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Buddhadharma : Summer 2017
26 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly summer 2 0 1 7 To practice dharma is to have great confidence and great faith—not in a party or leader or a particular solution but in the process of living and dying itself. why Zen stories always seem paradoxical—not to be tricky but because our basic ideas about everything really don’t make any sense. If you analyze them, they all turn out to contradict themselves, as Nagar- juna, the great philosopher of emptiness, shows in his works. The story of Dasui’s Aeonic Fire demonstrates this. There doesn’t need to be anything beyond the world because the world is already beyond the world. There doesn’t need to be anything perma- nent because permanence is right here in the middle of impermanence. And this is true of our lives, as well. With concepts of permanence or imper- manence comes fear—we are apt to become King Kalmashapada, desperately trying to shore up what can’t be shored up, desperately trying to fix what is already perfect in its brokenness. The consequence of appreciating this story deeply in meditation is that we can finally let go of acting out of fear. Our doubt can be set to rest, as the introduction says. We can recognize that the conceptual frameworks necessarily underlying our lives are just that. They are not realities; they are ways of thinking and looking at the world. It’s not that we are searching for the correct perspective. Any perspective will be partial. Knowing this, we don’t hold on to the perspective that we will inevi- tably have. So when we find that we are afraid, we don’t completely believe in it; we study our fear and challenge it. We don’t know what this world is, we don’t know what will happen in the future. We are not supposed to know, we can’t know. That’s our practice: sitting in the middle of the beautiful ques- tion that is our collective life. We need this teaching to cope with the environ- mental and political catastrophes in which we are living. King Kalmashapada is raging on, destroying people and pouring carbon into the atmosphere at an insane rate. What we are doing every day is not that different from beheading a thousand kings— probably it is worse. It makes sense to be upset by this and to get active in whatever way is given to us. Probably massive political and economic changes will be necessary. No wonder the businesses and governments of the world resist going to a carbon- neutral economy. There will be upheavals. I don’t think anybody knows what to do. To practice dharma is to have great confidence and great faith—not in a party or leader or a partic- ular solution but in the process of living and dying itself. In the hope that we will together go forth into some future, whatever it is, hugging and kissing. This will not be destroyed because this is always destroyed, moment after moment. Wansong’s commentary goes on to say that bud- dhas are themselves the aeon-ending fire, and arhats and bodhisattvas are the ashes. The worst has already happened. The worlds have already been destroyed; our lives are the ash. This is of course literally true—as Crosby, Stills, and Nash sang, “We are stardust.” We carry the becoming and ending of all the worlds in our bodies and minds. Each of us sits in meditation at the exact center of the universe, at the very beginning of time. There, we can be fully confident, fully joyful. And then, fortified by that joy and confidence, we can get up and do something to help, as we must, as we have always done and always will.