The Power in Powerlessness
In this excerpt from Genpo Roshi’s new book, The Fool Who Thought He Was God, Sebastian, who believes he is God and has committed himself to a mental institution, is attempting to clear up the confusion about power and powerlessness by answering his sane brother’s question, “Why is it that I feel so inadequate and powerless and yet I don’t feel good about admitting I want power?”
Somehow in the spiritual world seeking power is considered in bad taste or even much worse. What is OK is to seek is truth or awakening. However, truth is power, or better yet, awakened to the truth you would be empowered by truth, set free by the truth. In truth your life is impermanent and fragile. You are born powerless, you grow old, become ill and weak, and eventually die powerless. Whatever power you gain through position, wealth, insight or title doesn’t alter the fact that you are powerless to begin with, and in the end. Power is an illusion, you only have the power that others give you. In the end, when they take it away, you are powerless. Real power is in Me, and you are not Me, but I am your divine nature or true self.
You, the limited and small self, are completely powerless. Everything in life is forcing you to acknowledge this fact. It is why you feel like a victim or use what power you have in very immature and unhealthy ways. Or you inflate yourself by trying to rescue or save others as if to refute that you are powerless. You even want to own and embody being powerless to feel better or more powerful or empowered. It is all about escaping from the fact that you are powerless. Life is impermanent, and no matter who or what you are if you live long enough you experience the loss of power — or you die, which is the ultimate loss of power. You are powerless against your physical and mental bodies, powerless and vulnerable.
Everything that is born and comes into existence is impermanent and powerless, no exception. You can be the strongest human being or the strongest species in the world and still you are truly powerless. You can be the richest most famous person in the world, still you are ultimately powerless against old age sickness, loss and death. You can’t save a soul, no less yourself. Everyone faces this truth to one extent or another. That there is truly nothing to gain is the ultimate truth, for whatever you gain you eventually will lose, because ultimately you are powerless against old age and death. That is why you become enablers or what some of you call co-dependent, why you feel like victims, or become aggressive and judgmental, and why you act and want to be seen as some kind of savior or hero. It is all to avoid acknowledging that you are powerless. There is only Faith or Trust in this truth that your tiny small limited self is powerless and therefore always seeking and competing for positions of power.
Then what is the point?
To give up trying to escape this fact, to surrender and acknowledge that you are powerless and any power you might have is an illusion, here today gone tomorrow. It is said that the truth will set you free. The Truth is there was never anything to gain, no escape, and you are born powerless and will die powerless and everything in between is delusion. When you surrender to this fact you are set free to live life with real humility, not false humbleness or self-righteousness.