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Buddhadharma : Summer 2012
30 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY SUMMER 2 0 1 2 get from his dharma. In order to reach some people, he needed to make the teachings look like they really existed. In the second turning, he shows that all the teachings and all the methods only have apparent existence. In the third turn- ing, we find a presentation of the first turning that is in accord with the second turning. So in this scripture, we are offered a systematic path and a conceptual approach that are free of self. After we realize the ultimate, we see whether we can come back into the conventional, con- ceptual presentation of the teaching in such a way that we don’t violate the understanding of the ultimate truth. We spiral round and round and round until all beings have a correct under- standing of the teachings. The wish to do this is called bodhicitta—the Way-seeking mind—and the realization of the ability to do that is the fruition of bodhicitta. There is a Zen saying that goes: “When I first was practicing the Way, there were mountains and rivers. After I practiced for thirty years, I understood there are no mountains and no riv- ers. Now, finally, there are mountains and rivers again.” But these mountains and rivers walk and talk. These mountains and rivers leap through the sky and boogie in the basement. These moun- tains and rivers are the fully realized mountains and rivers, because these mountains and rivers are based on the understanding that finally there aren’t any mountains and rivers. We can’t really understand that there are no mountains and riv- ers until we understand mountains and rivers. We can’t really understand mountains and rivers until we understand that there are no mountains and rivers. So we need these three turnings of the wheel. We need the conceptual approach. We need to enter into an immediacy of our life that gives up the conceptual approach. And then we need a conceptual approach to test that we really have given up the conceptual approach. We need a Zen center with an address, a door, a telephone number, an email address, and a website, with buildings and gardens and robes and hats and people, and especially vegetarian feasts. We need all that, and we need the teachings of the tradi- tion, but then we need to refute the whole thing and have people at the door saying, “This is not a Zen center. There’s no Zen center here.” Oth- erwise, it’s not really a Zen center. And then, just to test to see if we really understand that there isn’t any Zen center, we take care of the Zen center. But as we take care of it, we ask ourselves: “Are we taking care of it with the understanding that in ultimate truth there is no Zen?” Of course, sometimes we notice that the way we’re taking care of the Zen center looks like we think there really is a Zen center, and there’s not much sign that we realize that there’s no Zen center. There doesn’t seem to be an understand- ing that this interdependent thing called a Zen center can never be found precisely because it’s interdependent. So then we confess, “We don’t understand Zen here at Zen center,” and that sounds pretty good. But then we also think: “We do understand Zen at Zen center, and we’re confident about that because our under- standing is based on ‘we do not understand Zen at Zen center.’ ” And we’re kind of happy about that because we understand that it’s not just us—nobody understands what Zen is. But we may be the ones who are happy about not understanding. The teaching of the three turnings of the wheel is a conceptual offering to help us understand a nonconceptual approach to liberation, or I should say, to understand no approach to bud- dhahood, no approach to freedom. It is a con- ceptual approach to understand no conceptual approach—a conceptual approach to immediacy. And the immediacy is not at all disturbed by being involved in a conceptual approach, because in every moment of being involved in a concep- tual approach we are immediately intimate with the ultimate truth of the conceptual approach: namely, that it’s not real. If we don’t have a conceptual approach, that’s fine, although it’s very rare. The main thing is that, as we’re involved in our concep- tual approach to whatever we’re doing, we don’t miss the immediate, nonconceptual reality that we can never be separated from. Then we can enjoy ultimate truth no matter what’s happen- ing. But this enjoyment is not for yourself. The nonconceptual approach is for the liberation of all beings. The conceptual approach, although it can be quite good, is for the conceiver, and the conceiver doesn’t exist. We aspire to be the Buddha’s offspring, and so we are like larva bodhisattvas, but the larvae need a skin. And what’s the skin? The skin is the Buddha’s conceptual approach. We wrap that lit- tle larva in a nice silken conceptual package with