May 24, 2017

Feedback, anyone?

It's been kind of lonely here lately. I got an occasional comment now and then, but recently I got basically no feedback so I wonder if anyone is reading my blog any longer or the readers are just robots from Russia.

If you happen to read my blog more or less regularly, please make a comment and let me know if you practice zazen, if you study with a teacher or something. I have really no idea who reads my blog, why, where, etc. I do get quite a lot of hits, but as I said, no idea who the people are. So it would help a lot if you tell me something so I get a kick and write for someone, not just myself or this computer or robots.

Thank you.      

April 6, 2017

Ca ira!

In the past I was very proud of my ability to explain various aspects of the Buddhist philosophy. I  don't feel that pride any more. Of course I did not say much to anyone, but I thought so - I'm someone who has a great ability to explain Buddhism. And I imagined that in a few years I would publish a book of my essays on Buddhism. (Today I don't want to publish my old essays, except maybe a few. )

I also always wanted to return to mental clarity, brightness. When I fell into a state of confusion or irritation, I felt that I'd failed horribly. I believed that a good Buddhist talks about their own delusions, but basically never has any! I imagined that Buddhist teachers had a sense of reality that I was far away from. So I tried to get rid of my confusion and ignorance whenever there was the opportunity to do so. I always sought a state of calm and clarity. Thanks to zazen I could regularly return to similar states. Then, in a state like that I enjoyed writing articles about Buddhism or giving a talk at the Prague Lotus Center. I didn't realize that I was carrying a big piece of idealism in my head, which prevented me from becoming free and myself. I saw a clear difference between wisdom on the one hand and ignorance on the other, the truth as opposed to delusion, people who are true versus people who are deluded.  I had no idea that there is something not fixed about buddhas, something not clear about the truth, something very, very open about our lives, something completely open and free about each of us, some kind of quality that we cannot clearly notice and fix, a situation of no limits, which is where we act like or express ourselves perfectly as buddhas. Long time ago I realized that the truth cannot be grasped by mind, but for some reason at that time I didn't realize that people are also like that, ineffable, that I am also ineffable, impossible to fix in a category. I could drink tea without calling it tea, I could walk without calling it walk, I could see flowers without calling them flowers, but I could not see myself as a quality without names. I always wanted to know who I am, what my function is, what my rank is, what value I have, what wisdom or silliness I have, what I mean to others, what I know, what I don't know. I had no idea that I could put aside such evaluations and concerns and just enjoy being "unlabeled, beyond ranks or values".   We cannot always clearly decide who is true or false, who is awake and who is not, as most of the time none of us is fixed or stuck in a rigid cage that has a name or label. We can notice that some people are usually confused and some people are often clear. We can notice that some people look for something and some people may naively believe that they have found something fixed. Genuine teachers are able to point to the place which has no name or rank. Then we can find freedom in that place and live our life freely. Master Dogen wrote that he had completed the task of unfinished, never-ending practice. I would say that as he had completed that task, master Dogen's life simply began to mean never-ending chain of momentary tasks. We could call it freedom, or a challenge after challenge.

As for people who are awake, I think it is similar to the situation of a tree. Does a tree show off its awakening? The tree expresses the truth but firstly the tree is not aware of such a situation, secondly,  it never speaks about its own awakening. It doesn't shout: "I radiate awakening. I am an enlightened tree, I am a buddha tree." So good teachers never say about themselves - here, here, can't you see I am a Buddha? That would be so absurd. The Buddhas do not need to fix this situation and show others. When you are in a state of confusion, you don't have to say, oh, I'm not Buddha ... because just as you are going to say what you are or you aren't, the situation has changed and you may be completely free again, so your words come too late. If you attain a state of clarity and want to say it, you have already fallen into a state of cloudiness. So we can only try to point to situations that we cannot experience at the very moment of opening our mouths. The ideas are always only shadows of actual situations. Anyway, speaking or acting, when the Buddhist teachers express the state of Buddha, they express the reality itself, not their abilities or skills or wisdom. When ringing the bell or raising a stick, they show the reality itself, not their personal opinions or personal qualities. These teachers may seem confident, they may be confident, but the kind of confidence that matters is transcending one's personal attitude, so they immediately forget themselves boldly and act - step into sheer reality. They may say things such as: "I do not know who I am, I don't know if I understand Buddhism," and then they hit the bell. Just that.

Master Dogen wrote: "The actual situation is where we feel that we have forgotten what we know and when we achieve that, we have overcome the mind." So it is important to forget what we have learned. That was exactly my weakness. I was proud of what I'd  learned, what experience I had, proud of my understanding of Buddhism. So I was a kind of rabbit with horns. Maybe sincere, maybe honest at times, but definitely a rabbit with horns. And even now I may be a rabbit with horns. In my own essays I wrote: "Forget what you know and just do something." Of course, I did something many times during the day and didn't think about myself. That's why I enjoyed skiing, cycling, golf... swimming in the sea. In those situations I could be free, free from my own silly ideas about who I was and wasn't. Only during such activities, I was really able to forget myself and enter reality - like everyone else who's doing something completely. But once I had time to think about myself, I became a desperate idealist. It devoured and broke me, over and over again. It knocked me down and messed up my original innocence. "You're not good enough!" an idealistic cop shouted at me from a corner of my brain. Well, I would say today, nobody is good enough and everyone is good enough. The efforts we make are important, but our evaluation should be put aside. So good enough or not good enough, the most important is to get up in the morning and follow the tasks each day presents, moment after moment, till we go to sleep. And start again in the morning. At times I tried to push very hard and at times I slowed down so much that I felt almost on the verge of dying. Now, we may believe that we have slowed down or hurried up, but the time and space doesn't care. No matter how little or hard we try, we cannot mislead time and space, we'll be always here and now, in this very body and mind. Reality is pretty sheer. You can change reality, for sure, but you cannot change it by thinking. By thinking you can prepare actions that will change reality, so thinking or understanding Buddhism is important. But only certain kind of understanding or right understanding leads to actions that come from the right attitude. So not trying to hurry things up or slowing things down. Just actions at the present moment.  

When we try hard to get rid of our illusions, or when we try to get rid of our imperfections, mistakes, or whenever we try to be someone other than who we already are... it's all against the meaning of Buddhism. The effort is important in Buddhism, but it must be the right effort. It is not about removing illusions and establishing brightness. It is not getting rid of weaknesses. Although we learn as we practice and study, we do not learn to be stronger. The strength we may get as we practice is our original nature. The weaknesses we still have, are our original nature. A butterfly cannot eat a tiger. A tiger cannot swim across the lake. A human being wants to have sex. So when we see what is natural, we can say, OK, whatever, and just return to our everyday life. A butterfly is too weak to fly across Africa, so it flies only across the meadow. A tiger is too heavy to sit on a flower, so it sits on a boulder. A human being is too intelligent to act like a frog, so a human being studies philosophy. When we practice zazen, we can see our weakness and smile. It is OK. When we want to deny our weakness, we become stiff and break ourselves or someone else sooner or later. We don't have to become some kind of samurais, who never make a wrong step. Rather we should just forget our ideas about ourselves, buddhas, enlightenment and just do something, all day long. Stupidly act, moment after moment, even when we read a wonderful book of philosophy, we can read it stupidly, that means like a child, a very curious child. When we don't' study Buddhism stupidly, we mix the authentic teaching with our intellectual ideas and spoil the whole thing, the whole teaching. So we have to be careful about our ability to think and judge. Of course we have a great goal - to realize the truth of Buddhism - and I'm not saying that we should slack and make no efforts. Just the efforts should be somehow stupid and simple, every day, day after day, over and over, somehow simply doing what is necessary to do and not worry how great we are or how great others are. A teacher is someone who helps, that help is primary, his or her possible greatness is secondary. But many people make the mistake of judging the teacher without seeing his offered help. When you get to know your teacher very well, you may notice that he or she is not that great, but what they point to is more than great. And they, as long as they are authentic, never ever point to themselves as the goal of your efforts. You do not follow the teacher, you follow their directions. They may tell you to go left whereas they go right. After all you will meet them in the real world and there will be no directions, only the north, south, west and east.

Master Dogen also wrote: "Generally speaking, students want to be caught by the truth. Being caught by the truth means to lose all traces of enlightenment." This means that no matter if we think that we are enlightened or not, in both cases, we should ditch the ideas about enlightenment and just do something. This is something that I have written about a zillion times already, but I never realized what it meant. Of course, when I was swimming in the sea, I did realize, but as a whole, my life was broken into pieces of different ideas and attitudes toward myself and reality. Such a situation is impossible to cure if you have no access to a true teacher. Only a true teacher can notice that you haven't realized something important, that something important is missing. We ourselves are too busy following our own ideas about Buddhism that prevent us from seeing what Buddhism truly is. So we must make sure that we are learning from an experienced teacher and let the teacher know about our progress and problems and questions.

People who do not practice zazen, also express the truth of Buddhism. Even people who cheat, in a way, express the truth of Buddhism. But it is our human nature to live honestly and well. No matter how many weaknesses we have, we tend to end up living honestly and well. That is our nature. If you try hard to hammer your nature, you may end up a criminal or a complete fool, but if you look after yourself at least a little bit sincerely, you will allow your nature to shine from time to time. Just the thing is that when we do not practice zazen, this natural disposition of ours may be obscured, or blocked by our ideas about ourselves and the world. So we tend to follow some crazy movements or crowds and ignore the direction from which the truth comes. When we study Buddhism and practice zazen, we tend to live quite well. And if others say that we are good people, we should say, no, I am not so sure about that... We can't just simply declare whether we are good people or not. It doesn't matter. What matters is our everyday practice and everyday efforts in each moment, no matter if we fail or succeed.

I will continue to write this blog, but I hope it will not be driven by my desire to raise above others and become an important person. I do not want to hide away in the mountains, but I don't want to shout at people about Buddhism either... Anyway, the goal of life is life itself. This is very easy to say, but extremely difficult to realize. But, you know what, ca ira!

March 5, 2017

Making Efforts for the Sake of Efforts

Some people may think that in order to become a great person and realize what Buddhism is, they have to attain some kind of wonderful personality. We may think that one day we will become great Buddhists, but first we have to make some extraordinary efforts and learn extraordinary skills. But after all we have to let go of our ideas about Buddhism and great Buddhists of the past, present and future and return to our actual life and deal with our actual problems. In Buddhism it is much more important to make efforts for the sake of efforts than make efforts in order to receive results.

For example, at work I learned after many years of trying hard to be a better teacher that it is better to just make efforts this lesson, this week, this month, without worrying about my past mistakes and how much my students will learn when I try hard to teach them. So now I just make my efforts every day, sometimes it is going on well, sometimes not, sometimes I am exhausted and sometimes I am full of energy. At times I am a bit pessimistic and some other times a bit optimistic, but in general, I just make my efforts to teach English, over and over and over again. That makes me a real English teacher. Even if some people say that I am a very good English teacher, I don't know if I deserve that evaluation. Even if some people criticize me, I think they may not understand what it takes to teach English. But of course, I have never been an ideal, perfect English teacher and never will be.

It is exactly the same in Buddhism. At the beginning you wonder what it takes to become some kind of well respected Buddhist, a great human being. But after many years of practice and study you have to admit that the only thing that really matters is making efforts every day for the sake of efforts. So after all, even if some people say that you are an idiot and don't understand Buddhism, if you are making efforts sincerely to live your life, that's all you can do and the best you can do. If some people say, hey, look at that person, what a wonderful Buddhist!,  you know they may have very little idea what that wonderful Buddhist actually is in real life. They don't know his or her weaknesses and bad hair days.

You make efforts and necessarily notice all the mistakes you have made. I have just vacuumed my bedroom and realized that no matter how hard I try, I can never ever vacuum the carpet perfectly. No matter how hard we may try, we can never ever clean anything perfectly. And it is the same in Buddhism - no matter how many hours of zazen you practice every day, no matter how many enlightenments you experience, no matter how many sesshins you go to, no matter how many times you read  Shobogenzo, you can never ever become a perfectly enlightened person and can never claim that you have finished or completed anything in your life. Even if people think that so and so is a great Buddhist teacher, the teacher knows: "I only make efforts, I have experience but there is always something I can learn. I will never stop making efforts." I am not talking about people I dream about. I can notice how my teacher makes efforts in his everyday life and never stops. I doubt he will tell you that has finished learning what life is.

So only making efforts, day after day, no matter how many times we stumble, is the point. We may have been infected with ideas about wonderful Chinese masters of which we only know great things. But they probably made a mistake after mistake, never becoming perfect, never rigidly completing the tasks of every day life and saying "Now I am a perfect human being". They just kept making efforts. And master Dogen wrote that at one point he completed the task of never-ending practice. So in other words, master Dogen at one point realized that the meaning of Buddhism is never to stop making efforts, never to stop practicing, never to stop learning.

When we realize that making efforts is all we have to do, and  when we realize that while making efforts we necessarily make mistakes and that we can never do anything perfectly, we just let go of the idea that we could become great or special. We realize that we can only be ordinary people who make efforts like my grandma did. Day after day, she worked, never complained, never said she was great. She was happy when she finished her job well, but she started the next day, and did the same thing day after day. She knew that her task, her mission was just to do her duties and enjoy spending time with her grandchildren and scold my grandpa when she found him smoking at the toilet.

Now we should also understand that we make efforts and mistakes within the universe that is perfectly clear and without an error. We are playing in the midst of something great. We can never finish anything or make anything that would be on par  with the universal greatness. On the other hand, we are part of the universal greatness, no matter how hard we may try to mess up things. Even if we never take a shower, never clean our house and yell at people all the time, we can never escape the great clarity of the universe. Now why do Buddhists make efforts if we are part of something perfectly bright? It is the same situation with trees and grass. Why do they grow even if they have to die? Why are there trees and bugs and why do they reproduce if the universe is wonderful even without them? It is their nature to move and change and do something. We are people, we are part of the living world on this planet, so we cannot stop making efforts. Just like birds, cows, bugs, bacteria or the wind and rain, we are very dynamic and active. Now what kind of actions are natural and what kind of actions are sick? When we practice zazen, we reconnect with the source of our life, we reconnect to the universal law and that reconnection sends signals to our body and mind and we act naturally. We make the right kinds of efforts. Yet making the right efforts does not prevent us from making mistakes. Even ants and bees make mistakes, all living beings make mistakes, but having made a mistake, they try again. Have you seen a toddler learning to walk? Do they worry about making mistakes? No. They walk and fall down. They raise and walk again. They fall. They get up and fall again. This is an example of a perfect Buddhist life, this is how we should live. And even when we learn to walk, there are zillions of other things we have to deal with. Do trees ever stop growing? Not until they dry up. Do they ever stop trying? Never as long as they are alive. Do bees ever say:  "Finished, I am now a perfect bee, I am not going to do anything any more!"? No. Never. If we want to live a life of a buddha, all we have to do is making efforts every day, no matter if we make mistakes or not, and never stop. Let's join the efforts of mountains and clouds and do things for the sake of things. Then results will appear, just like a beautiful old pine has appeared on a cliff overlooking the endless sea.

February 24, 2017

Follow the Serpent's Tip

Here's a little disclaimer: All my articles, all my suggestions or explanations of Buddhism are directed towards me as well as towards whoever is interested or might benefit from my articles. So even if an article I have written seems like something I am telling others, in fact, I am the first to receive and hopefully benefit from such instructions. I need them - provided they are useful and true teachings. I don't know if my teaching is authentic but it is definitely some efforts to teach myself what I learned from good teachers, both people I met and teachings of people like master Dogen or Shunryu Suzuki whom I never met but whose teaching is studied in our lineage respectfully.   

When you don't think about it too much, you are IT, just that what you have always wanted to be, a free, simple person who is not overwhelmed by their intellectual questions and doubts.  Maybe you thought you would be as smart as those zen masters who give spiritual advice to others. But the help is not about being smart or knowing some kind of secret. The help is about directions to your simple, original, free self. So when you are doing something right now, you are perfectly on par with that Chinese layman Pang who said: "How wonderful! I draw water, I carry fuel."

So you are that person, that very original and perfectly unfinished, open person you always wanted to be. The thing is you might want to be a finished person, someone who has achieved something fixed, something stable or eternal, but actually, that desire for a fixed person, a fixed buddha is really against the very freedom and openness we practice and quest for in Buddhism. So when you let go of that fixed idea about who you are or who you want to be, then right then you are that, IT, the person, the real thing. There is absolutely nothing you have to add to that person. On the contrary, whenever you add something artificial, something fixed, rigid, and idea, decoration, an aura, wisdom, knowledge, any kind of spiritual experience, you have lost your own Tathagata - the person who has just appeared before thinking and after thinking, a person who is not bound by words or ideas.

We can have all kinds of goals. To graduate from college, to start a family, to make a million dollars, to have a few wonderful kids, to find a good Buddhist teacher, to realize who you really are, these are all wonderful goals and we need to set such goals in our lives, but after all, the most important goal of all goals is to live our life day after day. The utmost purpose of our life is just to live it. It is like a journey you have to continue. Rain or shine, you keep walking. Even if you stop for a drink in a pub, then you continue your journey, you don't give up. It doesn't matter if the weather is nice or not, whether you feel tired or energetic, optimistic or pessimistic, grumpy or excited. The most important thing is to continue. This is how the quality of buddha can shine over and over, every day, and that's how the original quality of the universe meets the original quality of a person.
What kind of life would you like to live? I think the best would be to live just the life that is unfolding right in front of you. It is like accepting the shoes you are wearing even if they aren't very comfortable. We only have this life, this person so it is best to make the best out of this life, these genes, this mouth, this nose, this age, this talent, this weakness, this situation, this town, this computer, this keyboard, this moment. It is not necessary to dream about someone else's life or imitate others or try to become somebody that we can never ever be. It is best to accept who we are - basically - and work with that. I am not saying we cannot change, but in Buddhism, the changes are not as important as the essence we have brought to this life from our mother's womb, the very thing we have always been. We learn, we make some progress and sooner or later we can meet ourselves completely. Sooner or later we can shake hands with ourselves. We can accept ourselves, this life, this situation. That's why Kodo Sawaki said that zazen has no goal. When we feel balanced after zazen, that is wonderful, but the less we try to attain something through zazen, the closer we are to our true self, and the true self is something we don't have to look for or attain, it is always here, just when we don't think about it.

Doing something simple, or asking a question or taking a pill or going to bed, without categories, without fixed ideas about ourselves and others, we can taste the freedom of Tathagata. So just let go of ideas and categories and the gate of the mental prison will open and you will be able to follow the serpent's tip - you'll grab the apple, eat it and step in to the Buddha's paradise! We don't know what Buddha's paradise is, as it cannot be found intellectually, but we can experience it when we just act, when we just practice zazen.


July 23, 2016

Dropping Off Things and People

Recently I've been thinking about whether we should purposely try to drop off body and mind or attain a state of dropping body and mind  or whether we should attain some kind of samadhi when we practice zazen.  Master Dogen mentions dropping off body and mind and samadhi from time to time.  On the other hand master Dogen seems to teach that just practicing here and now is enough, no matter how we feel -  confused, eager, impatient or whatever we feel. Just practicing is enlightenment and realization of the way. So it seems both is important, so which one is correct? Should we just practice zazen no matter how we feel or should we somehow cultivate zazen in order to attain the state of dropping off body and mind?  This is what I have been thinking about.

In Eihei Koroku, a record of master Dogen's short talks, master Dogen says: "Dropping off body and mind is the beginning of our efforts."  I see, so we should start with that ultimate thing!  That's a very interesting point. Master Dogen says that we shouldn't hope to gradually improve our zazen and one day drop off body and mind and then we will attain something. No. He basically says: Start with the ultimate. And that explains the problem whether we should try to make our zazen something wonderful, step by step, improve zazen, so one day it will be some kind of wonderful samadhi, that kind of enlightenment that you could talk about when you come across the teaching that zazen and satori is one. Some people may admit that if their zazen is some kind of  great samadhi, then it is enlightenment. But master Dogen basically says something else: Start with the ultimate, which explains what I have been wondering about recently. To start with the ultimate means that just when you sit down, at that very moment, immediately, drop off body and mind.  That means, just sit, don't worry about enlightenment,  don't worry about the depth of your zazen, don't worry about how you feel, or who you are, just sit, start with the ultimate, drop off body and mind right away.

It is like holding a knife: instead of thinking about how deep or shallow your state is, you just cut through the meat. You don't care if the knife is sharp or not, steel or not, you just cut. That's not different from dropping off body and mind. With this imperfect body and imperfect mind, and with doubts and confusion, just sit, just act, that's dropping off body and mind. Of course we have lots of ideas, Buddhist philosophy is complex and does cover a lot of issues and aspects. But all these theories should help us to always return to the ultimate, which is just reality here and now. Studying Buddhist philosophy and practicing zazen is not an idea that one day suddenly I will become enlightened, or that I will become enlightened gradually. Buddha Dharma, practicing zazen means that you have to give it all from the very beginning. That doesn't mean having to leave your family or practice zazen eight hours a day. It doesn't mean you have to make some fantastic efforts.  To give it all just means that when you sit down and begin to practice zazen, at that moment, just let go of everything. And then an idea comes up, like I am not... you are....and she, and buddha...  just let go of such ideas. Over and over again. And again. Zazen is a simple action here and now. Like this, you solve all your problems, you have realized what Buddhism is, you've dropped off body and mind and you have attained enlightenment. Just do it. So I am talking to myself: Just do it!    

It is common to think: "Maybe I should try harder. I am not wise enough, not peaceful enough, what is wrong with my practice? I simply practice zazen, over and over again, so maybe I should practice in a way that would give me more balance, more strength, more confidence? What if the way  I practice is not good enough? What if I have made my practice a routine without sincere efforts?" These are important questions. We should definitely practice sincerely. But the thing is that we completely realize the way when we just use that knife and cut the meat. When we do this, or whatever we do, completely. In that single moment, you do something completely. We are human, so we have positive and negative thoughts. We may have ideas about what is wise or deep and what is stupid and shallow. But we tend to underestimate or totally ignore the value of a simple action that we just simply carry out, sincerely carry out something mundane.

Yesterday I went to a party and I was thinking: "Why am I not more balanced and confident?" I thought I had to improve something in my life. Today I was looking for master Dogen's teaching about dropping off body and mind and I was thinking, if zazen is just sitting here and now, so what is dropping off body and mind, is that some kind of advanced state of zazen? No, later I found out that it is about beginning with dropping off body and mind, so no matter what we do, no matter how we feel, we can always drop off body and mind, which means we can always act in the present moment. If you feel strange at a party, you can still pour some wine and have a sip. You can go or you must go to the toilet. You can go home. You always have to act. So rather than thinking too much, we can focus on the single actions and find freedom there, freedom from our subjective thoughts and relax, just drop off everything, and do something.

If you come to a teacher and you tell him or her that you would like to learn what Buddhism is, maybe you will say: "What am I supposed to do?" Actually, that teacher will say, first of all, you must wake up.  I have never realized that it is like that. Whenever you come  to a Buddhist temple or zen center, you always hear things like: First of all, take off your shoes, or first of all, have some tea. That means: First of all, wake up. You have to start with waking up. All this first of all, first of all, is not different from first of all, wake up. So start with the ultimate. So when you want to practice and study Buddhism, you always begin with the ultimate.  If you come across a teacher who keeps talking about how you will gradually become enlightened or gradually become wise, and how you are not a buddha yet, make sure it is a true teacher. A true teacher can recognize your true self and point to it, a true teacher does not say you are not a buddha, they just give you a push so you stop dreaming. And the teacher will be a living example of someone who simply acts, no matter how busy he or she is thinking from time to time, but someone who simply drops off body and mind in the middle of a simple, direct action.

My teacher Mike Luetchford sometimes says that learning Buddhism is similar to learning a sport or craft. Is this a big contradiction? Before I said you start with awakening. So how can you gradually learn to be some kind of mature person? This  is a paradox, but both is true. You do start with simple actions, simple awakenings, and for twenty years you may have lots of questions, but the difference after twenty years may be that some doubts have disappeared. Besides that, you may develop some kind of mature attitude, for example you stop believing in some advanced states of zazen or masters who are superhuman and make no mistakes. So you can gradually learn that Buddhism is not an idea or feeling or wonderful samadhi or interesting talks and impressing others, rather a very sloppy everyday life. Not sloppy in terms of sloppy actions, but sloppy in terms of being far from perfect. A life that has all kinds of problems and mistakes and pains. You can get used to this truth and find a strange kind of comfort there.

Anyway, somebody might wonder: Has master Dogen attained dropping body and mind after many many years of practice and questions and travels looking for a true teacher? It seems that when he said: "Body and mind dropped off," he meant that it took him decades. But he didn't say: "It took me decades to drop off body and mind." He just said "body and mind dropped off". Which doesn't mean he had never dropped off  body and mind before.  So why did ho go and tell his teacher? I think he had realized that a simple action of zazen (I mean zazen could be called a series of many simple actions of zazen) is not different from body and mind dropped off and that he had never failed to drop off body and mind when practicing zazen. But now he realized the importance of that simple experience and told his teacher. I don't think master Dogen meant to brag about something he attained after many years of hard practice. But maybe until then he never completely realized the meaning of a simple action of zazen.

You may be a cook and you may use a knife for years, and you may be an excellent cook. But you may have doubts: What is the meaning of cooking? And one day you realize that the meaning of cooking is this simple action here and now in the kitchen. While actually living, moment after moment, we often ask questions like what is the meaning of life, what is the truth, what is right and what is wrong? A cook, using this knife, over and over again, hardly ever asks, what is this knife, what am I doing, why am I cooking? Maybe some cooks do ask such questions. But most just keep cooking, keep acting, keep using the knife. So what we may realize after practicing zazen for some years, is that our sincere effort here and now is the ultimate thing in life. And this sincere effort, this simple action, is not different from dropping off body and mind, so in our simple, sincere efforts, we fulfill the ultimate task of a Buddhist life, something master Dogen was looking for in China. He wanted to know, what is the ultimate task of a Buddhist, and later he realized it was just living this life, no matter what, despite all kinds of problems.

There is no limit, no category, not a single person, not two people, not many people, not all sentient beings, when you drop off body and mind, it is the ultimate state of the whole universe. So it must be something ultimate. When you use a knife, and just do it, in that action, the subject, the object and everything else disappears. This action is complete and it is the complete action of the whole universe.  Dropping off body and mind is not a state in the future, it is not a state  in the past. It is not something you think about or feel. You may say that master Dogen noticed dropping off body and mind. Not his or somebody else's. The whole universe dropped off body and mind, and body and mind dropped off the whole universe. That is something beyond all kinds of levels of all kinds of samadhi. It is our life here and now, when we just do something, when we act simply and directly, when we put down the plate or when we move a chair.

When master Dogen returned to Japan, he said he came empty-handed. He had left China in China and brought Japan to Japan. So we can also act like that. When going to the kitchen, leave the living room behind and when coming to the living room, don't bring the kitchen with you. Although our lives may be very complicated and difficult, if we do not move kitchens to living rooms, our life will have a bright side. If we just practice zazen like children, not trying to attain a special state, our zazen practice will surely have a quality of buddhas.  



November 27, 2015

The Backswing of Our Lives

It dawned upon me when I was working on my golf backswing. I have been working on my backswing for a few months and only recently I  noticed or recognized, how simple that movement is. And how important it is not to rush it.  

When we have to prepare something, the first thing that may occur to us is - in order to make this or that, I have to first... So naturally we tend to rush. It seems the preparation is less important than the goal. In Buddhism the preparation is the goal. That doesn't mean that in Buddhism we don't care about results. But any single moment of preparation is itself a very important result. So when we have a goal in our lives, we hope to achieve it as soon as possible. In Buddhism when we have a goal, it is OK, but then we immediately focus on what we are doing now. We cannot escape the very moment of here and now, so we'd better do our best. 

The meaning of backswing to me is that it shows exactly what happens if you think hitting the ball is more important than doing the backswing. Of course, intelligent people know that it is necessary to do things properly. Moment after moment. But in Buddhism, or typically in golf, people expect quick results or quick fun. And when the desired results don't come, the disappointed people put up with mediocrity. Buddhism becomes a bunch of nice ideas. Golf becomes a few nice shots and a lot of frustration all over the course. But if we want to find out who we really are, we need to care what we do and how we do it, otherwise it is very difficult to appreciate our true life. So making things in a rushed way or with an attitude that is too relaxed, doesn't work. 

In Buddhism you learn to find satisfaction here and now, even before you drink tea. Even if you are hungry, cooking is more important than eating at that moment. In golf I am learning to appreciate fully every little movement before I hit the ball. The urge to hit the ball is the first reaction. But the backswing means: No, first there is the backswing and you'd better do it properly. In Buddhism, to attain the truth is the noble and important goal. But how to attain it as quickly as possible? It is not about quickness, it is about what is going on right now. So, again, if necessary, go back to the kitchen and do the dishes. Golfers don't say that the backswing is the essence of golf. But it is. Every little movement you do within golf, is the essence of golf. Even putting on the golf shoes is the essence of golf. Every little moment of our life is important and potentially absolutely satisfying and absolutely meaningful.   

There is nowhere to rush. It all happens here and now. 


July 24, 2015

To Wake Up Is Better than LSD

I have written this article based on Brad Warner's article about taking psychedelic drugs. Here I am not just repeating what Brad had to write about the topic, rather I tried to add my point of view, or rather my experience with drugs versus practicing zazen. Here's the link to Brad's article: 

To wake up doesn't mean to be more compassionate or kinder. To wake up means to be compassionate enough and kind enough, which sometimes means not kind at all or not compassionate at all.

Some people believe in all kinds of meditation techniques or psychedelic drugs that should make them kinder or more open to the world. To wake up is not like that. It means what is in front of me is in front of me - sometimes it is cold, sometimes hot, sometimes it is beautiful, sometimes it is ugly. Psychedelic drug users want to see things in a new way, nicer, more interesting, they want to see the world as if it was some kind of miracle. Or they want to be a bit special themselves. According to Buddha, the world is a miracle but what kind of miracle? Our naked existence already is a miracle, but what kind of miracle? It is only possible to see exactly what kind of miracle the world is when we are 100% sober and our mind is clear - that is when we are not intoxicated by any drugs or ideas or religions or movements or emotions. There is a lot of suffering and pain in this world. That's a fact. The question is how to deal with suffering and pain, our own and that of the others. According to Buddha, the best way to deal with our suffering and suffering of others is to wake up completely. Then we see that some kind of suffering must always continue, but the way we understand suffering when we see things clearly is different from the situation when we are intoxicated, be it by religion or ideas or drugs. Unfortunately, waking up is to many people just another kind of psychedelic drug -  you meditate and meditate until you get into some kind of fantastic state of consciousness. Yes, then you are unable to see the truth at all. So psychedelic drugs or meditation that leads to yet another fantastic state of consciousness has nothing to do with Buddha's awakening.

When we wake up, we see that our illusions, our suffering, our imagination, our feelings, all these are necessary to a certain degree. But we also see that it is possible to see things clearly, that it is possible to drop our biased viewpoint from time to time. That it is possible to return to the state of buddha. We see that the sitting silent in front of the wall for no obvious purpose is something that has an immense value. We see that just living without an obvious purpose has an immense value. We see that it is our duty to be a logical part of the universe rather than to be yet another crazy element in it. I am not saying that doing psychedelic drugs is wrong. It is as "wrong" as watching TV or eating candy. It is everybody's choice. But if you think that your choice, your individual choice is to practice the Way of Buddha,  then do not trust too much what the world has to say and what drugs make you feel or think. Rather be quiet for a while, sit down, stop moving for a while and listen. Listen to true sermons of buddhas. Listen to birds chirping and watch clouds moving. Those are things that show direction to the truth exactly. Drugs and opinions of people only show directions to other drugs and other opinions and there is no way out unless we decide to stop and see things clearly. If we cannot understand the meaning of birds' chirping or the value of clouds' colours, despite being sober and rational, how can we hope to understand what the meaning of life is when we take psychedelic drugs? That's like saying you can hear an ant run if you start shouting a lot.

When we practice zazen, we allow Buddha to enter this universe. When we do psychedelic drugs, we allow demons to dance in our head. I have taken psychedelic drugs about three times in my life. I noticed something was similar to zazen. A part of my mind opened up, but a different part got messed up. When we practice zazen, the whole mind opens completely. Then you can let go of mind and body. That doesn't mean you fly away and leave your body and mind in the room. What I mean is that when we let go of body and mind, nobody can claim what is my body or what is my mind. That my becomes irrelevant. If we take psychedelic drugs, it may be fun or helpful for one person, maybe three people. But if we practice zazen, the whole universe is changed. The mind of the universe comes back to its original state. Where is this mind of the universe? What is the original state of the universe? It's almost midnight. The trams are noisily passing by, the screen in front of me is bright.