The controversial spiritual teacher Adi Da once wrote:
Everyone is enchanted with unreality, with the conventional appearance of every moment. Therefore, one cannot break that spell merely by talking to people. They are not just thinking wrongly. They are associated with each moment in such a manner that they are incapable of being Awake to their actual Condition. So, in effect, you must cut them in half with a big sword. You must blow their minds. You must shake them loose. You must wholly divert them. You must trick them. You must be wild to truly Enlighten people.
For the purposes of this post, set aside the bits about enlightenment and the ego. Read some of those words again–these especially: “So, in effect, you must cut them in half with a big sword. You must blow their minds. You must shake them loose.”
Is he right?
He is. Our naive presumption–that people make radical changes in their lives of their own accord–is so often false. Often they lack the deepest, clearest insight as well as the courage. Hence, they talk and talk and talk without much happening.
This is why, in some cases, it makes perfectly good sense to give those prone to inertia and complacency firm pushes toward the edge. Compassion is not always sweet and nice; sometimes the greatest compassion involves “blow[ing] their minds” and “shak[ing] them loose.” It’s also a mistake to believe that meditation is about making us all calm. Quite the contrary, the Zen master Boshan argues that meditation is about rousing the Great Doubt. The sword’s point, then, is to kill the deadness within so as to allow the other to take one step closer to the edge. For at the edge and over it may be new life.
But the firm push made by one hand also ought to come with a parachute in the other. It’s here where I disagree with what Adi Da said above. Even if the leap into new life–rightly–carries no assurances, guarantees, or insurance policies, it is not without support. It may be scary to use the parachute, especially, as is true in this case, when one is new to it, yet the parachute has been shown to be strong enough to help one land in the beautiful valley below. Landing, even on wobbly legs, takes trust and fortitude.