January 18, 2012

Bodai Shin, the Will to the Truth


In Gakudo Yojin Shu Master Dogen encourages those who want to study Buddhism to forget fame and profit and instead pursue the truth. He says that to pursue the truth we must forget fame and profit. When you look at most Buddhists in the West today, very few of them seem to be interested in fame and profit. They are usually spiritually oriented people, some kind of intellectuals who are interested in philosophy and understanding the meaning of life rather than becoming famous or having some profit from practicing Buddhism. Still, there is something lurking around and that is this kind of desire  to become a better person, to attain a peaceful mind, to have better understanding of Buddhism than others and maybe become a successful Buddhist teacher that is better than other people. All those things may be a kind of personal, individual dream to achieve something special for myself rather than attain the truth and live the truth for the sake of the truth. Buddha Dharma means that an individual person never means more than the clouds, stars or the moon in the sky. This is what most people forget all the time, and I very often forget this and only when I practice zazen without trying to attain anything special, I can see that I don't matter more than anything that is in front of me. So master Dogen says that it is important to have something that is called Bodai Shin, the will to the truth, if we want to practice and study Buddhism. The will to the truth is the will to open myself to reality that is not limited by my self.

Bodai Shin is sometimes translated as the awakened mind, but master Nishijima translated that term as the will to the truth. In fact, our sincere effort to be here and now  when we let go of our dreams and ideas and opinions and just do something simply, is not different from the will to the truth. And this very will to the truth that is based on our opening to reality is not different from awakening. To sincerely practice zazen is not different from becoming a buddha. To sincerely study Buddhism with a true teacher is not different from realizing what Buddhism is. To walk, step by step, to the toilet without seeking  individual profit, is to become a buddha. To work in the office, moment after moment, dealing with all kinds of problems sincerely, is to become a buddha. But to say, hey, I am a buddha, you are not, is the same as being deluded. Reality is pure and independent on our opinions. Our words can only delude or wake up others, but they cannot replace one's own experience. Still we need a teacher, not a cocky individual who boasts a huge satori or a flawless life, but someone who can fix our naive ideas about ourselves, our problems and our understanding of Buddhism.  A true teacher is someone who can fix our direction when we seek the truth. He or she is the one who says from time to time, here, here, this is enlightenment. Not that! So we definitely need a true teacher, someone who has found the truth in the midst of everyday life, everyday problems and everyday dreams. Someone who knows that the truth is more important than self, but also who has no naive ideas about some kind of perfect Buddhist life that is only a dream and can never be something real.      

Of course, we are important and our individual life is important. We don't have to give up our ideas, feelings, dreams or ambitions. It is okay to love someone, it is okay to try to understand Buddhism better and it is okay to enjoy peace after an hour of zazen. We can clearly notice how peaceful we sometimes are after zazen. But if we stick to this aspect of our life, if we only stress the individual aspect of our life, only stress our own intellectual abilities, our feelings, our ambitions, which are all phenomena within a limited self, we will never understand and never attain the truth of someone who has gone beyond the individual, the intellectual, the dreams and the self. So we should realize that although we are important, especially that it is important how we act and how we treat others and do our job, when we let go of self and just do something sincerely, be it practicing zazen or studying Buddhist texts or driving or planning a lesson, just when the self is forgotten in the middle of our sincere actions, we are ready to accept what Buddha taught and even accepting what Buddha taught is not different from accepting the truth and our own enlightenment. So enlightenment is not something we should attain, rather something that is our original nature that we learn to accept. But to completely accept our own enlightenment is extremely difficult and may take  hundreds of years and it is usually impossible to accept it completely without practicing zazen with a true teacher who already accepted the truth of all things, mainly the truth of real practice without seeking something out of this world.

So Bodai Shin is the willing to let go of self, and let a true teacher tell us what Buddha Dharma is. Bodai Shin means that we are willing  to  learn from the world around us, the pebbles, the fences, the walls that can clearly show what Buddha Dharma is. Bodai shin is the will to the truth that is already present here and now. It is the will to open oneself to the very reality in front of us, the will to let the reality completely penetrate our self so the self is not separate, individual at that moment. Like that we can study and practice Buddhism every day without worrying whether we are enlightened or not. It is something completely humble and at the same time it is something one can enjoy and find pleasure in it. How can we find pleasure in something that is not us? It is not not us, it is just what it is and it is pleasure when it is pleasure, it is branches, when it is branches, it is clouds when it is clouds and it is pain when it is pain. But the self is not the manager of the universe. The branches are not something produced by a self, they are just branches, but we cannot be branches unless we drop our self. We cannot experience pleasure beyond our self, unless we drop our self. Then it is pleasure beyond self, and it is just pleasure and it is experienced by the whole universe. So rather than worrying how enlightened or how true we are, we can carefully observe the shape of the branches of the trees in the park. When we just observe, it is not an individual watching branches outside, but it is just branches being branches. When we go back to such selfless experience many many times a day, that is a Buddhist life. Then it is not important how peaceful or enlightened one is, it is important to let the world express its own peace and enlightenment that is not limited by our narrow mind. When the universe is enlightened, we don't have to establish our own enligtenment in it. Nobody needs that. When the universe is the truth, we don't have to attain our own narrow truth in it. The true universe is enough. And it is as open and as big as you need it. Its truth is as unlimited and as free as you need it.