sometimes, i have conversations with an imaginary guru, naturally one who lives inside me. he used to be a psychiatrist: at least in the old days a lot of my conversations were started with, & a lot of problems heard out or resolved by, an imaginary viennese who listened carefully, often accusingly, & showed me with a few apt technical phrases how far i had erred in my thinking, or behavior. the viennese fellow has disappeared; comes back if ever for very short visits; but has been replaced by chuang tzu (sometimes merton, or sometimes chuang tzu in merton translation) who tells me other wisdoms: usually the wisdoms of abstinence & avoidance; of retreat, prayer & preparation, of non-attachment, of “sitting quietly doing nothing,” of seeking smallness, not greatness, or of seeking nothing at all.
as i don’t think i really understood the “psychiatrist” half of the time, i’m not sure i really understand “chuang tzu.” i respect him though, don’t resent him, as i often did the psychiatrist; feel that he knows i don’t know but that little by little there’ll be things i can learn. i picture him with shaved head, a listener (& yet practical man), a listener who appreciates, a listener with humor; a storehouse – but very light storehouse – of wisdom; made like modern electronic ears of light, light materials, but of great receiving strength.
what he promotes is wisdom, what he promises is grace. zen wisdom, perhaps; zen grace, but certainly wisdom & grace.
one feels that all philosophies, zen & yoga are ways of approaching wisdom & “enlightenment” – they are ways of approaching an enlightened state in which one’s behavior is always or almost always “spontaneously” right.
to be “enlightened” is not to shine; nor to bring multitudes to the hill where one sits cross-legged, to listen.
it is rather to know what one is doing (& even, perhaps, to enjoy it).
- Robert Lax, July 22, 1969, from the “A Greek Journal” published in the book “Love Had A Compass”, pp. 208-209