— 2.B.1 Jewish response by Alon Goshen Gottstein

(Response to 2.B.1 Mumonkan, Case No. 1: Joshu’s Dog, presented by Ruben Habito)


This text represents a spiritual tradition that I am not familiar with, and that in fact in many ways is foreign to me. It places me before an interesting challenge. Must I understand a text in its entirety, including its broader context – philosophical, religious, sociological, historical, cultural, etc. Etc. – in order to appreciate it or be inspired by it, or is there room for “inspiration in snippets”. While most of what is written in this text does not resonate with my own spiritual path or with the tradition that forms me, I do recognize moments that are of particular interest and potential. One such moment is when the text states “Now all your previous knowledge falls away.” It poses the question of continuity and discontinuity in the spiritual life. Do we expect what we find along the path, or upon entering the path, to be a continuation of what we already know? If so, we risk limiting the spiritual reality by the contours of our earlier knowledge. On the other hand, is what we discover completely discontinuous with our previous knowledge? If that were the case, spiritual reality would be completely divorced from the totality of our spiritual life, as lived before the moments of spiritual breakthrough. It seems to me the tension between the known and the unknown, expectation and formation, may be a very fruitful site for exchanges between spiritual practitioners.