Today I am very happy. I cleaned my room for a few hours and when I finished I discovered the beauty of simplicity and cleanliness of my room. It is very difficult to see the teachings of Gautama Buddha in the middle of chaos and filth. It is much easier to see them somewhere clean and simple, such as the zendo. Although, the teachings of Gautama Buddha are even in slums and prisons, it is clear that they are in a simple, clean room. A friend of mine told me that Buddhism should develop a spirituality of an individual. But Buddhism does not develop spirituality, it only reveals the truth ... the truth that is independent on our beliefs and opinions and spiritual experience. The pillow is yellow and green, that's all.
When we notice the color of the sky, or when we find out that the park is green, we have just discovered Gautama Buddha's teachings and we have just experienced the simple joy of a child that has discovered something tasty in the fridge. It is very easy to get in touch with the teachings of Buddhism, the sutras that are inscribed into the structure of clouds in the sky or in cobwebs and cracked walls. But it is very difficult to drop our limited intellectual views that prevent us from experiencing the simple truth of Buddhism. Buddhism is not an opinion, it is experience beyond words and our individual verbal evaluation. Even though I say what is Buddhism and what is not, it's just to help somebody drop their limited view and accept not my opinion, but accept the truth itself, the message we get from the sky, from the walls, from the leaves and such. Then somebody could find the color of the sky or grass and find that this simple reality around us is actually what Buddhist sutras teach and what Buddha Gautama said to his disciples.
When you clean your room and do it wholeheartedly, then you do exactly what Buddha Gautama would do, if he cleaned your room. Then there is no difference between you and Gautama. When you say “I have to clean my room in order to .... I clean it so that ...“, then you are split into two parts - one that does something and the one that evaluates it. When someone practices zazen to become a buddha, then they are divided into two parts, and can never become a buddha. But when someone practices zazen without expecting anything, then he or she expresses exactly the wisdom and natural behavior of Buddha Gautama. When someone polishes a tile, this is in itself so beautiful and wise that we can not deny that the tile is just as beautiful and pure as a mirror. So when someone criticises someone who polishes a tile, they don’t understand that the activity itself is a mirror. The tiles are therefore not polished so as to create mirrors. This is not my thought, it is master Dogen’s explanation. So when someone cleans a very neglected house, at the moment of cleaning wholeheartedly, it is actually a heavenly palace. This might be how master Dogen could put it. When we do something wholeheartedly, immediately we transform the universe into something perfect. But when we stop and say that it does not make sense, or that it has very poor results, or nobody is going to appreciate it, it is a kind of neurosis, it's kind of a virus that attacked our original buddha nature. Master Shunryu Suzuki said that we should not clean because we want our place clean, but because it is our usual way of life. At the beginning it is natural that we ask why. So people ask what profit they can get if they practice zazen. But when they just sit and do not seek benefits for themselves, they may notice that somehow there is no difference between them and others and that the whole world is zazen itself, and that there is no problem whatsoever. Everything is quiet and clean and bright and this applies to everyone and everything. So even if we only to begin our cleaning and do it wholeheartedly, everything's already clean and tidy. When someone sincerely comes to the teacher and asks about Buddhism and the importance of Buddhist teachings, they already understood the secret of Buddhism, but maybe it will take them several years before they find their own treasure of wisdom that they have never lacked and which enabled them to go and ask about Buddhism. When we have a question we ask. That's all. So there is no need to develop something spiritual, instead we over and over again return to our own original, simple wisdom and return to the balanced actions that are based on that kind of wisdom. That’s exactly the admired wisdom of Buddha Gautama, but it is not so far from us as we usually imagine. It is actually right here, in the simple action now. So it is not necessary to obtain complicated skills and complicated Buddhist knowledge, rather return to our simple everyday activities and find the meaning of life in them. We can find a very subtle, but profound kind of happiness and satisfaction in the simplest actions of our lives. When Buddha Gautama discovered his true self, he found just that – sitting peacefully on his cushion, he realized that he would never ever find anything more true or more profound.
When a long ago I returned from a sesshin, I felt very free and relaxed. I was not interested in complex intellectual problems of people. Nevertheless, I opened one of my favorite books, a novel by Ladislav Fuks, and I was amazed. What I found in the book, that I had loved for its subtle intellectual messages, was nothing but life itself, it was a true story written by a sincere person. There was no intellectual opinion that would prevent me from seeing the life described so vividly in the book. It was just a story, narrated authentically. Buddhism gave me something paradoxical – it helped me to rediscover my old intellectual loves - painting, literature and music .... but instead of forcing me to evaluate these things through my narrow intellectual understanding, it let me freely enjoy the story of a human being described and expressed in paintings, novels and music. People are amazing creatures and are even more amazing when you look at them without a personal bias. Just listen to their stories. If they tell you the truth, it is a very important sutra.