(Richard Baker Roshi)

Form and formlessness

There is no more apt quote than that of Sri Ramakrishna to illustrate and unify the two aspects of our practice.

He said: “No one can say with ultimate certainty that God is only “like this” and not different. He is formless and on the other hand he has forms. For the Bhakta he takes forms – for the Jnana he is without form.

Brahman, absolute being-consciousness-bliss, is like a boundless ocean. In the ocean, when it is very cold, ice floes appear here and there. Similarly, the Infinite assumes finite forms, as it were under the cooling influence of the devotee’s devotion, and appears before him as a divine person. But as with the rising of the sun the ice floes in the ocean melt, so with the awakening of Jnana the embodied God-form merges into the infinite and formless Brahman. Then the devotee no longer feels that God is a person, nor does he then have visions of God’s forms.

But do not forget: form and formlessness belong to one and the same reality.”

(Shunryu Suzuki Roshi)

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