Empty Your Cup!

October 23, 2012 by  

From time to time we have to reflect on our core mission.

Artwork from a centerfold of What Is Enlightenment? (magazine)

My initial enlightenment experience (satori, in Japanese) took place in 1971. It was deepened five years later when I encountered Master Sant Keshavadas of the Himalayan meditative tradition. I emptied myself so that I might mature under a seasoned master. Years passed before he bestowed upon me a new name/title. It was Kaivalya. as in Kitabu Kaivalya Shyam.. I received it as I received all of his lessons and guidance but I never asked him for a translation of the title.

It was quite awhile before I came to learn what that meaning was. In India the giving of such names is very significant. If you are familiar with terms such as Maharishi, Mahatma and Avatar, you can discern that they connote a type of rank or recognition of spiritual attainment. Perhaps, Master Santji was speaking something that would come into existence one day. He saw what I could not see.

When I found out what Kaivalya means I was humbled. This is what Wikipedia says. The explanation of the term is taking from the teachings of the Yogi-Saint, Pantajali. [Kaivalya] portrays the yogi, who has attained kaivalya, an entity who has gained independence from all bondages and achieved the absolute true consciousness or ritambhara prajna described in the Samadhi Pada. "…Or, to look at it from another angle, the power of pure consciousness settled in its own pure nature." —Kaivalya Pada: Sutra 35.

Faith is moving on no matter what.

What is certain by the Master's action was his expectation for me. He not only expected me to go the distance but to share my attainment with the West, in general. He felt, however, that as an African- American I had a special assignment. He clarified, "I can go but a little ways into the west but you can go further," he said.

This revelation reminded me of the day Master Santji called me to sit with him. He said,"People may give me houses, land and money but attainment can not be purchased. Their motivation is not correct. There is a limit to the distance they can go. You can go all the way." Then he told me why that was so. It gets very hard but when I remember those words I also remember what is really at stake. I fall, sometimes. I fall very hard but The Wind of The spirit restores me. Sharing with Western trained souls is not easy. Most often your cup is so full ... full of expectation and preconceived notions that are held dear. There is a celebrated and unbroken line of transmission from master to disciple in Asia. The fact that the Daila Lama, various Gurus and Zen masters are revered even in the Western hemisphere is proof of that. Those who are attracted to their teachings tend to embrace the master's culture also. It is difficult for them to receive the essence without becoming attached to the vessel, its form, color and dimensions.

"You will be alone no more," Master Santji said. "You are part of our 10,000 year tradition." I shed joyful tears at hearing that. After all, who would ever believe that an African-American youth spoke Dharma with the authority of Zen masters and gurus. Who would believe or accept that. Nevertheless, Master Santji just offered me the high seat one day during a gathering of mostly Asian devotees at the Hindu Temple in Chesapeake, Virginia, and said, "This is Kitabu, one of the great disciples of the Himalayan masters." On another occasion, he simply called me to stand in his place, "Kitabu will teach," he said. In this way, the master cleared a path for me. The buzz, the curiosity was not hidden. Even some of the Asian devotees asked, "How could this be?"

"Water taken through any vessel slakes the thirst," taught Santji. People were locked in their expectations and delusions about what Truth is or what the emissary should look like. They missed their blessings because they were looking for this and it came as that. It is so important to probe the spirit of man, not merely his memory of facts and lore. An actor can sound more brilliant than the real person but he lacks the depth. People may associate certain areas with great events but that is made possible because their minds have already been drenched in inspirational information. If a believer was told that The Lord used a certain rock for his pillow and he believed it, the rock would be transformed into something energized by his spirit. If the guide suddenly said, "My mistake. The real rock is over there." What would happen then?

The great Zen master Bankei taught that people who went to India in search of masters would not find one. He clarified this by remarking that there were real masters in India but that the very act of seeking for a master (a preconceived image) would make their success impossible.

Some people ask me if I have been to India or Japan. The answer is no. They think attainment is related to Geography. They are not satisfied with drinking my delicious tea, they want to see what tea bag I used. It is not delicious if they do not recognize the brand. Master Santji endorsed me openly but people are not clear on the brand. They are dying of thirst but they reject all water in every vessel but Dasani. My vessel, this vessel called me is not so exotic to look at. The accent does not suggest great wisdom. It is an American accent, after all. My garments are a blend of Afro-Asiatic-American, and I am not bound by monastic traditions of India or Japan.

Teaching in Germany

The master said, "Bridge the gap between East and West ..." Science and Religion ...the schism in the mind of African-Americans. He said find a way. Upaya in Sanskrit, skillful means are called for. A Zen master of olde might punch or kick you to make a point. I might play a CD of a Mariah Carey or Elton John song in the middle of a church sermon...I have.

This path is only for those who are aware that there is something beyond their ability to grasp through conventional means. This something is not really something. It can not be described because it is beyond all things. So great it is that words can not be truthfully uttered about it. Only this seeker will recognize the value of a master. The master is present to assist in transformation, in the renewing of the mind. Only the disciple must believe this. He does not need approval of those outside of the experience. It is a journey within. By its very nature this is done through a solitary quest, yet one is not alone.

I was born in the West also. I understand the way our mind works here. We ask so many questions. We gather the facts. When you have reached the point of capacity push "empty." and add no more. Not a single answer will get you where you want to be. A master is simply Heaven's ISP, Internet Service Provider (Read Soul To Soul:Harnessing the Power of Your Mind).Log on or don't.

I have allowed 41 years for people to adjust to the fact that masters do not look like the guys in the movies, the stereotypes. I reach out only to help. You can get nothing in your cup if you are full of your ideas. You must empty your cup. You can be certain of this. The tea master will stop pouring when there is no vessel to receive his gift. The Zen master will surely retreat into silence. The gate will close. In modern language, you really do need a router or a Wi Fi connection to enjoy surfing the net.

Kitabu Roshi


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