August 19, 2013

Paradoxes - part 3

Let me continue the articles about paradoxes in Buddhism.


Paradox No 6

Although people interested in Buddhism hope to find perfect peace one day, the only way how to find perfect peace of mind is to stop trying to attain perfect peace of mind and just do something.


I think this is quite self-explanatory. But I'll try to say something about it  based on my experience. I have just practiced zazen for one hour. I usually feel peaceful and happy after one hour of zazen. That's usually, mind you. Not always. And now how do I feel? I am not sure. Nothing much. This is exactly the moment when I could feel disappointed and restless: How come I don't feel wonderful after one hour of zazen? This is exactly the mistake. How come the sex was not what it was last time? How come nobody likes what I am writing although a year ago people liked it? How come it is not sunny today? How come my partner is not as cheerful as usual? How come they stopped selling my favorite ice-cream around the corner? How come nobody comes to me with a million saying: Hey, I got some spare cash, I thought you might like to use some of it... How come I am not five years old any more? I could come up with lots of crazy "how come". The whole thing is about whether we can deal with reality or not. Deal with it. Zazen will only make you peaceful,  if you can accept the lack of peace here and now. Just forget the whole thing of being peaceful or not and do something. This is what I am saying to myself from time to time, when I don't feel so peaceful. Just make another step. Forget the last step. I wish I could have written something more interesting about this whole thing but as it seems, I have failed. Now I can relax and deal with the fact that I am a lousy Buddhist writer. Peace!  



Paradox No 7

You look up to your master and hope to at least be similar to him or her, yet she is doing her best to convince you that you have been the Buddha since the very beginning.


Now I have made up a story about a tiger zen master and a mouse zen student.

A mouse wants to learn the Buddhist truth and she... he? Now how to avoid the whole sexist issue. To make things modern, let's say the mouse is a boy and the master is a tigress. OK. So a  mouse hears there is a famous Zen master living in the jungle and she is a tigress and knows the secret of Buddhism perfectly. The mouse decides to find the tigress and learn from her. Although a bit afraid of the mighty beast, he after a long difficult journey finds a little grass hut where the master lives. He greets the master respectfully and says that he wants to be a student of hers and learn the truth of Buddhism from her. "OK", says the tigress, "we can start right away. You can live next to me and see how I live. Maybe you can learn the secret of Buddhism if you practice  zazen with me every day and spend the rest of the day with me." The mouse was excited. Of course, he was ready to do anything the master would say. They began to practice zazen together and spend the days together. The tiger would go hunting every day and the mouse followed her. The tiger often repeated: "It is important to be your true self." The tiger was an excellent hunter. It would follow its prey silently and in the right moment jumped and caught the animal. The lunch was ready. The mouse tried hard to do exactly the same. Silently wait in the grass and jump out in the right moment. Then the mouse would always fail to catch the animal but because the tigress was a very noble being, it would let the mouse eat a bit of her own lunch. There was always more than plenty for them both. It was like this for weeks and months. The mouse always tried hard to imitate the master, but never caught anything, only to be invited to the lunch or dinner after its yet another hunting failure. After three years the mouse, kind of disappointed, still not understanding Buddhism very much and not having learned how to catch prey, asked the master: "What's wrong? I have been practicing with you for three years, trying hard to learn from you, always following your example, but I've never learned the secret of Buddhism, obviously. While you are a mighty tigress, I am a lousy mouse. I can't even catch a frog, let alone an antelope." "And who told you", replied the master, "that your job is to become a tiger? Who told you to go and imitate me when I do my job? I have no idea what a mouse does to get food, I hoped you would live your life as a mouse, but was always puzzled when you tried to hunt with me. You can watch and learn from me how a tiger lives, but that doesn't mean you should become a tiger. Now go back to your mouse life and try to live your mouse life, maybe you will at last understand what Buddhism is about." The mouse went back home, very disappointed, but not giving up. He still believed, somehow intuitively, that the tigress was a true master and he believed that she'd given him the best advice. So he went home and tried to live a life of a mouse. For a few weeks it was very difficult, everywhere he went he tended to look for prey, rather than look for cheese or cereals. But after some weeks of hunger and confusion, he learned to find cheese or cereals and eat well. One day, as he was peacefully munching on a piece of Eidam he'd found somewhere in the house where he lived, the tigress happened to walk by and heard some mousy noise. She was interested, as tigers usually are, in noises, so she came closer and found her old student, the mouse munching on a piece of cheese. Excited to see her old student living happily, she exclaimed: "I see my old little student at last found the truth of Buddhism!" For a fraction of a second, the mouse didn't understand at all. Then, all of a sudden, holding a piece of cheese in his little hands, he understood something important. He cheerfully smiled at the tigress and the smile said a big "thank you". The tigress said: "Don't forget what you learned from me!" Then she disappeared in the grass.

Maybe you can notice this story was inspired by a few similar stories from master Dogen's collection of koans, the book called Shinji Shobogenzo. I recommend that you read those stories if you find this one interesting. They are all the same, essentially, but if we don't pay attention to the realism of life that those stories try to teach us, we will end up being a ghost, a shadow of our true self. We'll try to become a tiger in a mouse's body.  
                                   


August 16, 2013

Paradoxes - part 2

Now I'll continue writing the text about paradoxes in Buddhism. 

Before I proceed to the paradox No 5, let me present a story, a made up story, a story, a dialogue I made up, Buddha meeting a disciple. I made this up in order to explain something about what it's like to be an ordinary person, why enlightened is not different from ordinary:   

A disciple said to Gautama: 

"Dear Buddha, you are such a noble, enlightened person, I am only a deluded farmer. I wish I could be as noble and enlightened as you, sir."

Gautama replied: "I am a silly, deluded person, not a noble person. But just because I can see clearly that I am ordinary, people call me Buddha." 

"What can I do", asked the farmer, "to see clearly that I am an ordinary person?"

"Just when you eat rice, eat your rice, and don't try to eat somebody else's rice."



So this is a story about a farmer looking up to Buddha and trying to be like him. When I was discussing the problem of zazen as something where there is no profit, I wrote that  sooner or later, Buddha takes over and your zazen is Buddha's zazen. But who is that Buddha who takes over? What is that true thing about zazen? The true thing about zazen is that we cannot escape our delusions but we can realize how silly we are. The true thing about enlightenment is that we cannot escape a life of an ordinary, deluded person. But when we realize that we can never become the fantasy Buddha and can only live our own life, that is called Buddha. When we practice zazen with this silly, ordinary body and mind and give up the idea that we could become a noble, generally respected person who never does or says a stupid thing, then we practice what Buddha practiced. So because a beginner doesn't become deluded about Buddha yet, that makes him Buddha already. When we collect experience and thoughts through Buddhism, we may start to believe that there is something about us that could be made into Buddha and we may want to impress others with that puppet thing. Only when we realize that we only carry images in our heads, and that tea is tea no matter if you are a factory worker or a famous Buddhist teacher, we may decide to discover the value of our ordinary state. So when Buddha takes over when we practice zazen, that means our ordinary state in zazen becomes happy with itself. 




ad Paradox No 5

Although it is important to realize that our actions change the world so we have to act responsibly and thoughtfully, we are perfectly free and unlimited by our past actions in this very moment. 

When I am deluded... I don't want to generalize, but let's say I am pretty deluded before I practice zazen and after zazen I become aware of my delusions... you know it's not always this simple, but anyway. So when I am completely deluded about myself, I think what I did yesterday or last month was really stupid. Then I cannot really talk to anyone or do anything because I carry this burden of negative emotions with me. In such a state I never write about Buddhism because I feel it would be heavy with some egocentric feelings and it would hardly say much about Buddhism other than that it is quite usual that people feel bad about themselves. But when I practice zazen, I usually don't feel that burden any more. What mistakes I made in the past are among all other mistakes all people ever made. My mistakes, your mistakes... well, what about now? That doesn't mean I reject my responsibility, but I do not take it so personally any more. Imagine your mother said to you last week that you are selfish and disappointing and completely bad person. No matter why she said it, it may be true or not, but that is not the point. If you are really lost in delusions about you and others, you may become very upset or disappointed, but if you understand that all people in the whole world make mistakes all the time, then you can stop for a while, stop thinking too fast and realize that the only thing we can do about this messed up world is to wake up now  and be light to others. Nothing wonderful, just do something, and don't worry about the past. Open the door. There. That's already the light to others. That's what a real savior does. You can only save the world if you don't judge it. So even if we judge somebody in Buddhism, if it is Buddha's opened mind and not somebody's narrow opinion, then it is teaching and helping. We have to feel whether someone only spreads hatred and delusions or if someone is trying to help us see the light in otherwise dark world. The way we judge in Buddhism is based on something completely open, it is based on caring, not based on hatred. Even the worst expressions master Dogen uttered about non-Buddhists were based on his immense caring about the happiness of all living beings and not only some dark deluded thoughts about bad people.   I sometimes come to work and when I realize how many mistakes I must have made and how many people criticize me, I could also just give up and go back home and tell my boss that I cannot continue at work if I am such a bad person. But after zazen I don't feel like that. When we practice zazen sincerely, we can see that the whole world is deluded, not just me or you, and at fault, not just you or him. So when we practice zazen sincerely, we can see that right now is time to help the world. How can we help? We can act soberly, not judging anyone and just do something what is necessary to do. If you meet a colleague at work and you think, Ah, she hates me... drop that idea and just say hello to her. Encourage yourself and her, that we can return to this very moment and forget what was wrong yesterday. We never know who is more deluded, who makes more mistakes. Its' not about whether she is right or wrong, or whether she should change her opinion of you. It's about having to wake up and stop the chain of opinions and entanglement. There is always someone to blame, so we could also blame the whole universe. Or only the Nazis? Should we blame the parents or our colleagues? We could say the whole world is waiting for someone who stops the never ending game of judgement and criticism and just says hello. What kind of life can we expect to have and what kind of life can others expect to have, if they never forget the past and future and never wake up. So what I do personally and what most people do and it is more natural after zazen, is that we just go to work again and say hello to everyone, friends and foes. And the universe is a great place for a while again. It's great when the world is free from the ideas about past and future. We only imagine past and future and we cannot stop this imagination, but we should also discover the virginity, the innocence of this moment, and the innocence and virginity of all beings, including retired prostitutes. In Buddhism, there is nobody else who could be more innocent than a retired prostitute. But it is important to realize what kind of innocence it is. What kind of innocence does Buddhism offer? The key to the true innocence of Buddha is just in this very moment.  


I think I have already written enough today and I will continue about the rest of paradoxes next time. 

Thanks to all the readers who keep encouraging me as this writing helps me to realize what matters and what doesn't matter so much which may help the people I encounter so we all help each other if we support some kind of wisdom and awakened life. "Some kind of awakened life". May this be something that happens to us all. 

























August 14, 2013

Paradoxes in Buddhism

You must have already come across some of these paradoxes in Buddhism. I am going to go through some of the typical paradoxes we encounter in Buddhism and I'll try to explain them or why we tend to deny or reject them and why they make sense, although they go against our common understanding of things. First I'll list these paradoxes and then I'll try to explain the first four or five. Tomorrow or later today or sometime,  I promise, I will continue and write about the rest of the paradoxes.  


Paradox No. 1

We sometimes try hard to attain the so called state of enlightenment, yet this state is the most ordinary state we experience many times a day.

Paradox No. 2

Zazen is useless, there is nothing we can gain in zazen, yet many authentic Buddhist masters considered zazen the essence of Buddhism and said there is no Buddhism without zazen.

Paradox No 3

There is a lot of philosophical talk in Buddhism, there are lots of books, where even the most excellent Buddhist monks failed to understand certain aspects of Buddhism, yet ultimately, there is nothing to understand intellectually. Intellectual understanding has to be transcended. In other words, although Buddhist philosophy is complex and intelligent, a true Buddhist leaves intellectual thought and becomes a simpleton.


Paradox No 4

The most excellent Buddhist masters spent years and years practicing zazen and studying Buddhist philosophy, yet the only time we can fulfil our Buddhist efforts is just now.

Paradox No 5

Although it is important to realize that our actions change the world so we have to act responsibly and thoughtfully, we are perfectly free and unlimited by our past actions in this very moment.

Paradox No 6

Although people interested in Buddhism hope to find perfect peace one day, the only way how to find perfect peace of mind is to stop trying to attain perfect peace of mind and just do something.

Paradox No 7

You look up to your master and hope to at least be similar to him or her, yet she is doing her best to convince you that you have been the Buddha since the very beginning.


Ad No 1

Somebody said that enlightenment is the very ordinary state of body and mind. Different teachers said more or less the same thing about it. Some of them were able to say it in a way that impressed you, some of them say it in a way that makes you fall asleep (boring cliches...), yet no matter if you are impressed or not, it is true, that enlightenment is your ordinary state. How to say it or how to explain this in a way that would not sound like repeating the same old truth over and over again?  I think the danger or misunderstanding lies in this: If the highest state in Buddhism called enlightenment means the most ordinary state then there is absolutely nothing I should try to do or achieve in Buddhism and will just go back to my good old common lifestyle and thinking. But that's not what is meant by "ordinary" by those excellent Buddhist teachers. To go back to the market and buy wine is called enlightenment, final liberation or Buddha nature, but that is not exactly the state you always go shopping in your favorite supermarket. To become perfectly ordinary in Buddhism doesn't mean you go back to your materialistic frame of mind. So if enlightenment is just my ordinary self, I'll go back to the pub and kick somebody's ass. I'll spend all night watching porn just like Brad Warner, the famous Buddhist author, who praises porn and rock 'n' roll everywhere he goes. If that is ordinary, if that is the final liberation, I'll go to the bank and borrow a million, buy a boat and spend the rest of my life worrying how to pay for it. If ordinary means enlightenment, I'll throw out all my Buddhist books and stop practicing zazen and will spend my life arguing about soccer on Internet forums and dump all garbage in the woods. That is definitely not the ordinary state those excellent masters talked about. This kind of ordinary state is only laziness and stupidity. Take Brad Warner for example. There is a subtle difference between stupid and lazy consumption of porn in a polluted state of mind and something I would call thoughtful understanding of the complex issue called sex and finding a balanced way how to deal with your sex energy. Which is what Brad Warner is supporting, not getting lost in hedonism and materialism. There is a gigantic difference between cynically dirty and cheerfully mischievous. The way we should be ordinary in Buddhism, the way we go shopping is not lazy and materialistic and frustrated or restless, demanding and dissatisfied. The way old Zen masters went to the market was cheerful and content, caring and natural, spontaneous and wise. We must study carefully what ordinary in Buddhism means. We should try to understand this point very well, because if enlightenment in Buddhism is our ordinary state, that ordinary state might be something we haven't even noticed yet!  So I am not saying it is something exotic, esoteric and special. But it it not our old lazy or restless self. It is the mind of a three year old kid who has just discovered a butterfly in the grass. It is the mind of an old philosophy professor who has put down the book and lighted his cigar with pleasure. It is the mind of a cyclist who has forgot his ambitions and decided to change gears before the steep uphill section of the race. It is the mind of a beginner who has no idea what zazen is and listens to instructions on how to sit zazen and tries to sit properly. The ordinary state in Buddhism is our perfect Buddha state, it is our original, natural caring about the universe and it is our complete freedom and satisfaction in the middle of everyday chores. It is saying hello to friends and putting dirty clothes into the washing machine. It is saying Oh well, when something goes wrong, without putting ourselves in the middle of the universe. It is sadness of the universe, the happiness of the universe, the fear of the universe, the complete satisfaction of the universe. It is not a stupid fellow saying I know everything. It is stupid wisdom and wise stupidity, it is an open window, it is a moment when everything is open. It is the moment we don't try to understand what doesn't have to be understood. It is the sun coming out of the clouds and going back behind the clouds. It is the flower in Buddha's hand and Mahakasyapa's smile. It is the beginning of Buddhism and the end of Buddhism. It is the most important thing in our lives and it is sitting right on our noses in this moment.

Ad No 2

The great goal of Buddhism, the noble goal of Buddhism is to learn that just doing something now is the best we can achieve. Usually we expect zazen to give us peace or wisdom or enlightenment or possibly all these things in one package. Four in one. But although we cannot deny that zazen gives an individual some individual benefits, if we consider zazen something that should satisfy one's individual needs, it is not the zazen of buddhas and ancestors. If we want to taste the zazen of Buddha Gautama or master Dogen, we have to try to enter the state of things beyond our individual self. In that realm there is nothing to gain as the whole universe loses and gains in each moment of zazen. If we realize that our zazen is satisfying, it is not really master Dogen's zazen. If we transcend the point where I am not interested in my zazen any more, there is the point in which all buddhas meet. We only practice shikantaza when we stop looking for our individual profit in zazen. We can only have the taste of Buddha's realization if we stop attaining realization for our separate self. Only when we are interested in the realization of the universe, can we practice the universal realization. We can have a little bit of personal profit from zazen, but if we let go of personal in zazen, the whole universe gains and loses, but for the universe, there is no difference between loss and gain. Then you are not interested in your own benefits. You don't stop practicing zazen just because you have had enough or you have achieved the nice, peaceful state. You only begin to practice zazen when you are not interested in your personal zazen any more. That's when shikantaza starts.

This sounds very difficult. You think most people experience nice states in zazen or struggle personally and almost nobody can practice zazen without  a personal flavour to it. But in fact, moment after moment, when we think "I feel... I can't attain.... I have attained.... I am peaceful.... I am impatient..." even if we are practicing in the middle of our personal thoughts and delusion about ourselves, moment after moment we forget... we forget what we are and what we are doing individually and the shikantaza of zazen, our original state, the universal self, is practicing zazen together with the silly self. It's like I... Buddha.... I am .... forget... Buddha... Buddha appears over and over again and after some time, maybe after twenty minutes, you stop struggling and you give up and let Buddha take over and then you / Buddha practice peacefully. You give up your personal hopes or fears and let Buddha - your true self - practice. So some masters say that after twenty or thirty years of everyday zazen you will become familiar with your true self. But that doesn't mean that you are not essentially Buddha even at the beginning. Even if you practice zazen for the first time and you do it sincerely, trying to keep the right posture, you are expressing completely your Buddha nature and you have no reason to think that there is something special to look for in zazen. So for a beginner, it may be easier to just practice. A beginner is open to the situation. Whatever happens, she will experience it completely. Then later, the beginner is no longer a beginner and may think: Today I hope I'll feel peaceful after zazen. That's already... it is natural, but it is not why we practice zazen originally. Of course we realize zazen brings peace and balance to our everyday life, but we should not forget that it is the whole universe that brought peace to the whole universe, not just me or you. Zazen is the whole universe. So when we practice zazen, the limited self doesn't matter any more and there is nothing to get for the limited self. But the whole universe becomes itself. Whether it is gain or loss, I don't think the universe is interested in such categories.

Add No 3

A true Buddhist becomes a  simpleton. That doesn't mean you try to understand something and then you fail to understand, then you give up and walk around saying I don't understand Buddhism. I mean there are moments of intellectual discussions when we ask or answer, when we try to understand something and sometimes we understand and sometimes we don't. But ultimately the most important thing is to not let intellectual thought take over our true self, our Buddhist experience. So a Chinese master made a circle in the air. Do you understand? It was his way how to make a step forward and leave the intellectual discussion. It is not giving up or saying: "I don't understand sutras". It means after some intellectual discussion it is necessary to return to the real state of things. Whether we understand or don't understand Buddhism intellectually, it is not as important as to be able to do something here and now. Some old Chinese masters were simple and only explained Buddhism in simple words and actions. Master Dogen was a genius. Whether you are a genius or a simple person doesn't matter, but whether you can express your Buddha nature in your everyday life, that matters very much. So if you want to make tea in the morning but are not able to do it, and instead open a book of sutras and look for solution there, that's a big problem. But if somebody cannot understand a sutra, but makes  delicious tea in the morning, all sutra experts should visit such a person and learn from her. All sutras tell stories about somebody who can make nice tea in the morning. Only people who have made something real can talk about Buddhism without embarrassing themselves. Intellectuals who cannot appreciate real people who do real things have no room in Buddhism. All my words are ridiculous unless I actually do something in my real life. Only because I actually do practice zazen and do go to work and do have to deal with all kinds of problems in my life, only because such things do I feel bold enough to write something about Buddhism. There is a Zen teacher in Britain who hasn't published any books about Buddhism, who hasn't even posted his name in the website of his group, somebody I have never heard said or written anything about Buddhism, yet he is a great Buddhist teacher because he does something real, he goes and practices zazen with others and I am sure that he tries to answer questions about Buddhism. It is not important whether he writes a blog or a book or whether he can say something amazing about Buddhism. What is important is that he doesn't lie about himself and Buddhism and practices zazen with others and does his job in his everyday life. That's what I call excellent Buddhist teaching.

Ad No 4

How old are you?  I am 46 but sometimes I forget how old I am. I think a few weeks ago I tried hard to remember how old I was and had to count the years on my fingers. I was born in 1967 so I must be 46. But whether I am really 46 I don't know. Maybe I am 146. So in the social world we deal with plans and duties that are connected to some days or time, but really we can only exist in this moment. So paradoxically you can only achieve 100 years of hard practice if you give up those 100 years you have already practiced. Only if you forget how old you are and how long you have practiced, be it one week or 300 years, only when you forget when you started and when you want to finish, then you can begin to practice. you can only begin to live your true life if you forget what you did before this moment. You can only be reborn now. The great thing about Buddhism is that it tells us that we are all naked babies, just born in this moment. So we don't have to worry. Even if they say, you know, you did such and such yesterday, the newly born baby doesn't care, it is busy doing something now. So even if you think you have practiced zazen for 30 years and it makes you a great Buddhist, it means nothing now and now you are a newly born baby and nobody can put you in prison even if you killed somebody yesterday. Of course, in the social world, you end up in prison, that's right, but in prison, nobody can prevent you from being reborn right here, right now. So the people who practice zazen in prison may experience the freedom of somebody who has no past and no future. A true Buddhist teacher points to the social reality, but also to the freedom and value of here and now. Even if you are 100 years old, you can become a Buddhist beginner and a great Buddha in the moment you first begin to practice. But somebody who says: I have been practicing zazen for 30 years so that makes me a 30 star Buddha, is a fool. It is important to practice zazen over and over again, for one year, ten years, fifty years, but after all what matters is that you begin to practice every day, not that you are aware of your years of practice. So you are not proud of your long experience. You are proud of the buddhas of the present moment who are willing to start zazen from scratch.


     
to be continued (I promise! -or you've been warned... )


June 29, 2013

To Clean What Is Already Clean


Usually when we see dirt, mess, especially at home, sometimes we feel, oh, that's so dirty, time to clean up. And when we clean up, we think that things are better, everything looks better. It's good to clean our house, to wash our body, to wash hair, take a shower. It is nice to wear clean clothes, to change the sheets, etc. That's how we usually see the things.

I have been very busy this past school year and often when I came home after work, sometimes at eight pm, I was too exhausted to clean up or wash the dishes. So my place hasn't been very clean lately.  Usually I only clean up at weekends when I have enough energy to do something physical. In Buddhism we should learn to appreciate things "as it is", which is the expression of master Shunryu Suzuki. So we should learn to appreciate even dirt, dust, mess. So when we are in the Buddhist state, when we arrive home, even if we are tired, we can be in the Buddhist state and we arrive home feeling quite peaceful and what we see may be not so nice, too much mess. But in the Buddhist state, without trying to be idealistic, just in the natural state, we can appreciate something even if it is not very clean or organized.

So when we look around and see some problems, in Buddhism, we learn to appreciate this situation. That's the first step. Or the original state. Originally, things are perfect, the universe is without a mistake, but at the same time, the moment we are born, we are born into a  mess. Each day millions of babies are born, and although they are born buddhas, they are born into a mess. They are born into an enlightened world, and at the same time they are born into  a world of suffering, pain and mess. And these babies are born happy, and all of a sudden they being to cry and some of them may be in pain or some kind of trouble. So this is the situation of our life all the time, out of perfect universe, lots of problems arise. But we should learn the value of problems, or the value of dirt, because that's how we can learn the value of things as they are. Even if there is some dust on the table, we should not say: "That's wrong. We have to get rid of the dust". Because the dust is also Gautama Buddha, it is also our friend, our teacher. I don't mean the teacher who says: "Clean the dust". I mean dharma, the dust as dharma, the dust is Buddha's teaching, already.    So I wonder whether it is possible to clean something when we cannot appreciate the dust. Do we want to get rid of dharma?

Even if we have  a lot of problems in our personal life and we want to get rid of the problems, maybe we should first stop and reflect. What is the value of a problem? What is the value of struggling? That's why ancient masters taught that we must practice in the midst of delusion, in the midst of problems. There is value in dust, in pain, in delusion, in this imperfect world. We should learn that we cannot meet Buddha somewhere else, we can only meet Buddha in this real world. And this world is not perfect. When we learn to appreciate all things, even problems, even dust, then we can see that the world is perfect, originally. But when we cannot see the value of problems, of dust, how can we find something clean or something true? Even if we make our house perfectly clean, even if we get rid of all possible dust, maybe our mind is not so innocent  and we cannot completely appreciate the state of things, we cannot completely evaluate the cleanliness of our house, if we think, dualistically, there is some dirt in front of my house, but inside my house, it is perfectly clean. In that case, there is mess everywhere. If you think you have attained some piece of mind and other people have not attained such peace of mind, what kind of peace of mind have you attained? If only one person is enlightened, nobody is enlightened. If you think: "That guy is enlightened", then he cannot be enlightened. If you think your house is clean, but their house is dirty, then there is dirt everywhere. So only after we can appreciate dirt as Buddha, as teaching of Gautama Buddha, we can appreciate both dirt and clean. Likewise, we cannot appreciate our peace of mind, if we cannot be grateful for our problems and disturbing matters. If Buddha was born into a perfectly peaceful world, if there was no suffering anywhere, he would never realized the truth. If all things were perfect, nobody would ever see the truth, we would be hopelessly deluded. If our houses were perfectly clean all the time, who would appreciate dust and who would appreciate clean things? Just like fish cannot appreciate water, a deluded person cannot appreciate dust. So if there was no dust anywhere, nobody would try to see the truth. There would only be delusion and nothing else. So it is very important to learn the value of dust and problems. And I am not saying that dust helps us see the truth because the dust is something not true. I don't mean we can become buddhas if we notice that there is dirt and mess all around and we should do something about it. I mean we can become buddhas if we see the true value of dust and mess, the true value of delusion. So delusion is not something to get rid of but something to realize completely, to appreciate completely. A true buddha can appreciate his delusions. ( Oh my, that is a beautiful woman!) A true buddha does not clean the house in order to get rid of dirt and dust. A true buddha cleans the house without changing the original state of things. It is like a horse running down the meadows. It is not trying to escape the universe, it is just running, completing the task of doing something here and now. Likewise, we don't practice zazen to escape the world of delusions, but to do something real here and now.

Now when we clean the house, we should not think: Now, things are all right, they were bad before. Or when someone realized the truth, does the person think: "Now I am a true person, but before I was deluded."? No, such a person could say: "Now I am deluded, but before I realized the truth, I was enlightened". So when we clean the house, we could even say: "Now the house is not clean, but before it was clean, it was Buddha. Now  it will be Buddha again, if I stop looking at things dualistically". So to clean is enough, to do something is enough, but to say "Now it is good, before it was bad...", that's deluded.

When we have a problem, a personal problem, because we cannot really appreciate the situation, we think this is a real problem. But when we can appreciate the situation completely, it is not a problem any more, it is a situation that we should observe wisely. We can accept our problems and we can reflect upon such problems wisely. We don't have to try to escape from the world of problems. "I would like to be a buddha and have no problems any more". But as long as I want to be a buddha without problems, I will never become a buddha. So it is necessary to stop this panic and rather try to observe the real situation, like a doctor who is not frustrated when the patient is sick. When we are frustrated and think, oh well, I can never be a buddha, look at the mess of my life! That's not the Buddhist way, that's the selfish way. The Buddhist way is: "I have a problem, I wonder what it is really, I have to reflect on this problem. How can I reflect on this problem? What is this problem?" In Buddhism we learn to appreciate everything, even problems, even mistakes. If we are mistaken, we should learn to see the value of such a mistake. Because we cannot escape the perfect, original nature of things, we cannot jump from a wrong place to a good place. Buddha does not escape this place, he or she is interested in this place. If we cannot find Buddhist teaching here, we will not find it anywhere else. So when a Buddha has a problem, he or she may reflect: Ah, what is this problem about? What is the value of this problem? But a deluded person may say: "Having this problem, I cannot be a Buddhist, I am far from being a buddha, so I must get rid of this problem." That is not a Buddhist approach. To stay here, to see what is happening from the perspective of the original state of mind means to wake up the Buddhist attitude, so not to escape, not to see things duallistically, but to look at things from Buddha's perspective. How can Buddha have a problem? We usually think that Buddha has no problem. But the thing is not whether Buddha has or hasn't got a problem, the thing is how Buddha looks at problems? What does a problem mean in Buddhism? Whenever we have a problem, we can be very happy, as it is the best opportunity to practice and study dharma. A few days ago I heard some awful things about me, some gossip and I was very upset. What could I do? When I tried to solve the problem as an individual, completely separate from the universal laws, I could not do anything about the problem so I was very frustrated. But having practiced zazen again, I could see the problem was an opportunity to study and practice dharma. I may have done something wrong in the past, but now, what can I do now for myself and for others? If I am stuck in my frustration and want to be "a good person", I will be stuck even tomorrow and I will pile up problems one after another. So the only thing I can do for the universe is to "turn on the light of dharma". That doesn't make me a better person, so you can still call me  a laughing stock, but I don't think dharma itself is a laughing stock. In the light of dharma, problems are not solved the usual way. In the light of dharma problems are transformed into Buddha's teaching. Even if a very silly person comes to a zendo and sits and practices zazen, you cannot deny that a buddha has appeared. If you deny that a buddha has appeared, although someone very silly has come and practices zazen sincerely, I wonder whether it is possible to discover the meaning of dharma. If you think that a buddha is someone who has never been silly or mistaken, then there have never been any buddhas or masters in the past and there will never be any buddhas or masters in the future. The meaning of Buddhism is born right in this moment when a person does something wholeheartedly. It is not necessary to get stuck in judgments and opinions.

How does Buddha appreciate dust? That's the compassion in Buddhism. It means to see the true value of things. When a Buddha meets a deluded person, Buddha becomes deluded, too. You cannot really meet someone if you think you are completely separate. So a true Buddha can meet someone completely. To meet dust means to meet Buddha. How are you, dust? There is nothing wrong with dust, is there? The common mistake in Buddhism is: "We have to make things perfect." But how can you make things perfect  if you don't believe they are perfect already? How can you become a buddha, if you don't believe you are buddha already? Even if we see a prostitute in the street and think, Oh well, someone far from the noble life of buddhas, I wonder whether we know what the noble life of buddha is, if we cannot see a prostitute properly. To see a prostitute properly we have to forget our narrow opinions and enter the universe directly. Then we may meet someone wise, whose job happens to be a prostitute. In Buddhism we don't try to change things, from deluded to enlightened, or from dirty to clean, but we learn to appreciate our original Buddha nature and the original nature of all things. So we don't hope that prostitutes become buddhas and devils become angels. We just hope that the universe becomes real, but we cannot wait until somebody else turns on the light of the universe. Nobody can do it for us, we have to turn on the universe ourselves, by practicing the truth. Then meeting a prostitute may be meeting a buddha, but it is impossible to explain, if we have no experience with meeting true people. In other words, if we don't meet a Buddhist teacher as a real person, we will confuse buddhas and devils and we will not know the buddha nature of prostitutes. Only if we meet a true Buddhist teacher and learn the value of ordinary things and ordinary beings from him or her, we won't feel superior or upset when we see a prostitute. We will know the meaning of such encounter, the meaning of a human life, beyond right or wrong.  

When we truly discover the value of dust, we can really clean something without making even more mess. When we truly discover the value of our original nature, we can truly express our Buddha nature. So we have to stop our dualistic thinking for a while, in order to see something valuable here, in this imperfect situation. Then we can see that it is nice to clean things or practice zazen. It is very difficult to practice zazen if we don't believe in our Buddha nature already. But it is nice to practice zazen when we are in no hurry to become buddhas. When we are in no hurry to clean up or become a buddha, we can clean up something even now. When we are in no hurry to become Buddha, we can express  our Buddha nature even now. But when we are seriously stuck in the dualistic understanding of things, like this is really dirty and I am really not Buddha, then it is very difficult to do something, even make a single step forward. In the modern world, most people are very active as their motivation is to satisfy something. They know that if they work extremely hard, they will make lots of money or if they climb the highest mountain, it will be extremely satisfying to reach the summit. But a Buddhist way of things is different. It is extremely satisfying to stop looking at things dualistically and discover that already here and now we have achieved the best. It is not visible, but at  the same time, if we cannot see the universe in front of us, we have to open our eyes, that's all we can do to see it.  So at the beginning of a long journey, a buddha can find satisfaction, a true meaning of the journey. Although we have only begun to practice zazen, it is already completed. When we feel we haven't practiced zazen long enough, we may be frustrated: I don't feel peaceful yet, I have to practice a bit more. But when you appreciate the posture of zazen even at the beginning, you don't have to stop, you don't have to continue, you just sit there. When it is time to stop, you stop. From the ordinary point of view, we may practice zazen for twenty minutes, but I wonder how long zazen is. For a buddha, it is only the present moment. For a buddha, who is not trying to escape this world of dust, for a buddha, who is satisfied with the deluded state here and now, it is something we don't have to achieve, it is something we just do here and now, regardless of any goals or results, success or failure. Dirty or clean, we do something every day. No matter if the universe is dirty or clean, we repeat the usual activities of human beings.           

         
     

May 26, 2013

Zazen Poem by Kodo Sawaki


Here is a poem by Kodo Sawaki and my comments.

Kodo Sawaki

Zazen Poem




Doing zazen calmly in the dojo,
Putting aside all negative thoughts,
Obtaining nothing but a mind without desire,
-This joy is beyond paradise.



The world runs after fame, honor,
Beautiful clothes and comfort.
But these pleasures are not true peace.
You run and stay unsatisfied until death!



Wear the kesa and black robe and practice zazen.
Concentrate with a single mind, whether still or in motion.
See with your own eyes deep inner wisdom.
Observe and know intimately the true aspect of all action and all existence.
Be able to observe balance.
Understand and know with a mind that is perfectly still.



If you are like this,
Your spiritual dimension,
The highest in this world,
Will be beyond compare.



.............................................................................................................................................................



Now I'd like to add my comments.






Doing zazen calmly in the dojo,
Putting aside all negative thoughts,
Obtaining nothing but a mind without desire,
-This joy is beyond paradise.



My comment:


Even if we are upset or cannot seem to calm down during zazen, we still put aside all negative thoughts, just in the tiny moment of here and now, having corrected our posture. We can notice, be it for a tiny fraction of a second or every now and then, that we cannot keep our negative thoughts, we cannot be upset non-stop, so sooner or later, during or after zazen, we have to give up whichever feeling may bother us... in zazen something straight and calm is supporting you. It may be the very straight spine where the original universe appears.


A mind without desire is not a mind that thinks: “I have no desire, you do.” A mind without desire is the mind of zazen which doesn't chase the mind without desire. It is the mind which notices that the universe itself is not a place to complain about lack of luck. We have to face things square after all, we cannot escape reality, no matter if it is nice or dark. At the end of the day, nothing can be kept, no matter how much we would like to keep it. The mind without desire is the mind that gave up trying to keep everything forever, floating freely like a leaf in the wind, moment after moment, no matter if desire arises or not. A brave person says sincerely: “I am sad”. But a brave person doesn't beg for comfort. He or she faces things without trying to escape the truth. To practice zazen facing the wall is also our noble determination to face reality, no matter what it brings or takes away.


And when we finally sit in front of the wall, the joy is subtle and sometimes hard to notice, but when the habit of sitting in zazen is carved into our life, then we notice that it is impossible to miss the joy of zazen. It is joy beyond words, beyond explanation, that's what makes it so enjoyable.









The world runs after fame, honor,
Beautiful clothes and comfort.
But these pleasures are not true peace.
You run and stay unsatisfied until death!






My comment:


After all we would be blind if we thought that we could make ourselves greater through fame or honor. We may wear beautiful clothes and be respected by wide spectrum of people - that's no problem. The problem appears once we think we can raise above others or above our lack of wisdom by wearing beautiful clothes or special clothes or kesa or getting applause from huge crowds or by acting as if we were enlightened (although it is hard for me to imagine how one would act if he or she wanted to act enlightened). If we are not satisfied with the ordinary state of things, when we feel unsuccessful or silly, we may try to seek the assistance of dharma, which is unobstructed by human opinions, and we can find deep meaning in the serene, balanced state of zazen. When we practice zazen, there is no need to stand above others or convince others that we deserve more respect or attention. If there is anything that deserves more respect and attention, it is the universe as it is. The dharma of everyday life, the dharma of the person who is perfectly happy with his or her natural character, no matter if others say yes or no, approve or disapprove, that's the dharma we should follow, it is nothing for noble people or people who always want more and can never feel satisfied. It is for people who realize that their life is raw, without bells and whistles and even if they feel lousy, miserable today, such people can always return to the simple state of zazen and forget their foolish ideas, about themselves or others. A simple person without honors or ranks appears in the posture of Buddha. Then there is no reason to brag or whine and the universe becomes the place where one can act beyond good or bad, high or low and express the true self perfectly, completely, without leaving any spiritual or magic traces.








Wear the kesa and black robe and practice zazen.
Concentrate with a single mind, whether still or in motion.
See with your own eyes deep inner wisdom.
Observe and know intimately the true aspect of all action and all existence.
Be able to observe balance.
Understand and know with a mind that is perfectly still.



My comment:


Kesa is the symbol of determination, it means one is determined to follow the path of buddhas. It means we have faith in the true state of things and realize the limits of the secular world, the limits of passions. If we believe in kesa, the ordinary, simple piece of cloth, which is beyond beautiful or ugly, then we believe in the wisdom of the universe which is just itself. The universe never tries to impress or discourage people from minding their business. So when we sit down and practice zazen, we can forget the world of complicated matters, be it intellectual or emotional, and accept both the vigor of the universe, and the silence that supports it from within. So being quiet in zazen, without making fuss about this or that, we can observe how still, how not worded, not judged everything is essentially. So our mind can be put to rest.






If you are like this,
Your spiritual dimension,
The highest in this world,
Will be beyond compare.



My comment:


Although the last words of Sawaki may sound very spiritual, he means that there is no higher or lower in the true person of here and now, no higher or lower in the buddha of everyday life. If you are like this, it means if you do believe in the truth of the universe, rather than ranks of people or splendid words and thoughts, you cannot miss the true buddha in the middle of your own heart. Buddha that is far away, the historical Buddha or the buddha you imagine somewhere in a famous temple, may be only a broken image nobody can awake. But the buddha you find right in your heart, is perfectly intact. That's the buddha all scriptures talk about.