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Buddhadharma : Fall 2007
buddhadharma| 43 |fall 2007 purely about logic. It’s like ordering a meal in a restaurant. Most people don’t think in terms of the chemical interaction between certain foods or the combinations that would bring health, happi- ness, and pleasure; they order food according to what they desire. You choose based on what you intuitively desire or need; you lack something and you want to fulfill it. You may desire a particular dish that sounds tasty, but then another dish also sounds tasty. So how do you choose between the two? You don’t know. Then somebody gives you a dish. They push it onto your table and say, “Take it and eat it.” You are handed this plateful and you have no idea what it is. That was the choice: a choice was made because of your uncertainty. You were confused by the two simultaneous extremes and now you have no idea what it is. In the same way that you have no idea what it is, because of bewilderment and confusion, as well as prajna, Zen students are extraordinarily receptive and open. From that point of view, Zen could be said to be the biggest joke that has ever been played in the spiritual realm. But it is a practical joke, very practical. However, there is a difference between a joke and a trick. One of the problems that we in America have ended up with is that when people try to be “Zennie,” they do that by being tricky. A lot of seeming charlatans have managed to get away with that. Not only do they get away with it themselves, but they also impose their egohood onto others. Their trickiness undermines others’ openness, and the whole thing feels so extremely awesome and reverent, so solid and solemn. In the name of Zen in this country, a lot of people were misled. We should pray for them – if they still survive. One of the most important and powerful prin- ciples, the utmost essence of Zen, is the principle of prajna. Prajna is a state of mind in which we have complete clarity, complete certainty. Such an experience is very rare, but at the same time very precise and penetrating. It can only occur in our state of mind, say, once in a hundred moments. The nature of prajna starts with bewilderment. It is as if we were entering a school to study a certain discipline with great, wise, learned people. The first self-conscious awareness we would have is a sense of our own ignorance, of how we feel extraordinarily stupid, clumsy, and dumb. At the same time, we begin to get wind of the knowledge; otherwise, we would have no reference point to experience ourselves being dumb. The first glimpse of prajna is like that. There is a sense of confusion, stupidity, and utter chaos, in that you have no systematic way of organizing your mind or your intelligence. You are all over the place, and you feel that your existence is a big heap of apology. The minute you walk into such a learned circle of great teachers – of art, or science, or whatever else – your footsteps sound louder and louder and louder, and your shadow becomes thicker and thicker, as if you had a gigan- tic body. You feel so clumsy entering into such a circle. You begin to smell your own perspiration, and you feel big and clumsy and in the way. Your whole being, trying to communicate with such teachers, is a gigantic attempt to apologize that you exist. Strangely enough, that is the wind of prajna. Knowing one’s own stupidity is the first glimpse of prajna, very much so. The interesting point, however, is that we can- not consistently be stupid. Our stupidity is not all that well fortified. There are certain gaps in which we forget that we are stupid, that we are completely bewildered. Those glimpses, those gaps where we have some room, that is prajna. This is demonstrated very beautifully in the Zen tradition of monastic discipline. In Zen training periods, from morning to evening every activity has been planned and taught. In the morning you are deal- ing with sitting practice, at mealtimes you are deal- ing with oryoki – how to eat food, how to unfold your napkins. Then there are walking practices and there is also study period, cooking duty, and cleaning duty. Even when you are sleeping, you may be sleeping in the temple or in the meditation hall, on duty. Whatever duty you are assigned, all of them are a challenge and a mockery. They are making a mockery of you, making you feel completely bored and extraordinarily inadequate. The more you become associated with learned people, the more self-conscious you become. It is extraordinary dis- cipline, and it is an extraordinary, extraordinary joke – but it’s not a trick. Such a big joke is being played on you that you find that the environment around you, where you practice, has no room for anything else. Occasionally, you indulge in your confusion. That’s the only break you have – indulg- ing in your confusion and bewilderment. Strangely enough, such discipline works, and prajna gradu- ally grows. In Zen discipline, you can sleep for only four hours a night, and the rest of the time you spend sitting, working, or doing something. Getting into such definite, real discipline in the fullest sense provides you with enormous boredom and enormous uncertainty. At a certain point, you find that you are so tired and sleepy that the boundary between the day and night begins to dissolve. You are uncertain as to whether you are awake and functioning in the daylight as a normal, ordinary human being or whether you are dreaming the whole thing. That is prajna all-pervading. When the boundaries begin to become fuzzy, that’s where prajna is taking hold of you. Zen discipline is fantastic and extraordinary. Such an approach is obviously not the dream Zen could be said to be the biggest joke that has ever been played in the spiritual realm. But it is a practical joke. RolAndSChmId