Anti-Sermon of No Words
“In Mahayana Buddhism, emphasis is laid on what is called the Sermon of No Words. This is a sermon preached by mere behaviour, by demonstration of one pointed spiritual effort in calmness, by the absence of instinctive reactions to events, and by what is called a spiritual atmosphere generated by the presence. It is a sermon not by exhortation, reasoning or threats but by example.
There is also the reverse of The Sermon of No Words: one might call it the Anti-Sermon of No Words.
People become irritated when warned about the evils of drugs, of promiscuous sex or malicious gossip by those who have heavily indulged in them. Perhaps they are speaking of vices they’re tired of and often the words go unheeded. But in fact they are putting out something else as well: an Anti-Sermon of no Words. We can see that their behaviour, reactions, sometimes even the face, to say nothing of the atmosphere they create around them are telling the world, more forcefully than any words: “Don’t do what I have done”.”
© 2000 Trevor Leggett http://buddhismnow.com/2013/10/24/sermon-of-no-words-and-anti-sermon-of-no-words-by-trevor-leggett/#more-6851
I love the term “Anti-sermon.” The message is “Don’t do as I do. I am an idiot and do not learn from my mistakes.”
I still don’t know what I want to be “when I grow up” but, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become crystal clear as to some of the things I don’t want to be. It started in my teenage years, watching my brothers use drugs and alcohol. I’ve always considered them to be my anti-role-models. I never wanted to experience the consequences they mistakenly took as inevitable. They continually learned the wrong lessons. For example, my oldest brother’s daughter was run over by a drunk driver. Did it occur to my brother to stop drinking? Hardly. He just drank at home. You see, the problem with drunk driving isn’t the driving part; it’s the drunk part. It’s good that he didn’t put other people in harm’s way, but the most important lesson went unlearned.
I’ve had similar experiences at various churches. I’ve seen the most obvious financial corruption imaginable. I’ve seen young people driven away, which left older people scratching their heads as to where the youth vanished to. I’ve seen control freaks run the show and then they wonder why people don’t come back for seconds of that. I’ve been told by a priest that I am “frighteningly judgmental.” My translation: he disagrees with my opinion and has particularly poor judgment himself. He disagreed with my judgment, but seemed to have little of it himself. Being thrown out of his office was a badge of honor because the people I most respected had all had it done to them. Another anti-role-model.
I am now overly cynical. I look for role models, but they are hard to come by. To me, a role model is someone I look at and say to myself, “I want what they have. What do I need to do to get it? Where do I sign up?” That is also my definition of “evangelism.” I do not look for perfection. What I look for is integrity, compassion, and equanimity, not someone that will throw someone out of their office for saying something they choose not to hear. Everyone screws up and makes mistakes. It takes an adult to say, “Wow. I really blew it. I am very sorry. What can I do to make it right?” I’ve apologized before, but when it’s only the peons that apologize, the message received is, “When you have power, you won’t ever need to apologize, either.” Another wrong lesson learned.
There are no Zen centers in the Lansing area. I don’t know if I will ever look for, let alone find, a roshi.
I really try to live my values. That is tough enough. I try to be the change I look for in the world. I try to be a living example of what I believe in. I am not trying to be a Buddhist. I am trying to live as a Buddha. I try to preach the Sermon of No Words. I call it “integrity.”