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Buddhadharma : Summer 2014
SUMMER 2 0 1 4 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 27 other as teacher and student, they sit together for a couple of weeks, then Prajnatara tests Bodhi- dharma with a series of questions: “What among all things is formless?” Bodhidharma answers, “Non-arising is formless.” Nagarjuna said some- thing similar: “Since I do not posit any asser- tions, nothing can be contradicted.” Since there is nonarising, nothing can be contradicted. If I want to understand the nature of my suffering, and if I want to understand how to end that suf- fering, this is all I need. Anybody with a sharp mind will recognize that Nagarjuna just posited an assertion; that’s why words fail us. But to the degree to which we can recognize the nature of reality as being inherently without conflict, we fulfill the silent imperative of Bodhidharma. Prajnatara’s next question is an unusual one: “What among all things is most exalted?” Bodhidharma replies, “The human self is most exalted.” That’s you. You are the most exalted. That’s not an anthropomorphic statement plac- ing you or me at the center of the universe. He is saying something about what we’re capable of doing and realizing. The Buddha was the most exalted one. You are the most exalted one. Bodhidharma served Prajnatara for forty years. He was like his teacher’s shadow, always there, always available, refining the expression of his being with patience, generosity, and mindful- ness. Then, after forty years, Prajnatara released Bodhidharma so he could go to China to teach, and his final advice was, “Don’t go too fast. Be careful and don’t wither under the sun.” Knowingly or unknowingly, by turning our minds to practice, we’re saying that we’re willing to give up everything and get absolutely nothing in return. Later in China, when Huike—after standing in the snow for days, cutting off his own arm, and finally being received as a student—asked how to put an end to the turmoil of his mind, Bodhi- dharma’s advice was, “Find that mind.” Find the obstruction. Find how it is that you’re bringing it forth—how you’re positing, possessing, tending to, protecting that sense of what is yours, what is you. Find this, and I will put your mind at peace. He had complete trust in Huike’s capacity. He has complete trust in our capacity. That’s why he’s willing to step out of the conversation, to offer us just enough room to spin toward ourselves. If we are to relieve suffering, it is necessary to enter into the realm of suffering and understand in depth how it is that we actually create it. Bud- dha states clearly that there are three layers to that process of creation. The most obvious one is the simple sense of “I want this and I can’t have it” and “I don’t want this and that’s what I have.” But that’s just the beginning, because below that lies the suffering that is simply a result of the nature of this universe being impermanent. Things are continuously changing; any attempt at stability is going to be defeated. We will be continuously humiliated by impermanence. Just in case that isn’t enough, the Buddha goes deeper. He says when you look at the ingredients of impermanence, at the degree to which any of the skhandhas, the building blocks of our experience of reality, become existent for you, that already is suffering. When you go into zazen that deeply, it’s like a shimmering of constant suffering. So