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Buddhadharma : Winter 2018
104 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER'S QUARTERLY if I do something with my life. Instead, the universe is doing some- thing, with me. It is always taking me into the unknown. Doubt about what to do next is a gate. Nothing is known about what comes next. To step into the unknown, you just have to hear about the unknown. You are already through a gate. You forget who you thought you were. Most of all the gate is this question: What is it like to be me, now, when I don’t know? And then you find that the material you’re always reaching past, the material that fills your mind, your daily delusion, is itself a part of the shining quality of life. We’re always thinking, “Oh, there’s the light over there.” But the light is not in what’s being reached for, it’s in the person who’s reach- ing. So if you do something as simple as say “What’s it like to be me right now?” you’re actually revealing the whole secret. We notice the vastness inside the liveliness of the situation—that it’s here, right here, in the job you didn’t get, the messy divorce, the tenderness of caring for someone whose body is giving out. The simplification of meditation allows us to experience the richness in the way that grabbing things doesn’t, and catching and accumulating stuff doesn’t. I like it when the aliveness turns up in unexpected places. This is a few years ago: we are in SFO on a long-haul jet, heading to Sydney. Everyone has boarded. When the crew comes around closing the overhead bins, the one next to me doesn’t close. They call mainte- nance and maintenance is busy on another plane, so: “We might be here for a while.” Then a well-dressed, polite Australian in the seat behind me stands up. He looks at the overhead bin for a few seconds and says, “Can somebody give me a hand?” And the man in the next seat pops up. “You hold that,” the first man directs the second. The neighbor applies force as told and the man from Sydney presses with the heel of his hand, and the bin closes. We take off. I turned and asked, “How did you do that?” “Oh, I used to be a car thief,” he said. “Really just for fun.” He wasn’t making any elevated claims about himself as a profes- sional. “I’m not really that good at it,” he indicated, his modesty holding us in his spell. He was like the samurai in Kurosawa films who practices his martial art just for the sake of the art. So his car thievery was a kind of practice, like meditation, like Shenshan mend- ing on a casual night. The whole earth is spewing flames. JOHN TARRANT ROSHI directs Pacific Zen Institute. He is the author of Bring Me the Rhinoceros & Other Koans That Will Save Your Life as well as the publisher of the online journal Uncertainty Club.