A few years ago I went to the country with my girlfriend. We stayed in a kind of shabby chalet and in the morning I went to the corner and practiced zazen while everyone else was having breakfast outdoors. I heard someone asked my girlfriend what I was doing. She said I was practicing Buddhist meditation. The guy asked her if it helped me. She said: "No." At that time I was a bit angry. I wanted people to think that thanks to my Buddhist practice I was a better person. How come she said it made no difference? But now I know she was right. That Buddhist meditation hadn't helped me at all. I was the same stupid and weak person, no matter how often or regularly I practiced. And she knew. But today I know another thing. Buddhist practice should not help us. It should leave us alone. So if someone says today that Buddhist practice hasn't made me a better person, I will smile. There is something more important than one person becoming better or more peaceful. I'll try to explain this problem in this article now.
We could understand Buddhism as two different things. Actually, those are very different things. If I say one of them is true Buddhism and the other is false, you will probably frown. Especially if I also say that in true Buddhism there is no room for Buddhism. Some time ago we asked our teacher if Buddhism had helped him to solve his problems, or something like that. And he gave a talk saying that Buddhism never helped him solve his problems. A lot of people hope that Buddhism - reading Buddhist books or practicing some kind of meditation will make their lives easier. They find some kind of wisdom in Buddhist philosophy and some peace in Buddhist meditation. But that is not what is really called Buddhism. That is some kind of personal help or some kind of talk or inspiration. Something very limited. Even if you read the most profound Buddhist books and only take some kind of wisdom from such books, it wasn't really learning much about Buddhism. If you practice zazen and get some peace and then feel good, feeling I got some peace, that wasn't practicing zazen, that was some kind of peaceful meditation. But if you sincerely practice and do not seek personal help and then feel peaceful, of course, why not. But that result is not why we practice Buddhism. Anyway, from time to time we need some kind of help or entertainment, but that is not the true purpose of Buddhist practice and study. The true purpose of Buddhist practice and study is to say good-bye to limiting views and understanding - ultimately, of course, only ultimately. We need all kinds of views and understanding in this modern world, but in true Buddhism there is no room for limited views or limited understanding. There are different points of views used to explain Buddhism but these are only temporary aids, not the final meaning of Buddhism.
We could say that there are two ways to understand Buddhism. Again, one is quite limited and the other one is unlimited and liberating. One could be compared to approaching the door. And the other is opening the door. I think most people will agree that coming closer to the door and opening the door are two different things. Most people study or read about Buddhism as if it was a door that should not be opened. They come up to it and want to be inspired or get some peace. But our ancestors, buddhas and patriarchs, master Dogen and such, they came to the door and opened it. We don't have to do that, but I am afraid, that's the only way to fully discover what Buddha meant by Dharma. Or what he meant by the truth.
There is another way to explain the two different attitudes to Buddhism. One is half-baked and the other is complete. You are either interested in Buddhism as something that may help you become a better person, maybe wiser, or closer to enlightenment, or kinder to others, or you are interested in Buddhism as something which is not limited by you, your conditions and Buddhism itself. There is no room for Buddha in Buddha. There is no room for wisdom in Buddhism. There is no room for enlightenment in Buddhism. There is no room for enlightenment in enlightenment. There is no room for wisdom in true wisdom. In other words, even if we have attained enlightenment, we have to give it up, otherwise it becomes complete delusion. Even if we have encountered the truth, we have to give it up, as there is no room for a concept of truth or glimpse of truth in the truth. So myself, I can tell you all about my limits, weaknesses, delusions, but I cannot say anything about wisdom or truth or enlightenment. I have no idea what those things are. But reality itself knows and I have confidence in reality. The truth knows itself. The universe knows itself. Buddha knows Buddha. But that kind of Buddha doesn't mean anything specific by Buddha. If there is some kind of conclusion in Buddhism, some kind of teaching, it is let go of everything - you, others, buddhas... If you, as a limited person, let go of things and ideas and say: "I have let go of things and ideas", then how about the others? For many years I thought it was important that I understand Buddhism and I know the truth, but how about others? Now I am interested in the possibility of human beings in general, not just me, to understand or experience the truth. You or me. Anyone. I'd like to know if we can do it and how to do it. And as I have confidence in the practice of zazen and Buddhist teaching, I can see a way. I am very happy as I can see we can do it. Whether I am wise or compassionate, that is not so important, but can we practice and experience what Buddha practiced and experienced? Not me, but can we? I have tried for many years, so now I want to see if others can do it, too. Not that I know and the others don't. I want to see what we, as human beings, can do in the field of Buddhism. And I am sure we can open the door completely. It has been done in the past, it is being done now and it will be done in the future.
Ultimately, there is no room for our limited self in Buddhism. In our real life, there is plenty of room for delusions and ideas and concepts and mistakes. But in Buddhism there is no room for something limited. You let go and you let go of letting go. You let go of wisdom, you let go of Buddhas and Buddhist philosophy. Then you can spot a beautiful thing in the grass or in the street and say Wow. Now I understand my teacher's freedom to be himself and make mistakes and have likes and dislikes. He has let go of Buddhism. Doing so he hasn't tainted it. At the same time, he can practice Buddhism and tell us about Buddhism, tell us about true Buddhism, which is not something limited. He can tell us about the door. Once you open the door, let go of the handle. Forget the door. But people will ask you over and over again - where is the door? And I ask myself over and over again: "Where is the wisdom of buddhas?" And when I am not completely lost and dark, I can answer to myself: "It has disappeared. But there is some fruit in the kitchen, if you are hungry. There is some water if you are thirsty."