I’ve long had issues reconciling my Jewishly religious feelings and my Buddhist ones. Somehow, they still feel unresolved. I still feel a polarity between them, and I’m still pulled back and forth.

Zoketsu Norman Fisher was one of the first Jewish Buddhist teachers I ever met, learned from, and sat with, and he always makes it seem so natural. I don’t know why that naturalness doesn’t stick with me, but I guess hearing or reading him tell it over and over again is the next best thing:

I do believe in the benevolent protection of God. Not in the sense that good things will always come to good people whom God loves, but in the sense that something always happens, and that what happens is what it is and not something else, and that therefore there is a special virtue in it.

I feel this, too, and I would never deny it. It’s the particulars laid on top of God that give me pause.

Fisher says, and I agree, that part of the problem is that the longstanding design of Jewish religion optimizes for group cohesion and survival, which can come at the expense of personal spiritual experience. No Jew at any point on the religious spectrum would deny this; in fact, I hear this problem preached about most fervently from Orthodox Jews. The reason Fisher teaches Jewish meditation, in addition to Zen, at a dedicated institution is to help compensate for this spiritual lack:

So this is where the meditation comes in: it is easy access to God-encounter, through encountering your own body, breath, mind, and presence.

What he won’t be baited into saying is that this is more important than religious observances for their own sake. This is the kind of thing my desire for Zen urges me to say: Abandon the complexities and cognitive dissonances of formal religion and just do the practice! But Fisher has a deft way of sidestepping that problem by showing that wherever God is, that’s also where the practice is.

⤳ “Seeing God in What Is” on Tricycle