Many of the great Zen and Taoist teachers emphasized the ordinary and the dangers of spiritual importance:

Emperor Wu: ‘I have built many temples, copied innumerable Sutras and ordained many monks since becoming Emperor. Therefore, I ask you, what is my merit?’

Bodhidharma: ‘None whatsoever!’

Emperor Wu: ‘Why no merit?’

Bodhidharma: ‘Doing things for merit has an impure motive and will only bear the puny fruit of rebirth.’

Emperor Wu, a little put out: ‘Well, what then is the most important principle of Buddhism?’

Bodhidharma: ‘Vast emptiness. Nothing sacred.’

Emperor Wu, by now bewildered, and not a little indignant: ‘Who is this that stands before me?’

Bodhidharma: ‘I do not know.’

If we can allow ourselves to live an ordinary life while also staying awake to the great void at the center of all that is, then we can be this intermediary place between that intoxicating, mystical bliss of oblivion and the wonder of how the Divine creates and reveals Itself in all the forms of life. Our lives are the expression of this bridge – ordinary and extraordinary, all things in their place, everything free to be as it is, and our consciousness, our heart, free to be used as needed.

Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, The Extraordinary in the Ordinary

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