Everyday Human Existence – 8 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – Zen and the Birds of Appetite

by Mark Votava

51U9ehoviBL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_1. Inmost ground of our identity

“The tragedy is that our consciousness is totally alienated from this inmost ground of our identity.  And in Christian mystical tradition, this inner split is the real meaning of ‘original sin’”

2. Learning from Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, yoga and Zen

“Of course there are many Christians who are very much aware that there is something to be learnt from Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and especially from yoga and Zen…”

3. The metaphysical intuition of Being

“The metaphysical intuition of Being is an intuition of a ground of openness, indeed of a kind of ontological openness and an infinite generosity which communicates itself to everything this is…  Openness is not something to be acquired, but a radical gift that has been lost and must be recovered (though it is still in principle ‘there’ in the roots of our created being)…”

4. Here and now

“Man needs to find ultimate sense here and now in the ordinary humble tasks and human problems of every day.”

5. Integral experience of the self on all levels

“Man’s need for a whole and integral experience of his own self on all its levels, bodily as well as imaginative, emotional, intellectual, spiritual.  There is no place for the cultivation of one part of human consciousness, one aspect of human experience, at the expense of others, even on the pretext that what is cultivated is sacred and all the rest profane.  A false and divisive ‘sacredness’ or ‘supernaturalism’ can only cripple man.”

6. Direct experience

“But the chief experience of Zen is that it rejects all these systematic elaborations in order to get back, as far as possible, to the pure unarticulated and unexplained ground of direct experience.  The direct experience of what?  Life itself.  What it means that I exist, that I live: who is this ‘I’ that exists and lives?  What is the difference between an authentic and an illusory awareness of the self that exists and lives?  What are and are not the basic facts of existence?”

7. Christianity is in effect reduced to a world view

“…if revelation is regarded simply as a system of truths about God and an explanation of how the universe came into existence, what will eventually happen to it, what is the purpose of Christian life, what are its moral norms, what will be the rewards of the virtuous, and so on, then Christianity is in effect reduced to a world view, at times a religious philosophy and little more, sustained by a more or less elaborate cult, by a moral discipline and a strict code of Law.  ‘Experience’ of the inner meaning of Christian revelation will necessarily be distorted and diminished in such a theological setting.  What will such experience be?  Not so much a living theological experience of the presence of God in the world and in mankind through the mystery of Christ, but rather a sense of security in one’s own correctness…”

8. Making use of ordinary everyday human existence

“Both Buddhism and Christianity are alike in making use of ordinary everyday human existence as material for a radical transformation of consciousness…”

Which quote do you like the best?

Here are some other posts I have done on Thomas Merton and his writings.