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Buddhadharma : Summer 2019
GEOFFREY SHUGEN ARNOLD 83 There’s a lot of teaching in Buddhism and Zen about cultivating pliancy within our mind, a softness, a suppleness, that has the capac ity to bend and respond in accord with the moment. Rather than react in accord with our past experiences, which we overlay on real ity, we can respond to what’s actually happening. We cultivate this capacity in zazen, developing the mind of equanimity, of stability; we begin to discover there is space and time within which to see and move. In reactivity, there’s very little gap between what happens and our response. A person says something, and we get angry and respond— and because there appears to be no gap, our perception is that they did that to us; they made us angry. When we look more closely, we see this isn’t so. In a moment of defensiveness, the sense of self experiences a threat, and instantly we can become upset and hardened as if we’re building a fortress to defend ourselves from attack. Or maybe we just become heavy and dull under that perceived attack—we go to sleep, a kind of inner collapse. This state of reactivity is different from responding. The ability to be responsive, and take responsibility, is pliancy. It’s to be fully awake, mindful and moving from within the dharma. It’s resilience. In Buddhism, the three doors of liberation are emptiness, signless ness, and wishlessness. All three are doors of resilience. Emptiness is a way of saying nothing is fixed or solid; there is no enduring self. An emotion, no matter how strong, is not permanent or something apart. It’s not you. And it’s not not you. Everything, no matter how intractable it seems—a government, a culture, a com munity—is impermanent. Because of this, nothing is predetermined. We are always working within a flowing stream of possibilities; there is resilience. Shift and change are always available, both within and beyond ourselves. Signlessness is to be free of any inherent quality. Anger itself is free of any locatable essence—anger—that we experience. Anger is just the name we give the experience, but that sensation is not fixed. If it were, then it would make sense that we should distance