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Buddhadharma : Summer 2006
buddhadharma| 61 |summer 2006 and bad. Our practice is to go beyond the realm of good and bad and to realize one absolute world. If I say it in this way, it may be rather difficult to understand. Hashimoto Roshi, the famous Zen master who passed away in 1967, explained this point. He said it is like the way we prepare food by separating the various dishes. Rice is here, and pickles are over there, and soup is in the middle bowl. We don’t cook gruel all the time, mixing everything up in one bowl. To prepare each thing separately in this way is the usual world of seeming. But when you put it in your tummy – the soup, rice, pickles, and every- thing get all mixed up and you don’t know which is which. That is the world of the absolute. As long as rice, pickles, and soup remain separate on your tray, it’s not working. That is like your intellectual understanding, or book knowledge. Zazen practice is mixing up the various ways we have of understanding and letting it all work together. How to let it work is our practice. The other day, by chance, I talked about a kerosene lamp. A lamp will not work merely because it is filled with kerosene. It also needs air for combus- tion. And even though it has air, it needs matches to make it work. Lighting the flame with matches is our practice, which is transmitted from Buddha to us. By the aid of matches, air, and kerosene, the lamp will start to work. This is actually our zazen practice. In the same way, even though you say, “I have buddhanature,” that alone is not enough to make it work. If you have no Buddha, it doesn’t work; if you have no friend or no sangha, it doesn’t work. When we practice with the aid of the sangha, helped by the Buddha, we can practice our zazen in its true sense, and we will have bright light here in the Tassajara zendo. What is our practice, and what is our every- day life? This we should clearly know. We should know how to extend zazen practice in our every- day life. When we are practicing zazen in this way, we have practice in its true sense. The reason it is difficult to extend our practice to city life is because of the lack of precise understanding of our Zen teaching. Before you ask questions, you should know how to adjust the flame. To have a so-called enlightened experience is of course important. But what is more important is to know how to adjust the flame, the light, in zazen and in our everyday life. When the flame is in complete combustion, you don’t smell the oil. When it is smoky, you will have a kind of smell. You may realize that it is a kerosene lamp. When your life is in complete combustion, you have no complaint, and there is no need to be aware of your practice. We should know that if we talk too much about zazen, it is already a smoky kerosene lamp. Maybe I am a very smoky kerosene lamp. I don’t necessarily want to give a lecture. I just want to live with you, moving stones, having a nice hot spring bath, and eating something good. Zen is right there. When I start to talk about something, it is already a smoking kerosene lamp. As long as I must give a lecture, I have to explain in terms of right and wrong: “This is right practice, this is wrong, this is how to practice zazen...” It is like giving you a recipe. It doesn’t work. You cannot eat a recipe. Maybe after having a long practice in hot sum- mer weather, we may enjoy saying something or listening to some words. This is also how we practice. I just said that to know how to adjust the flame is important. That is what Dogen Zenji worked so hard to show us. Usually a Zen master will give you, “Practice zazen, then you will attain enlightenment. If you attain enlightenment, you will be detached from everything and you will see ‘things as it is.’ So if you want to see ‘things as it is,’ you must practice zazen very hard and attain enlightenment.” That is usually what a Zen master will say. But our way is not always so. What he says is of course true. But what Dogen Zenji told us was how to adjust the flame of our lamp back and forth. In the Shobogenzo he made this point. This is one of the characteristics of Soto Zen. People say that the Soto school has no koan practice. But Dogen Zenji, after studying koans, put all the koans into a quite simple form, like Tozan Zenji did in China. Tozan Zenji used the five ranks of the seeming and real. Dogen Zenji’s understanding, or teaching, of Zen is much simpler than that. The point of Dogen Zenji’s zazen is to live in each moment in complete combustion, like a kerosene lamp or like a candle. The way to live in each moment, and to become one with everything and obtain oneness with the whole universe, is the point of his teaching and his practice. Zazen practice is a very subtle thing. When you are working, something you do not realize will mentally and physically be realized if you practice zazen. I was moving stones for a while, and I didn’t realize that my muscles were tired. But today as I sat in this way, calmly, I realized, “Oh, my muscles are in pretty bad condition.” I felt some pain in the various parts of my body. I don’t have much flesh, so my bones are pretty painful. If you have no problems, then you think you can practice zazen very well, but actually it is not so. Some problem is necessary. It doesn’t have to be a big one. Dogen Zenji says that through the difficulty you have, you can practice zazen. This MInoRuAokI