Heart and eyes

Soyen Shaku (1859-1919) was an influencial Zen teacher who ended his career supporting Japanese imperialism as an extention of his unfortunate nationalist beliefs. But his intellectual contributions were great and cannot be denied. One of his best insights was packaged in a maxim intended to characterize himself, a maxim that certainly applies beyond his own experience: “My heart burns like fire but my eyes are as cold as dead ashes.”

Whatever the degree of solitude or disengagement from society we may experience, we must extinguish not our feelings and emotions (“heart”) but rather our senses (“eyes”). The “heart” propels our progress on a spiritual path, while our senses tend to see life and objects as temporary sources of diversions from the spiritual path.

Working on what feelings and emotions really ought to consist of is a great challenge for anyone, but especially for the solitary, who naturally can lapse into misanthropy and cynicism towards fellow human beings. The concept of love, much trivialized, much misunderstood, transcends the senses and approaches the very harmony of the universe, the very core of being — and does so without attachment, without diversion, without corruption. Perhaps the spiritual path is nothing but this pursuit of harmony and being after all. In which case the true concept of love will resonate within us because we can perceive progress on our path as no mere intellectual or emotional stage but a uniform momentum.

Louis Fair, rest in peace

Father/Doctor Louis Fair sufffered a fatal heart attack on Wednesday, Oct. 26th. He was a member of the Hermit’s Slate forum and was an early correspondent to Hermitary. Louis was a true controversialist, unorthodox, feisty, but above all passionate about all things “hermit.”

Louis seemed to fit a Chinese model of the hermit (he was married, concerned about his natural setting in the Hawaiian rainforest) but who would dare tell him that? He was irascible on Hermit’s Slate (the forum) and his last communication to Hermitary nearly a year ago was to let me know about a script error preventing posting — or, as he put it simply, “Slate is all screwed up!” But he was clearly well-read, having been a seminary teacher, and we discussed some religious and other topics along the way, but only briefly.

His web site (http://geocities.com/hermit3712) is a lot of fun, starting with his anecdote that he tried to take on some interns but they turned out to be psychos. I knew from the picture of himself and his caption (“I just LOOK grumpy – well …”) that he had a sense of humor.

May he rest in peace.
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Father Louis is survived by Sister Gabriella, his wife of sixteen years; the State of Hawaii does not recognize survivor benefits for “religious only” marriage. Sister Gabriella will continue to oversee their co-founded “No Kill” Cat Sanctuary of Hermitage-Hawaii.