‘Coming to the realization of Buddha Mind, to Buddha Nature, is understanding once and for all, we lack nothing. There is nothing else we have to be; there is nothing else we can be actually. This is it. There is nothing lacking in existence. We are spiritually incorrect when we think that we lack anything at all. It is an affront to the Dharma to think that we lack something. It is the same about any kind of claim that we make about existence. There is nothing missing.’ (Receiving the Marrow)
Flicking through this book of Dogen commentaries, and finding this passage, I felt the familiar stirring of the blood and energy that is my sense of affirmation of the truth of these statements, such as I have experienced through practice. And, at the same time, while I was typing it out, I could not help but think that many people in less privileged parts of society would read this and shake their heads. In the world, much is missing. And this is still true.
‘A monastery is not some particular place. Whether you can make Tassajara a monastery or not is up to you. It may be even worse than city life even though you are in Tassajara. But when you have the wisdom of the Prajnaparamita Sutra, even though you are in San Francisco, that is the perfect monastery. This point should be fully understood.’ (from the Shunryu Suzuki Archives)
As with the other recent post, wise words from Suzuki Roshi during the first sesshin at Tassajara. I remember, and I may have recounted here before, a former monk saying that he felt okay leaving Tassajara when he could find Tassajara walking the streets of Manhattan. I did not understand it then, but I see it better now.
‘The truth of Buddhism is realized through practice; it is attained through the body. The way we govern the muscles and bones of our bodies must be an expression of zazen. With zazen as the basis, seeing that everything we encounter is the self, our attitude toward life is transformed. This is practice. It is within this practice that we discover true peace of mind.’ (The Zen Teaching of Homeless Kodo)
‘Whichever way we go, we just live the self which is only the self, and there is no direction forbidden to us. We had better stride finely wherever we go, without becoming nervous and with peace of mind. But, in the middle of emptiness, which demands no particular direction, there must be a decisive aim. No matter what we do, it expands through the ten directions; eternity exists in a moment.’ (The Zen Teaching of Homeless Kodo)
I would add that the decisive aim is not unchanging, but responding to conditions.
‘This kind of integration arises from intimacy with our emotions and our bodies, as well as with our thoughts. It arises from holding all that we know and want and fear and feel in a space of awareness and self-compassion. If we reject or resent our feelings we won’t have access to that kind of intimacy and integration. And if we define ourselves by each of the ever-changing feelings that cascade through us, how will we ever feel at home in our own bodies and minds?’ (True Love)
‘Whereas the things of experience and our thoughts about them can become objects of reflection – we can get them in front of our mind’s eye in order to contemplate them – the one who does this cannot be similarly objectified. This is so because every time you attempt to look back at yourself or your current engagement in any activity, the one who steps back is the one at whom you hope to look. I cannot see myself as subject – my subjectivity as such – in any direct way because I am always the one doing the seeing.
Furthermore, the more “I” understand “myself” in deeper and deeper self-awareness, the more I realize that, in Buddhist terms, there is “no self.” To say that there is “no self” is not to say, absurdly, that I do not exist. It is instead to say that the more profound my self-understanding becomes, the more aware I am of the kind of existence I live. GIven deep enough meditation, my existence reveals itself as impermanent and interdependent with a wide variety of other beings, all set within frameworks that are metaphysical, physical, and social.’ (The Six Perfections)
Following along from Shohaku’s post yesterday. As always, I find his expositions crystal clear.
‘We cannot avoid understanding because we are human beings, and the human brain produces thoughts. This is not our preference, it is our reality. We simply find ourselves living in this world with a thinking brain. Thinking is not a personal choice. It’s as if we are forced or designed to think. And even before I seem to choose a way of thinking, the way I think in general is previously established by my home and educational environment, so the way I think is not really my choice. To think or not to think is therefore not a choice we can make. Even thinking or discriminating is not a product of my discrimination. This ability to discriminate also comes from our life force beyond discrimination; I don’t have the option to not discriminate. But if we are dominated by discrimination, if we think the world created by our discrimination is reality and throw our lives into that world of discrimination, we are in trouble. Yet the ability to discriminate is part of this life beyond discrimination. In reality, for everything we encounter, for all situations and conditions we meet at this moment, “understanding is of no use.” And again, to say this is still an understanding. So our life consists of an infinite number of encounters with “what’s the use of understanding?” ‘ (from the Soto Zen Journal)
Notwithstanding what I wrote a few days ago, October really is a great month in San Francisco. The temperatures did indeed rise last week, so I had my third heatwave since moving to our new place. I had time to go and sit on the beach, and to be out on my bike early morning before it got too hot, to fmy current favourite locations – Ocean Beach, Sweeney Ridge, San Bruno Mountain, and the Crystal Springs trail.
That time was a result of not having a huge amount of work on. I got to lead an evening meditation for Core on Chalk, and it was great to have the time, and the intimacy of an audio-only format, to explore a theme – something I have missed since the Hebden Bridge sessions finished. I have noticed some second-guessing going on: do I really have anything to say, or to teach? What is my practice now? But these are more invitations to keep exploring rather than notions of despair.
I know that I miss the regular reading time I had when I was commuting in normal times; it somehow feels harder to carve that out even when I have space in my schedule. And I know that has a knock-on effect with what gets posted here, so I apologise if it has sometimes felt a little lacklustre. Seeing as we have just ticked past the fifth anniversary of this blog (with more than 1800 posts published), I thought it might be time for a refresh – only the second time I have changed themes. I hope that it is easy on the eye, and that the posts continue to be taxing to the brain for a few more years yet.
‘To hold space for our pain is a way that we begin to take care of our pain. Taking care of our pain softens our hurt as we do the work of empathizing with ourselves. Empathizing with ourselves makes it easier to empathze with others around us. This empathy is at the root of the love and compassion that will begin to disrupt the systems that create harm.’ (Love and Rage)
This illuminates one of the central ‘paradoxes’ of a life of practice. Mostly, we think that we need to push pain away to function, or that if we ignore it, it might go away. Once we do hold space for it, our relationship to it changes, and softening can occur, loosening the hurt, and the power of pain.