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Buddhadharma : Spring 2016
spring 2 0 1 6 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly 69 After several moments of focused stillness, I addressed him: “Katagiri Roshi, in zazen I’ve simply been feeling what’s inside. Is that Zen? Or is there something else I should be doing that is more Zen, or that will be more helpful in advancing my Zen practice?” Roshi sat as he always did, formal without being rigid, embodying a softness along with the upright- ness, his hands carefully positioned in front of his lower abdomen. “Ed,” he responded slowly, giving each word its own weight, “for twenty years, I tried to do the zazen of Dogen before I realized there was no such thing.” Right on schedule, quipped my inner voice. Right on schedule. All the meaning I had attributed to the world I’d been living and working in was gone. Measuring up, assessments, my standing in the world of Zen, who could say? “There was no such thing.” It’s either a huge relief or terribly disillusioning. You sink or swim with the insight that meaning is some- thing you ascribe or don’t. And that what you are doing cannot be grasped with words. Without your story, who would you be? Are you lighter? Or lost? Dogen, clarifying his understanding of zazen, wrote, “Once its heart is grasped, you are like a dragon swimming in the water, like a tiger at home in the jungle.” Huge relief, it sounds like. Yet inside me was a zoo, and the zookeeper was not feeling any sense of sovereignty akin to the dragon or the tiger sporting about in its element. The best robes, the stillest sitting, the most awe- some attainments, the fewest problems, the most ease, the greatest patience—who had what? And what did it matter? I had the status of being recog- nized as leading the practice period, while within, unknown territory abounded. In many ways, this is when practice can truly begin. Outwardly you follow the forms, while inwardly your life reshapes itself like the unformed mass in a pupa transforming into a butterfly. You trust. You go on. You wait, while still maintaining the outer forms that support your life. It can be seen as one of the secrets of Zen practice: a foot in each world. More often than not,