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Buddhadharma : Winter 2006
buddhadharma| 37 |winter 2006 person being right and another person wrong. What is important, therefore, is maintaining har- mony in our relationships, both as individuals and as members of society. The larger the society we live in, the more important it is to have harmony in our behavior toward others. Without this, com- munal life breaks down. In this social context, the awakened mind is like a mirror that reflects its surroundings and illumi- nates the nature of interactions between self and other. But awakening to the true nature of our own minds does not mean that suddenly we can directly affect the world around us. This point is the source of much confusion. Awakening to one’s true self does not confer special powers. An enlightened person is not suddenly able to play the piano like a great musician or paint like Picasso or Mattisse. Painting a picture, composing a song, or writing a poem that will move people’s hearts is a mat- ter of talent and technique, nurtured and polished through practice and effort. Thus in the spiritual life, awakening must be developed through training, just as great artists train. Such training, in turn, deepens and enriches a person’s character. The mere fact of enlighten- ment does not mean that all of one’s impulses are suddenly perfect, but rather that one sees more accurately how one should live. When our daily conduct emerges from a clear, awakened mind, then those in contact with us are subtly yet pro- foundly affected. The relationship of awakening and daily con- duct works in the other direction as well. When one lives in accord with the precepts, one becomes more closely aligned with one’s essential nature. Hence, those who strive to follow the Buddhist precepts will gradually move toward the awak- ened mind that is manifested by those teachings. This is what I meant earlier when I said that we can work backwards from the precepts. One must be careful not to misunderstand this, however. A literal, precept-based lifestyle alone is not enough to effect awakening. Following the rules in a mechanical manner can simply be another form of attachment, if it’s not accompanied by effort toward the realization of buddhamind. The precepts can be an effective aid to practice, but clinging to their form is a hindrance. What we call kensho is an awakening to the absolute liberation that is the original state of our minds, a state we are usually unaware of because of the solid sense of self that arises through our preconceptions, attachments, and desires. Kensho is therefore not something separate from us; it is simply throwing off our fixations, returning to that which we always were. The precepts should serve this goal of awakening. You mentioned Picasso. Do you make a distinc- tion between a great artist or athlete and someone awakened to the Buddha’s way? Yes. I was referring to Picasso only as an example of a person of great talent. If art and spirituality were the same, spiritual growth might be easier if we all strove for excellence in art! Athletes are similar to artists in some ways. Like artists, they start with certain gifts that predispose them to success in their sport, but extraordinary practice and training are also essential if they wish to excel. Through such cultivation, they can attain what can be characterized as states of samadhi [zanmai in Japanese]. There are various types of samadhi. The two main ones are what we call in Japanese ji zanmai [“samadhi of the particular”] and kaio zanmai [“Ocean King samadhi”]. Ji zanmai manifests only in the midst of a certain activity, as the result of absorption in the performance of that activity – like a Japanese go master who, in the course of a game, completely forgets his physical body and the environment around him. Picasso and Matisse, too, undoubtedly painted with such focus, utterly absorbed in their work. This is a state in which body, surroundings, and ethics are all forgotten. Everything is poured into expression. This is how great artists can produce such marvelous works. Kaio zanmai is much different. It involves a per- son’s entire being. This is samadhi in the religious sense of the word; it is how the Buddha was liber- ated. Although there are no “levels” in the expe- rience of enlightenment, Hakuin’s disciple Torei Enji [1721–1792] points out in his “Inexhaustible Lamp” that even after awakening, a long, hard path of further opening, polishing, and purifica- tion lies ahead. A single experience of enlighten- ment does not mark the end of training; continued diligence and effort are necessary for progress in the Way. Hearing this, beginners may wonder if there’s any use even starting. So teachers tend not to emphasize this aspect of the practice. But the fact is that with kensho, one has only just taken the vital first step toward fulfilling one’s true human potential. From there begins an opening into the world around you. Ki, the Essence of All Things In sesshin you often speak about recognizing and regulating ki, or energy, in all parts of our life. This has really helped me. How do you suggest working with ki in zazen? There are many ways of cultivating ki, such as yoga, qigong, and tai chi. However, the ideal way RolAndScHmid