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Buddhadharma : Spring 2017
spring 2 0 1 7 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly 33 meeting place somewhere else. With any sequential path of progress, implying separation from some goal, one can never be fully present. Of course, practice does involve transformation. And becom- ing familiar with one’s tendencies based on the three poisons, and thereby not being obstructed by them, is a necessary part of awakening practice. But for Yunju and Dongshan, some sequential, systematized scheme of attainment missed the point. The meditation practice that expresses and enacts the awareness of the peak of suchness can be described as objectless meditation. In this kind of meditation, there is no limited objective or goal; enlightenment is not yet another object to desire. Dogen says that deluded people have delusions about enlightenment, and enlightened people are enlightened about their delusions. Objectless medi- tation, such as the “just sitting” of Soto Zen, opens up the whole field of awareness, not just particular meditation objects. In the sudden awakening of suchness, practice starts from the mountaintop; practicing suchness without delay, everything is just as it is. The bodhi- sattva practitioner commits to helping everyone realize that for themselves and to responding help- fully to obstructions, both personal and in the world around us. Even in the immediacy of suchness practice from the mountaintop, most practitioners eventually engage in practices that fill in the pathways from below to the peak of suchness. When the mind is groggy or drifting along amid thoughts and feel- ings, it is helpful to focus on particular objects for a while to assist the settling and calming that is part of meditative awareness. Practically speaking, medi- tation involving focus on objects, such as breath- ing, sound, mantras, or phrases from the teachings or koans, may be very useful for some students to approach suchness or return to it. In fact, from the perspective of objectless meditation and suchness, joining in more limited meditation on objects, including programs with stages of progress and attainment, may be useful, as long as one does not reify such programs as the point of practice. One need not become attached to a particular object or technique or be obsessed with attaining some par- tial goal or objective. One may even joyfully engage with such objects and stages as the awakened play and background adornments of the practice of suchness itself. Particular practices are the benefi- cial, practical expressions of the ultimate truth of suchness within the limited phenomenal world. Ultimately, however, the true transformative function of sustained zazen practice seems to occur beyond any technique, beyond our opinions of whether our zazen is good, bad, boring, or exalted. It is “the vital process on the path of going beyond Buddha”; buddha might even be defined as “bud- dha always going beyond buddha.” The histori- cal Buddha did not stop practicing after his great awakening but continued meditating and awaken- ing every day of his life. In each new situation, with each new fellow practitioner, fresh awakening may arise or may be required to meet the changes. Even if you have some excellent refined understanding of buddha, or a sublime image of buddha, or even a deep personal transcendent experience of buddha, it is not enough to just enshrine that and look back on it. The only real buddha is a buddha going beyond, an actual buddha actively responding to the world with the ongoing sustainable, renewable resource of buddha. copyriGht©2015losanGelestimes.reprintedWithpermission Even if you have some excellent, refined understanding of buddha, it is not enough to just enshrine that. The only real buddha is a buddha going beyond.