If, when I’m feeling a little playful, someone were to ask me to summarize Quakerism in a sentence or two, I might say this:
You have a heart. Use it.
If the person looked puzzled or expectant, I might say more: It’s not the heart your parents gave you. Perhaps you would ponder a Quaker koan awhile:
What is your original heart before you were born?
Sometimes you have a fleeting feeling that is deeper and more embracive than the heart you think is yours; sometimes you experience a sharing in the suffering of other beings and a desire to help them, even if doing so is painful or dangerous. That is the stirring of the prelapsarian heart, your pure heart before your parents, “Adam and Eve,” gave you birth. It is your treasure-house. As Baso’s student Daiju liked to say,
Open your own treasure house and use those treasures.
But you may fear to do that: just to open the house is to risk losing, or spending, the treasure. But is treasure really treasure if never used? And does your original heart, which knows that “love can be kept only by being given away,” not long to give itself? And does Lazarus not lie bleeding at your gate? Do you not long to plunder your treasure for him? Master Jesus said,
Love your neighbor as yourself.
Your original heart already does that. Why not live in that heart? Why settle for a lesser life?
When an armed thief entered Shichiri Kojun’s house, the master interrupted his sutra chanting to say, “Don’t disturb me. The money’s in that drawer. Help yourself.” As the thief opened the drawer, the master said, “Leave me a little for tomorrow’s taxes.” The thief took most of the money and approached the door. “You didn’t thank me,” said the master. The thief thanked him and left, shaking his head. Later, at the thief’s trial, the master gave testimony: “I gave him some money, and he thanked me for it.” Upon his release from prison (for he had stolen from many), the former thief studied Buddhism under Shichiri Kojun.
Master Jesus said, “Take no thought for the morrow.” But Master Shichiri knew to keep something for tomorrow, lest he, too, lose his liberty; being, like Jesus, a teacher, he had work to do. Love gives by nature, not by law. Therefore it is free. Therefore it is perfect.
Be you therefore perfect, even as your Father in the heavens is perfect.
Not believe that you are perfect, but really be perfect? And act like it? Who can do that? One who real–izes the perfection already in her, however small its present measure; one who puts her faith in the Christ-nature and so expresses that nature in thought, feeling, word, and deed. For “Christ” is the name of your perfect original heart, the power and wisdom of love.
To find that heart and abide therein is to have life and have it ever more abundantly. It is to “come into the unity of the faith and of the real–ization of the Son of God, into a perfect person, into a mature measure of the fullness of the Christ.” The Christ-heart is the priceless spiritual life that no one can give you nor take from you. It is your eternal treasure, but only if you spend it.
You have a heart. Use it.
NOTES for “The Zen of Quakerism”
Rather than pepper that brief piece with note numbers, I’ll identify non-biblical references here and leave the biblical quotations and references, including Jesus’ story of Lazarus and the rich man, to the reader’s knowledge, search engine, or apathy. (Note that in my translation of Eph. 4:13 I have, following the scripture4all.org interlinear rendering, used “realization” — which I have hyphenated in order to bring out the sense of “making real” — instead of the usual “knowledge” for epignoseos.) In order of appearance:
- “What is your original heart before you were born?” is a play on a famous Zen koan, or meditation paradox, attributed to the Sixth Patriarch, Hui-Neng, who asked (according to D. T. Suzuki), “When your mind is not dwelling on the dualism of good and evil, what is your original face before you were born?” — see Suzuki, An Introduction to Zen Buddhism, p. 104;
- Daiju’s statement is from story # 28 in Reps & Senzaki, Zen Flesh, Zen Bones, p. 48;
- “Love can be kept only by being given away” is from Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island, page 1;
- The story of Shichiri Kojun and the thief is adapted from story # 44 in Zen Flesh, Zen Bones, p. 59.