The Theosophical Society in America

Viewpoint: The Zen of Water Sking

Originally printed in the July - August 2003 issue of Quest magazine.
Citation: Bland, Betty. "The Zen of Water Sking." Quest  91.4 (JULY - AUGUST 2003):122-123.

By Betty Bland

bblandWATER SKIING is a sport that requires a good sense of balance that does not rely on any external prop. The constant motion of the water gives no reliable foundation, and although the rope is pulling the skier, the skier cannot pull on the rope. Novice skiers can have plenty of frustration until they learn to rely on the central balance point. As any good skier knows, one must maintain an interior balance somewhere just below the solar plexus, somewhat like the balance of a gyroscope. From this balance point, the shock of the waves can be absorbed by flexing one's knees and the pull of the rope can be equalized.

One's relationship to life in many ways resembles the skier's relationship to rope and water. In life, we are buffeted by troubled waters--emotional and circumstan­tial. We are catapulted forward by time and pushed back by our own limitations. Dealing with these difficulties gracefully would seem an impossible task, were it not for the knowledge that there is a reliable center that is un­affected by the turbulence. Somewhere deep inside each one of us is the divine spark, the inner self, which par­takes of the divine universals: power of presence, reliable awareness, and eternal bliss (Sat, Chit, and Ananda). We may not consciously recognize these attributes of our center of being, but life's ups and downs can teach us that this interior self is ultimately the only true point of refer­ence. As we seek to expand our contact with that center, its realities become clearer. 

In her foreword to The Doctrine of the Heart, Annie Besant speaks of the need to balance opposites in a spir­itually attuned life. On the one hand, we as aspirants are told to be without desire, without passion, unmoved by the vicissitudes of life. Yet on the other hand, we are constantly exhorted to feel the anguish of every suffering creature as if it were our own. One should be uninvolved, and at the same time deeply involved. In other words, it is necessary to operate from that balance point which can only be found in the eternal unitive Self.

A similar dilemma appears in the little spiritual guide­book written by Krishnamurti as a young boy, At the Feet of the Master. In it four qualifications are given for the spiritual life: discrimination, desirelessness, right conduct, and love. In the discussion of the second—desirelessness ­the aspirant is told to have no care for comforts, powers, cleverness, or even approbations and to stay out of other people's business. Yet, the discussion culminates with an exhortation to come to the rescue of the weak and down­trodden. The book ends with the fourth qualification—love. By the second qualification, the aspirant is encour­aged to care less; by the fourth, to care more. Here again we see the importance of finding that calm balance point called equanimity.

In Buddhism, the "Four Immeasurables" for the spiritu­al life are the wish for all beings to be happy, the wish for the suffering of all beings to cease, delight in the good fortune of others, and equanimity. Once more we are ex­horted to be immersed in the world while at the same time remaining balanced and away from the fray of the mad­ding crowd. 

The only way we can achieve such balance is to strength­en our awareness of the center point of peace within our­selves through meditation and self-study, identifying with the One Reality—the ground of being. If we truly touch that center, then we can maintain our equilibrium even in the face of death, pain, and loss. We can trust that physi­cal life, although it is maya or illusory existence, yet has a reality and purpose that is far deeper and more profound than appears on the surface. When we finally learn this lesson, we will be able to ride life's waves without falling into the sea; we will be able to endure the pulls and tugs while yet remaining centered in peace. We will know how to live.

Before the eyes can see,
   They must be incapable of tears
Before the ear can hear,
   It must have lost its sensitiveness.
Before the voice can speak in the presence of the Masters,
   It  must have lost the power to wound.
Before the soul can stand in the presence of the Masters,
   Its feet must be washed in the blood of the heart.

—Light on the Path