April 6, 2017

Ca ira!

In the past I was very proud of my ability to explain various aspects of the Buddhist philosophy. I  don't feel that pride any more. Of course I did not say much to anyone, but I thought so - I'm someone who has a great ability to explain Buddhism. And I imagined that in a few years I would publish a book of my essays on Buddhism. (Today I don't want to publish my old essays, except maybe a few. )

I also always wanted to return to mental clarity, brightness. When I fell into a state of confusion or irritation, I felt that I'd failed horribly. I believed that a good Buddhist talks about their own delusions, but basically never has any! I imagined that Buddhist teachers had a sense of reality that I was far away from. So I tried to get rid of my confusion and ignorance whenever there was the opportunity to do so. I always sought a state of calm and clarity. Thanks to zazen I could regularly return to similar states. Then, in a state like that I enjoyed writing articles about Buddhism or giving a talk at the Prague Lotus Center. I didn't realize that I was carrying a big piece of idealism in my head, which prevented me from becoming free and myself. I saw a clear difference between wisdom on the one hand and ignorance on the other, the truth as opposed to delusion, people who are true versus people who are deluded.  I had no idea that there is something not fixed about buddhas, something not clear about the truth, something very, very open about our lives, something completely open and free about each of us, some kind of quality that we cannot clearly notice and fix, a situation of no limits, which is where we act like or express ourselves perfectly as buddhas. Long time ago I realized that the truth cannot be grasped by mind, but for some reason at that time I didn't realize that people are also like that, ineffable, that I am also ineffable, impossible to fix in a category. I could drink tea without calling it tea, I could walk without calling it walk, I could see flowers without calling them flowers, but I could not see myself as a quality without names. I always wanted to know who I am, what my function is, what my rank is, what value I have, what wisdom or silliness I have, what I mean to others, what I know, what I don't know. I had no idea that I could put aside such evaluations and concerns and just enjoy being "unlabeled, beyond ranks or values".   We cannot always clearly decide who is true or false, who is awake and who is not, as most of the time none of us is fixed or stuck in a rigid cage that has a name or label. We can notice that some people are usually confused and some people are often clear. We can notice that some people look for something and some people may naively believe that they have found something fixed. Genuine teachers are able to point to the place which has no name or rank. Then we can find freedom in that place and live our life freely. Master Dogen wrote that he had completed the task of unfinished, never-ending practice. I would say that as he had completed that task, master Dogen's life simply began to mean never-ending chain of momentary tasks. We could call it freedom, or a challenge after challenge.

As for people who are awake, I think it is similar to the situation of a tree. Does a tree show off its awakening? The tree expresses the truth but firstly the tree is not aware of such a situation, secondly,  it never speaks about its own awakening. It doesn't shout: "I radiate awakening. I am an enlightened tree, I am a buddha tree." So good teachers never say about themselves - here, here, can't you see I am a Buddha? That would be so absurd. The Buddhas do not need to fix this situation and show others. When you are in a state of confusion, you don't have to say, oh, I'm not Buddha ... because just as you are going to say what you are or you aren't, the situation has changed and you may be completely free again, so your words come too late. If you attain a state of clarity and want to say it, you have already fallen into a state of cloudiness. So we can only try to point to situations that we cannot experience at the very moment of opening our mouths. The ideas are always only shadows of actual situations. Anyway, speaking or acting, when the Buddhist teachers express the state of Buddha, they express the reality itself, not their abilities or skills or wisdom. When ringing the bell or raising a stick, they show the reality itself, not their personal opinions or personal qualities. These teachers may seem confident, they may be confident, but the kind of confidence that matters is transcending one's personal attitude, so they immediately forget themselves boldly and act - step into sheer reality. They may say things such as: "I do not know who I am, I don't know if I understand Buddhism," and then they hit the bell. Just that.

Master Dogen wrote: "The actual situation is where we feel that we have forgotten what we know and when we achieve that, we have overcome the mind." So it is important to forget what we have learned. That was exactly my weakness. I was proud of what I'd  learned, what experience I had, proud of my understanding of Buddhism. So I was a kind of rabbit with horns. Maybe sincere, maybe honest at times, but definitely a rabbit with horns. And even now I may be a rabbit with horns. In my own essays I wrote: "Forget what you know and just do something." Of course, I did something many times during the day and didn't think about myself. That's why I enjoyed skiing, cycling, golf... swimming in the sea. In those situations I could be free, free from my own silly ideas about who I was and wasn't. Only during such activities, I was really able to forget myself and enter reality - like everyone else who's doing something completely. But once I had time to think about myself, I became a desperate idealist. It devoured and broke me, over and over again. It knocked me down and messed up my original innocence. "You're not good enough!" an idealistic cop shouted at me from a corner of my brain. Well, I would say today, nobody is good enough and everyone is good enough. The efforts we make are important, but our evaluation should be put aside. So good enough or not good enough, the most important is to get up in the morning and follow the tasks each day presents, moment after moment, till we go to sleep. And start again in the morning. At times I tried to push very hard and at times I slowed down so much that I felt almost on the verge of dying. Now, we may believe that we have slowed down or hurried up, but the time and space doesn't care. No matter how little or hard we try, we cannot mislead time and space, we'll be always here and now, in this very body and mind. Reality is pretty sheer. You can change reality, for sure, but you cannot change it by thinking. By thinking you can prepare actions that will change reality, so thinking or understanding Buddhism is important. But only certain kind of understanding or right understanding leads to actions that come from the right attitude. So not trying to hurry things up or slowing things down. Just actions at the present moment.  

When we try hard to get rid of our illusions, or when we try to get rid of our imperfections, mistakes, or whenever we try to be someone other than who we already are... it's all against the meaning of Buddhism. The effort is important in Buddhism, but it must be the right effort. It is not about removing illusions and establishing brightness. It is not getting rid of weaknesses. Although we learn as we practice and study, we do not learn to be stronger. The strength we may get as we practice is our original nature. The weaknesses we still have, are our original nature. A butterfly cannot eat a tiger. A tiger cannot swim across the lake. A human being wants to have sex. So when we see what is natural, we can say, OK, whatever, and just return to our everyday life. A butterfly is too weak to fly across Africa, so it flies only across the meadow. A tiger is too heavy to sit on a flower, so it sits on a boulder. A human being is too intelligent to act like a frog, so a human being studies philosophy. When we practice zazen, we can see our weakness and smile. It is OK. When we want to deny our weakness, we become stiff and break ourselves or someone else sooner or later. We don't have to become some kind of samurais, who never make a wrong step. Rather we should just forget our ideas about ourselves, buddhas, enlightenment and just do something, all day long. Stupidly act, moment after moment, even when we read a wonderful book of philosophy, we can read it stupidly, that means like a child, a very curious child. When we don't' study Buddhism stupidly, we mix the authentic teaching with our intellectual ideas and spoil the whole thing, the whole teaching. So we have to be careful about our ability to think and judge. Of course we have a great goal - to realize the truth of Buddhism - and I'm not saying that we should slack and make no efforts. Just the efforts should be somehow stupid and simple, every day, day after day, over and over, somehow simply doing what is necessary to do and not worry how great we are or how great others are. A teacher is someone who helps, that help is primary, his or her possible greatness is secondary. But many people make the mistake of judging the teacher without seeing his offered help. When you get to know your teacher very well, you may notice that he or she is not that great, but what they point to is more than great. And they, as long as they are authentic, never ever point to themselves as the goal of your efforts. You do not follow the teacher, you follow their directions. They may tell you to go left whereas they go right. After all you will meet them in the real world and there will be no directions, only the north, south, west and east.

Master Dogen also wrote: "Generally speaking, students want to be caught by the truth. Being caught by the truth means to lose all traces of enlightenment." This means that no matter if we think that we are enlightened or not, in both cases, we should ditch the ideas about enlightenment and just do something. This is something that I have written about a zillion times already, but I never realized what it meant. Of course, when I was swimming in the sea, I did realize, but as a whole, my life was broken into pieces of different ideas and attitudes toward myself and reality. Such a situation is impossible to cure if you have no access to a true teacher. Only a true teacher can notice that you haven't realized something important, that something important is missing. We ourselves are too busy following our own ideas about Buddhism that prevent us from seeing what Buddhism truly is. So we must make sure that we are learning from an experienced teacher and let the teacher know about our progress and problems and questions.

People who do not practice zazen, also express the truth of Buddhism. Even people who cheat, in a way, express the truth of Buddhism. But it is our human nature to live honestly and well. No matter how many weaknesses we have, we tend to end up living honestly and well. That is our nature. If you try hard to hammer your nature, you may end up a criminal or a complete fool, but if you look after yourself at least a little bit sincerely, you will allow your nature to shine from time to time. Just the thing is that when we do not practice zazen, this natural disposition of ours may be obscured, or blocked by our ideas about ourselves and the world. So we tend to follow some crazy movements or crowds and ignore the direction from which the truth comes. When we study Buddhism and practice zazen, we tend to live quite well. And if others say that we are good people, we should say, no, I am not so sure about that... We can't just simply declare whether we are good people or not. It doesn't matter. What matters is our everyday practice and everyday efforts in each moment, no matter if we fail or succeed.

I will continue to write this blog, but I hope it will not be driven by my desire to raise above others and become an important person. I do not want to hide away in the mountains, but I don't want to shout at people about Buddhism either... Anyway, the goal of life is life itself. This is very easy to say, but extremely difficult to realize. But, you know what, ca ira!

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