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Buddhadharma : Fall 2014
62 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY FALL 2 0 1 4 meditation while everybody else was doing sit- ting practice, so I responded, “What?!” Roshi repeated, “Do kinhin.” I got up and walked for the few minutes left in the period. Later I made a point of speaking with him to find out if I was doing something wrong by allowing the energy to move rather than trying to stop it, in order to try to understand it. I told him that during all these months and years of involuntary movements, he had never told me to switch to walking meditation. “Oh,” he replied, “I didn’t realize that’s what you were doing, that you were allowing the movements to see what you could find out. Please continue doing that. See what you can find out.” It was such a relief, and an affirmation of my newfound sensibility. Making this shift from following the rules— the rules outside, often reflecting those that were long ago established inside—to finding out how to work harmoniously with things was some- thing Roshi emphasized again and again. Start- ing out, I believed that there was a way you were supposed to behave—sitting still—but when there is a rebellion, what then? Perhaps there is some greater wisdom at work here; what could it be? Whether you call yourself a good student or a bad student, Roshi said, that’s over now— now you have something else to do. Your perfor- mance is not the measure of how good you are. If you are studying how to be a good student, Roshi said, that is being a good student. I could not sit still. If I was to go on sitting, I had no choice but to study. I’d find a way. And I did. I learned how to sit with the energy that had previously been locked away inside: awe- some energy, fundamental vitality. Now, sometimes when watching well-com- posed Buddhist meditators, I hear Rilke’s words: All of you undisturbed cities, haven’t you ever longed for the Enemy? I’d love to see you besieged by him for ten endless and ground-shaking years. Until you were desperate and mad with suffering... He is the one who breaks down the walls, and when he works, he works in silence. I hear these words, and I let them go—the teach- ing confronts each of us in its unique fashion, and the wave of the ten thousand things washes over everyone equally. Blessed be. Zen master Hakuin’s verse comes to me as well. It concerns two demons, one pushing at the door from outside, the other demon holding fast on the inside. After a fierce struggle, continuing all through the night: Finally in the morning light, Laughter fills the air: They were friends from the start. I don’t know how I found the heart or the nerve to go through what I went through—to be where there is no way out, or around, or through. Up against It, none of the instructions in the world applied. But there, where meditation was of no use whatsoever, somehow I underwent transformation. Eventually I reflected that my experience was in accord with the fundamental teaching in Soto Zen: just sit. Sitting is beyond your doing—it’s PHOTO | MEGAHERZ GMBH Your performance is not the measure of how good you are. If you are studying how to be a good student, Suzuki Roshi said, that is being a good student.