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Buddhadharma : Summer 2005
buddhadharma| 39 |summer 2005 We somehow get the impression that someday, with great enlightenment, all of our problems will be gone forever, and we’ll no longer be deluded, hopeless human beings; rather, we will become clearly awak- ened, compassionate, fearless people. So, to this end, we search for true insight. When we look at Dogen Zenji’s teach- ing in Soto Zen, he too says more or less the same thing, using different terminol- ogy. He talks quite often of “body and mind cast off”: Shin jin datsuraku. To me, this is equivalent to Master Rinzai’s say- ing, “Attain true insight.” As for zazen practice, Dogen Zenji sug- gests doing shikantaza: Just sit. Just sit. The implication is that nothing is lacking. Nothing more needs to be added. Someone once said to me, in all seri- ousness, “I have a problem with this prac- tice. This may sound like a complaint, but it’s not. Why am I doing this? Looking around, I see many so-called practitio- ners, some who have been sitting for many years and others who have been sitting for a relatively short time. I am surprised that even some practitioners who have been sitting for many years, after they leave the zendo, they can be so nasty – no different from others on the street. On the other hand, I know people who have never done zazen but who are sympathetic and gener- ous. So what is the point of my doing this strange practice?” This is a valid question for many of us. However, there is one important mistake in this question, and that is the assumption that we have to progress from worst to bad, from bad to so-so, from so-so to good, and finally from good to best, and then to stay there permanently. This interpreta- tion completely goes against what Master Rinzai said: “Followers of the Way: people say, ‘There is a Way to practice, there is a Dharma to realize.’ What Dharma would you realize and what Way would you prac- tice? What is lacking in your activity right now? What is there to be fixed?” And yet we continue to feel that something is lacking. We are spiritually hungry, spiritually thirsty, and spiritually perturbed, instead of being spiritually peaceful. So zazen can be used as a form of self-deceit! Then another part of our mind says, “Oh, we must be doing some- thing good!” Because we experience pain, we think we’re doing something virtuous, and that is doubly deceitful! We deceive ourselves, especially when it is painful; or else we complain about how zazen is painful. But the more we complain about our pain, the more painful it becomes. This world – this universe – is yin and yang, plus and minus, life and death, increase and decrease. Yet fundamentally, as the Heart Sutra states, there is “no birth, no death, no purity, no defilement, nothing increases, nothing decreases.” We are neither bad nor good. But some- how, we want to have a label posted on our body and mind that identifies “this is good” or “this is bad.” Shikantaza! Just sit! A beautiful prac- tice. However, at the same time it can also be a wonderful opportunity to cook our delusions and daydreams. Muuuuu is wonderful! powerful con- centration. But we can become like a hun- gry dog searching for Mu. Throughout the Rinzai Roku, Master Rinzai says, “Enlightenment, true insight!” “Enlightenment” means that we must realize that this universe is neither good nor bad. This is a plain statement: per- fect reality, even prior to the creation of this heaven and earth. This is called true insight; this is what Dogen means when he says, “Body and mind cast off!” In other instances, Master Rinzai fre- quently asks, “What more need you seek?” Hakuin Ekaku Zenji’s Song of Zazen also asks, “At this moment, what more need you seek?” Human beings have strange karma: karma for greed. The more we have, the more we’re attached to things; the less we have, the less we are attached. This is another problem – the paradox of our own dedication or commitment. We believe that unless we have commit- ment, we cannot accomplish anything. But if we do commit, we are trapped – our own attachment increases! If we can truly say, “At this moment, what more need I seek? I am perfect as I am!” and if we can truly believe this, from the top of our head to the tips of our toes, only then does it not matter whether we do zazen or not, whether we are well or not, whether we are fearful or not. Fear does not necessarily mean fear of death. We can fear that someone else is working or practicing very hard, while we are not, and so we are afraid that others will sur- pass us in this competitive world, instead of understanding, “At this moment, what more need I seek?” Sometimes reluctantly, sometimes self-deceivingly, we pretend to practice, knowing that there’s no dharma to be proved, no way to be practiced! True insight means understanding throughout our body-mind-heart – throughout our billions of cells – that this universe is a universe of no purity, no defilement, with nothing wanting, nothing superfluous. More practically, once we are born, without fail, we get old. Once we are born, almost without fail, we get sick. And once we are born, without fail, we are going to die. And this is truly equal, completely without discrimination. There’s no excep- tion, even for the greatest human beings in the past – Shakyamuni Buddha, Jesus Christ, Moses, Abraham, Mohammed. We should be completely saturated with this understanding – and yet we are not saturated. To sit on and off, for two hours a day, twice a week, forty years, will never result in our saturation. A piece of paper dropped in water becomes satu- rated almost immediately. Wood dropped into water will get wet, but not fully satu- rated. But if this wood stays in the water for thirty years, fifty years, or even more, then this wood will eventually become fully saturated. Even a stone in the ocean or in a river, after many centuries will attain some degree of saturation. Likewise, our bodies, through this zazen practice, through this sitting and sitting and sitting, will eventually become saturated. Not only in this lifetime, but life after life. Life after life. This is the Buddhist view – we may transform, but our karma continues. Returning to the question I was asked, “Why do I have to do this zazen? I feel like I’m not making any progress!” It’s not our wish, it’s our karma! Some of us have practiced a lot in our past lives. Some of us have not practiced at all. If we have not practiced in our past lives, but began doing zazen for the first time during this incarnation, it may be too much for us to expect any substan- tial evidence of “progress.” We must be grateful that we are not regressing! “I don’t like that karma!” we may say. But it doesn’t matter whether we like it or dislike it. We can change our karma by working very hard at it, but shouldn’t expect results overnight. With this clear understanding of Master Rinzai’s Zen and Master Dogen’s Zen, we can be free from making such arbitrary distinctions as “In Rinzai Zen, ➤ continued page 78