A Quaker in the Zendo

Steve Smith. Pendle Hill Pamphlet 370. The juxtaposition of the pamphlet’s title reflects both Steve’s life and the text. Steve describes his journey from birthright Quakerism to the zendo in very personal terms, but most of the pamphlet is a deep meditation on Quakerism and the wisdom of early Friends. Apropos of a conversation over on Beppeblog (sparked by Joe’s review of another very good PHP, Members One of Another), here’s what Steve Smith has to say about discipline:

Books of Quaker Faith and Practice are traditionally called Books of Discipline, another word I had passed over too readily. In an age of instant gratification and comfort, “discipline” often rings merely of punishment for wrongdoing, with no resonance of the straitening pleasures of self-transcendence through submission to an exacting regime. Significant accomplishment in most walks of life requires a paradoxical combination of strenuous application and surrender of self-will. In challenging educational endeavors, in high-level athletic performance, in skilled artistic expression and elsewhere, I recognized a demanding path to excellence, even when I was loath to walk onit. But in spiritual matters I favored an easier, more comfortable route, sitting myself each week in meeting for worship and hoping that without any risk or commitment, lightening would strike.

I look forward to rereading this. Steve unpacks some familiar Quaker quotes in a way that is very helpful to me in my own spiritual work.

One Reply to “A Quaker in the Zendo”

  1. Yeah, I found it to be a remarkable read, too. I also found it of personal interest because my brother is a Buddhist. I’ve learned a few things from him, ala what Smith writes about, about the need for surrender and the requirement of discipline to effect greater spiritual changes (I would add, in ourselves, in our communities, in our world, etc.).

    Oh, and thanks for the nod to beppeblog! 🙂

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