hardest thing we face when going in search of ‘Higher Truths,’ ‘Enlightenment’ or ‘Ultimate Reality’ is discovering how truly immanent it all is for each and every one of us.

We’re alive, aren’t we?