The (Zen) Rule
of the White Robed Monks of St. Benedict

A Letter of Greeting and Introduction:

Peace be with you and yours.

The Holy Rule of St. Benedict speaks for itself. It reflects a specific spirit. In and of itself, it is neither right or wrong, good or bad. In actuality, the Holy Rule as it appears here is a text of graphic symbols. It has no meaning. Because it is just ink on paper, it cannot have meaning. It is neither authoritarian nor benevolent, parental nor fraternal. It is what it is.

The Holy Rule of St. Benedict is like a work of art. Whether or not it is beautiful or not depends upon the eye of the beholder. Life is a work of art. Art itself is a work of art. Beauty — as ugliness — exist, as we know, only in the eye of the beholder. We make our experience what it is and is not. The purpose of The Holy Rule is to provide a context or structure. It is from within this structure that one so inclined can discover that:

Silence is the total manifestation of our whole personality,
in which we have digested the three flavors
of optimism, pessimism and mysticism.
They never come up, because they are all digested.
They become just energy for us.

This silence is quite different from silence
in terms of human eyes.

According to human eyes,
there is a vague disconsolate pain or pensiveness
in the depths of our life that we cannot wipe out.

(According to Christ's and Buddha's eyes,)
silence is exactly the total manifestation
of our whole personality.

Whole personality means our individual personality
is manifested with the whole universe.
All other beings are the contents of our personality.
So when we manifest our whole personality
it is not just our individual personality;
but simultaneously through this personality
we can feel the whole universe.
That is why we can feel
magnanimity, tolerance, and compassion.*

Christ, the Light of the World,, and Buddha, the Lamp, offers us a context from within which we can come to know who we are as individuals and as a people. This Rule is a unification of two traditions: Christianity about 2,000 years and Buddhism, about 2,500 years. What the historical Christ and Buddha taught directly we can experience in the essence or heart of each tradition — away from the rules and regulations imposed by institutionalized religion. This Rule notes some structure — perhaps this structure you can internalize — and then let go — wherein you are Abbot, if not Christ or Buddha. You have all the information, all the skill, all the insight, all the knowledge, and all the knowing — just realize it, just know it.

As a monk, you have the immediate support of your brothers and sisters, visible and invisible, who are sharing this path with you. In this connection, you are able to generate a field of compassionate love or loving compassion that unifies us as human beings on this humble planet. Each of us is incredibly perfect in our imperfections: the whole universe is incomplete and in its own perfection does it ever expand as it further completes itself. Such is life. Such are we. Such have Christ and the Buddha, among many others, taught. As monks, male or female, we are present to the simplicity of life and our own being who we are and are not as a people.

How do we keep things simple, even in their complexity? Only-just-sit. This Rule is about only-just-sitting in a Judeo-Christian context. In the Vimalakirti Sutrawe find the layman Vimalakirti, possibly a student of the Buddha, describing only-just-sitting as:

To sit is not necessarily to meditate.
Not to reveal the body in the three worlds
(of lust, form, and formlessness),
that is meditation.
Not to rise up from concentration
in which the inner functions are extinguished
and yet to conduct oneself worthily,
that is meditation.
Not to abandon the way of the teaching
and yet to go about one's business as usual in the world,
that is meditation.
Not to allow oneself to be bothered
about all sorts of bad intentions
but rather to practice the (way of love and compassion),
that is meditation.
Not to cut (off) disturbances
and yet to be in a state of peace and tranquillity,
that is meditation.
Anyone who sits thus in meditation
receives the seal of the Buddha (and the Christ).**

May the Peace of the Lord be with you and yours.

The White Robed Monks of St. Benedict

* Returning to Silence: Zen Practice in Daily Life. Dainin Katagiri, Shambala, 1988.
** Zen Buddhism: A History (Volume 1). H. Dumoulin, Macmillan, 1988.

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