February 24, 2017

Follow the Serpent's Tip

Here's a little disclaimer: All my articles, all my suggestions or explanations of Buddhism are directed towards me as well as towards whoever is interested or might benefit from my articles. So even if an article I have written seems like something I am telling others, in fact, I am the first to receive and hopefully benefit from such instructions. I need them - provided they are useful and true teachings. I don't know if my teaching is authentic but it is definitely some efforts to teach myself what I learned from good teachers, both people I met and teachings of people like master Dogen or Shunryu Suzuki whom I never met but whose teaching is studied in our lineage respectfully.   

When you don't think about it too much, you are IT, just that what you have always wanted to be, a free, simple person who is not overwhelmed by their intellectual questions and doubts.  Maybe you thought you would be as smart as those zen masters who give spiritual advice to others. But the help is not about being smart or knowing some kind of secret. The help is about directions to your simple, original, free self. So when you are doing something right now, you are perfectly on par with that Chinese layman Pang who said: "How wonderful! I draw water, I carry fuel."

So you are that person, that very original and perfectly unfinished, open person you always wanted to be. The thing is you might want to be a finished person, someone who has achieved something fixed, something stable or eternal, but actually, that desire for a fixed person, a fixed buddha is really against the very freedom and openness we practice and quest for in Buddhism. So when you let go of that fixed idea about who you are or who you want to be, then right then you are that, IT, the person, the real thing. There is absolutely nothing you have to add to that person. On the contrary, whenever you add something artificial, something fixed, rigid, and idea, decoration, an aura, wisdom, knowledge, any kind of spiritual experience, you have lost your own Tathagata - the person who has just appeared before thinking and after thinking, a person who is not bound by words or ideas.

We can have all kinds of goals. To graduate from college, to start a family, to make a million dollars, to have a few wonderful kids, to find a good Buddhist teacher, to realize who you really are, these are all wonderful goals and we need to set such goals in our lives, but after all, the most important goal of all goals is to live our life day after day. The utmost purpose of our life is just to live it. It is like a journey you have to continue. Rain or shine, you keep walking. Even if you stop for a drink in a pub, then you continue your journey, you don't give up. It doesn't matter if the weather is nice or not, whether you feel tired or energetic, optimistic or pessimistic, grumpy or excited. The most important thing is to continue. This is how the quality of buddha can shine over and over, every day, and that's how the original quality of the universe meets the original quality of a person.
What kind of life would you like to live? I think the best would be to live just the life that is unfolding right in front of you. It is like accepting the shoes you are wearing even if they aren't very comfortable. We only have this life, this person so it is best to make the best out of this life, these genes, this mouth, this nose, this age, this talent, this weakness, this situation, this town, this computer, this keyboard, this moment. It is not necessary to dream about someone else's life or imitate others or try to become somebody that we can never ever be. It is best to accept who we are - basically - and work with that. I am not saying we cannot change, but in Buddhism, the changes are not as important as the essence we have brought to this life from our mother's womb, the very thing we have always been. We learn, we make some progress and sooner or later we can meet ourselves completely. Sooner or later we can shake hands with ourselves. We can accept ourselves, this life, this situation. That's why Kodo Sawaki said that zazen has no goal. When we feel balanced after zazen, that is wonderful, but the less we try to attain something through zazen, the closer we are to our true self, and the true self is something we don't have to look for or attain, it is always here, just when we don't think about it.

Doing something simple, or asking a question or taking a pill or going to bed, without categories, without fixed ideas about ourselves and others, we can taste the freedom of Tathagata. So just let go of ideas and categories and the gate of the mental prison will open and you will be able to follow the serpent's tip - you'll grab the apple, eat it and step in to the Buddha's paradise! We don't know what Buddha's paradise is, as it cannot be found intellectually, but we can experience it when we just act, when we just practice zazen.


No comments: