April 7, 2008

Uchiyama Roshi's Explanation of Enlightenment

Uchiyama Roshi was a student of Kodo Sawaki, who was a no-nonsense, strict, homeless, poor monk who spent his life practicing zazen, studying Buddhism and teaching Buddhism. Uchiyama Roshi was a bit different from his master. On the other day Uchiyama Roshi asked Kodo Sawaki how long it would take him to be as strong as his master. Kodo Sawaki replied that zazen didn't make him this strong. He had always been strong, ever since his childhood years. So he didn't expect Uchiyama to become like him; instead he taught that everyone has to find his or her own nature. I would like to share master Uchiyama's explanation of zazen and enlightenment with my readers. What follows is an excerpt from the book The Wholehearted Way written by Uchiyama Roshi.

"In the true zazen enlightenment is not good. Delusion is not bad. We should look equally at both enlightenment and delusion. Our sitting should be like this. This zazen has no comparison with zazen based on the desire to get satori and feel good, a kind of personal, psychological condition.

Dogen Zenji said that to sit in such a way is the true way of enlightenment; such zazen itself is enlightenment. Zazen is not a means to gradually attain enlightenment. We sit zazen, which is dropping off body and mind right now, right here. Practice and enlightenment are not something different. We should not separate practice and enlightenment into two. Since zazen is itself enligtenment, there is no way to think that I become enlightened as a result of zazen practice. To sit zazen is to be in the profound sleep of enlightenment. Therefore, to think that I am enlightened is the same as to think that I sleep well within sound sleep. This is sham sleep. When we sleep really well, we cannot think that we sleep well. In the same way, in zazen, we cannot see if we are are enlightened or not. Sometimes we feel clear in zazen, sometimes not; certainly we don't feel clear more often than not. In either condition, zazen is zazen. We sit right in that place where we can look at both enlightenment and delusion equally."

What can I add? To me, I have no desire to change my zazen into something else. The way I feel when I practice zazen, no matter what I feel like, clear or not, is still zazen and that is what matters most to me. As long as I can practice zazen in the present moment, I am completely satisfied with my delusion-enlightenment situation.