‘To understand reality as a direct experience is the reason we practice zazen, and the reason we study Buddhism. Through the study of Buddhism, you will understand your human nature, your intellectual faculty, and the truth present in your human activity. And you can take this human nature of yours into consideration when you seek to understand reality. But only by the actual practice of Zen can you experience reality directly and understand in their true sense the various statements made by your teacher or by Buddha. In a strict sense, it is not possible to speak about reality. Nevertheless, if you are a Zen student, you have to understand it directly through your master’s words.
Your master’s direct statement may not be only in words; his behavior is likewise his way of expressing himself. In Zen we put emphasis on demeanor, or behavior. By behavior we do not mean a particular way that you ought to behave, but rather the natural expression of yourself. We emphasize straightforwardness. You should be true to your feelings, and to your mind, expressing yourself without any reservations. This helps the listener to understand more easily.’ (Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind)
In my last visit to Wilbur, I had plenty of quiet time to read Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind. Often I stick to the first fifty pages or so, but this time I was reading the second half of the book, and came across many fresh-to-me statements. This passage seemed perfect to bring to the koan class, so I included it last week, and it helped bring about a pretty lively conversation. Of course it could be argued that just about any paragraph of zen writing could illuminate a study of koans; looking again at this passage from Shohaku, which I had selected before the class started, I thought about bringing it to the final class tonight.