using the arrow buttons.
by clicking on the page.
the page around when zoomed in by dragging it.
the zoom using the slider when zoomed-in.
by clicking on the zoomed-in page.
by entering text in the search field, and select "This Issue" or "All Issues"
by clicking on thumbnails to select pages, and then press the print button.
displays sections with thumbnails and descriptions.
displays a slider of thumbnails. Click on a page to jump.
allows you to browse the full archive.
about your subscription?
Buddhadharma : Fall 2011
67 fall 2 01 1 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly I’M oFten ACCUsed of emphasizing the difficulties in practice. the accusation is true. Believe me, the difficulties are there. If we don’t recognize them and why they arise, we tend to fool ourselves. still, the ultimate reality—not only in sitting, but also in our lives—is joy. By joy I don’t mean happiness; they’re not the same. Happiness has an opposite; joy does not. As long as we seek happiness, we’re going to have unhappi- ness, because we always swing from one pole to the other. From time to time, we do experience joy. It can arise acci- dentally or in the course of our sitting or elsewhere in our lives. For a while after sesshin, we may experience joy. over years of practice, our experience of joy deepens—if, that is, we understand practice and are willing to do it. Most people are not. Joy isn’t something we have to find. Joy is who we are if we’re not preoccupied with something else. when we try to find joy, we are simply adding a thought—and an unhelpful one, at that—onto the basic fact of what we are. we don’t need to go looking for joy. But we do need to do something. the question is, what? our lives don’t feel joyful, and we keep trying to find a remedy. our lives are basically about perception. By perception I mean whatever the senses bring in. we see, we hear, we touch, we smell, and so on. that’s what life really is. Most of the time, however, we substitute another activity for perception; we cover it over with something else, which I’ll call evalua- tion. By evaluation, I don’t mean an objective, dispassionate analysis—as, for example, when we look over a messy room and consider or evaluate how to clean it up. the evaluation I have in mind is ego centered: “Is this next episode in my life going to bring me something I like, or not? Is it going to hurt, or isn’t it? Is it pleasant or unpleasant? does it make me important or unimportant? does it give me something mate- rial?” It’s our nature to evaluate in this way. to the extent that we give ourselves over to evaluation of this kind, joy will be missing from our lives. It’s amazing how quickly we can switch into evaluation. Perhaps we’re functioning pretty well—and then suddenly somebody criticizes what we’re doing. In a fraction of a sec- ond, we jump into our thoughts. we’re quite willing to get into that interesting space of judging others or ourselves. there’s a lot of drama in all of this, and we like it, more than we realize. Unless the drama becomes lengthy and punishing, we enter willingly into it, because as human beings we have a basic orientation toward drama. From an ordinary point of view, to be in a world of pure perception is pretty dull. suppose we’ve been away on vacation for a week, and we come back. Perhaps we’ve enjoyed ourselves, or we think we have. when we return to work, the “In” box is loaded with things to do, and scattered all over the desk are little messages, “while you were out.” when people call us at work, it usually means that they want something. Perhaps the job we left for someone else to take care of has been neglected. Immediately, we’re evaluating the situation. “who fouled up?” “who slacked off?” “why is she calling? I bet it’s the same old problem.” “It’s their responsibility anyway. why are they calling me?” Likewise, at the end of sesshin we may experience the flow of a joyful life; then we wonder where it goes. though it doesn’t go anywhere, something has happened: a cloud covers the clarity. Until we know that joy is exactly what’s happening, minus our opinion of it, we’re going to have only a small amount of joy. when we stay with perception rather than getting lost in evaluation, however, joy can be the person who didn’t do the job while we were gone. It can be the interesting encounter on the phone with all of the people we have to call, no matter what they want. Joy can be having a sore throat; it can be get- ting laid off; it can be unexpectedly having to work overtime. It can be having to take a math exam or dealing with one’s former spouse who wants more money. Usually we don’t think that these things are joy. Practice is about dealing with suffering. It’s not that the suffering is important or valuable in itself, but that suffering is our teacher. It’s the other side of life, and until we can see all of life, there’s not going to be any joy. to be honest, sesshin is controlled suffering. we get a chance to face our suffering in a practice situation. As we sit, all the traditional attributes of a good Zen student come under fire: endurance, humil- ity, patience, compassion. these things sound great in books, but they’re not so attractive when we’re hurting. that’s why sesshin ought not to be easy: we need to learn to be with our suffering and still act appropriately. when we learn to be with our experience, whatever it is, we are more aware of the joy that is our life. From Everyday Zen and Nothing Special by Charlotte Joko Beck, © Charlotte Joko Beck, 1989 & 1993, reprinted with permission from HarperOne, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. It takes courage to sit well. Zen is not a discipline for everyone. We have to be willing to do something that is not easy. If we do it with patience and perseverance, with the guidance of a good teacher, then gradually our life settles down, becomes more balanced.