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Buddhadharma : Spring 2015
spring 2 0 1 5 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly 65 already have it, who could ever realize it? How many minds do we have? A student once asked Chao-chou, “Can a person of ordinary mind be taught or not?” Chao-chou said, “I don’t pass through their front door.” The wisdom that passes through the doors of the senses is not true wisdom. Chao-chou doesn’t teach from a distance. The Tao can’t be defined by a sight, sound, or taste. But there is a moment of pure experience before the thinking mind arises, before the self emerges. It’s that first moment of contact before there’s any sense of seeing, hearing, or tast- ing—in that flash of a moment, there’s pure contact. Yet within an instant our associating, judging mind defines the experience, and they seem to appear as one. The car alarm is irritating. That person at work does make you angry. Before practice, it can be hard to imagine experiencing our life free of judging and naming. However, with steady, sincere practice, the thinking mind slows down, and we realize there is space between the thoughts. This is tracing back the radiance, tracing it back to the moment before discrimination arises. This is the first taste of freedom from the tyranny of our efforts to constantly domesticate reality. We can let reality just be reality, in all its natural, vivid truth. In “Lancet of Zazen,” Dogen says, “Do not value what is far away, and do not despise it; become completely familiar with it. Don’t despise what’s near at hand, and don’t value it. Become completely familiar with it. Don’t take the eyes lightly, and don’t give them weight. Don’t give weight to the ears, and don’t take them lightly. Make your eyes and ears clear and sharp.” We don’t need to take what is naturally alive and free and put the harness of our judgments and opin- ions on it. This ceaseless management, the endless attempt to control our experience, is exhausting and futile. It robs us of our true life. The Buddha taught that human life is character- ized by adversity. No matter how privileged or how disadvantaged, we don’t always get what we want. Sometimes we’ll be with disagreeable people; some- times we won’t be with the ones we love. When the mind is not at peace, the body is distressed and the world is distressed. When we give relief to the mind, the body finds peace and the world finds peace. Then, when challenges arise, they don’t create dis- tress. This is the radical nature of reality: no greed, anger, and ignorance, even when immersed in greed, anger, and ignorance. Rather than try and control the world to get rid of all the confusion, Wu-men says, “Let your mind find peace, then the body will be at peace.” The Buddha experienced adversity in his own life. He sometimes had conflicts within the sangha or with people in local communities. As he got older he had back problems, and right before he died he got very sick. The question is, was he suffering? The Buddha called his teaching “the middle way.” This is not giving weight to your eyes but not taking them lightly, not indulging what we see but also not ignoring it. This message comes through the dharma continually, like a drumbeat. Why? Because we are constantly moving from one extreme to the other. We know how to indulge, we know how to deny—those come easily. And yet Dogen is saying, just “make your eyes and ears clear and sharp.” See into the dream. The dream is our confusion. It’s the confusion of looking at what How does water move toward wetness? How does fire get closer to heat? No one has ever moved closer to their original nature.