Soyen Shaku

‘In these days of industrial and commercial civilization, the multitudes of people have very little time to devote themselves to spiritual culture. They are not altogether ignorant of the existence of things that are of permanent value, but their minds are so engrossed in details of everyday life that they find it extremely difficult to avoid their constant obtrusion. Even when they retire from their routine work at night, they are bent on something exciting, which will tax their already overstretched nervous system to the utmost. If they do not die prematurely, they become nervous wrecks. They do not seem to know the blessings of relaxation. They seem to be unable to live within themselves and find there the source of eternal cheerfulness. Life is for them more or less a heavy burden and their task consists in the carrying of the burden. The gospel of Dhyana, therefore, must prove to them a heaven-sent boon when they conscientiously practice it.
Dhyana is physiologically the accumulation of nervous energy; it is a sort of spiritual storage battery in which an enormous amount of latent force is sealed – a force that will, whenever a demand is made, manifest itself with tremendous potency.’ (Sermons of a Buddhist Abbot)

Leafing through this book again,  I noticed how stilted the language is, but then again, the book consists of talks given on the west coast in 1905-6, by a monk who had attended the pivotal World’s Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893 – the event that did the most to trigger an interest in Buddhism in the United States. In his writings he is at pains to place Buddhism in a context that contemporaries might understand, and still, some of it rings even more true a century later.

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