July 18, 2017

A Glimpse of Beauty

This time it will be easier for me to ask myself questions and answer them, rather than trying to write a usual text where I just explain things.


I hear it is important to practice so that there is nothing to get in the end. Some teachers say that there is nothing to get or that we should not try to get something from practice and study. But that is the very opposite of our human nature, isn't it? I suppose most people come to a dojo in order to get some kind of peaceful mind, at least, some have "higher aspirations", trying to attain enlightenment, some others would like to become teachers one day. It is almost impossible to find a practitioner who has no expectations from practice or from the philosophy or from the teacher. 

Of course, most people or maybe everyone at the beginning wants to get something. Nobody will begin to practice and study Buddhism without any goals on their mind. At least they will want to figure out what Buddhism is about, or what zazen is about.... or who the teacher is really or who they are really. So we can hear, sometimes, practice and study in order to find the truth, or in order to become oneself, or become truly oneself... Most teachers set some kind of goals, of course. And if they don't tell you why you should practice, they sometimes ask you: Why do you practice? They want you to figure out why you practice. Because when we figure out why we practice, we basically know who we are. So after all why and who is the same. If a teacher asks you: "Why do you practice?" You can answer: "Myself". That sounds very selfish. But I don't mean "myself" as only myself and I don't care about others. I mean Here I am right in front of you. This is a fact. So the question why has a simple answer: Reality. It is not why we practice but who practices. That who, when doing something right now, is the question why and the answer at the same time. When a monk asked a master: What is the meaning of Buddha's teaching? The master said that he needed to go to the toilet. In other words: Why do you, master, practice and study Buddhism? Why do you teach Buddhism? The master answers: As for me, I am going to the toilet. This is the purpose of Buddhism. To exist in reality. Not to look for reality or hope to attain some kind of special wisdom or knowledge or enlightenment. If you ask me why I practice zazen, my silly mind may come up with silly answers, like it makes me feel good... or because I can answer questions better after zazen... but those are our mind's rather funny ideas. Our mind, usually, wants something, wants to get something. No matter what the others get. But our original mind is just staring, eyes wide open, wide open, mouth wide open... staring, that means our original mind is just getting what is here and now, no matter what it is. Cold or hot, dark or bright, loud or quiet, the original self is just wide open. It is not getting anything from anyone or anything. It is not practicing zazen and getting original mind. There is no getting in original mind. There is only existence. Are trees or birds getting anything in the morning, in the afternoon or in the evening? They just exist, moment  after moment. We human beings usually forget how wonderful it is just to exist, just to open to whatever is right here and now.


So that original mind, as you put it, that original mind is not something we get thanks to practicing zazen or studying Buddhism? 

Original mind is not something you get, it is something there is. It is not a new understanding or a new state of mind or a new kind of wisdom. It is as new as an old wall that has always been there. It is as wise as a lamp post. It is as yours as it is Donald Trump's or Gautama Buddha's. So we cannot practice in order to get that Original Mind. If we practice in order to get Original Mind, it wouldn't be different from practicing and studying Buddhism in order to get two eyes, one nose and one mouth. Only people who don't have two eyes could try to get two eyes. But we usually have two eyes, one nose and one mouth, so there is no need to practice in order to get Original Mind as it is what we already have.

So the problem seems not that we don't have It, rather we don't realize we have it. But then you could say that the purpose of practicing is realization of the fact that we do have Original Mind already. 

Yes, but that is not something to get. It is not something you add to your life after getting something. It is something you notice as your actual experience, your actual You. Our mind always wants to make reality into something to get or lose.  This is how we become misled by our mind. It creates a concept of "getting Original Mind". But there is no such thing as "getting Original Mind". That which we cannot find, cannot name, cannot get, cannot grasp, is Original Mind. It is really nothing we could find or lose.

So why talk at all, why discuss the goals of Buddhism or say that there is no goal in Buddhist practice, if we cannot seriously or correctly decide what the goal is as everything we say is wrong or only a product of our Deluded Mind? 

Well, of course, it is very difficult or in a way impossible to grasp with words what the meaning of Buddhism is, as the true meaning is just our simple existence in the real world and that real world cannot be found in the news or books, only right here. So what is right here already is completely the meaning of Buddhism. But to most people that means that the situation is somehow static:  If there is only here and now, then there must be no reason why to practice as they see practice as something we do in order to get something. It is popular to say that the goal of practice is enlightenment. If we correct that misleading term and say awakening, it is closer to reality, but what is awakening? If one wakes up, they don't get anything, they just see things, hear things, smell things... so they are just living in reality, right here, right now. They are not in a state of ecstasy or spiritual achievement. Yet they are completely here and now. The problem is that most people imagine that being here and now is not our usual situation. But it is the most usual situation. So we could say awakening is the most usual situation that occurs to us many times a day. Then to practice in order to wake up would be very strange. As soon as we stop trying to get something and just practice zazen, that is the most usual situation we can get and still it is awakening. As soon as we hope to attain a better state, it is falling asleep, or delusion. As soon as we judge ourselves or our zazen instead of just doing it, we go astray and lose our awakening.

But don't you think some people may say that they attain a state of balance thanks to zazen? Plus practicing zazen every day for many years must have some very nice effects. So obviously, there is a cause and effect. 

Cause and effect, that is what most people consider all the time. And it is very important part of our lives, but the other aspect of reality is just what is here right now. And that is what most people cannot appreciate. So they practice so called meditation hoping to attain or get something. Buddha Gautama found out that just sitting here and now is the treasure or the secret he had been looking for so hard. After trying so hard for many years suddenly he found the ultimate value of the present moment, the present situation. So zazen is not going somewhere, but stopping, sit down here, and stop doing anything, stop trying to get anything. Buddha did not know this until he found out, but we already know that he found that so we can practice that present dwelling, dwelling at the present moment, the most usual situation there is. We are always present, so it is the most usual. At the same time, it is the most extraordinary, because we cannot keep it. The present is more special than diamonds or pearls. We can keep a diamond, but we cannot keep a present moment. Yet, most people wave away this experience as profane and look for something spiritual. Just sitting here and now is not spiritual enough to them. But Buddha means just doing something here and now.      

The problem of modern civilization is that it believes in Purpose and forgets the Essence. Because human beings have long forgotten the essence of our activities, we are trapped in trying to get something all the time, always trying to get somewhere, to improve something, while messing up the whole world and ourselves in the process because most people are too busy and too eager to get something. They always want to get something because they have no clue what they are getting at each moment. So being blind to reality which is directly in front of their eyes, they tell others and themselves: Let's try to attain enlightenment. Let's try to build the tallest building in the world. Let's make our country bigger than the next one. So we often do things in order to make something better but in the process we basically very ofter make things much worse. We should be very grateful that we can practice and experience Buddha Gautama, the same thing.  There is the experience of just sitting and it is possible to notice or recognize the quality of just sitting and be grateful. It is possible to completely wake up from time to time, I don't know, even many times a day. And it is possible to realize that such awakening into what is just here and now, in front of us, is the most important aspect of our lives.

So we can replace ideas with our actual experience here and now. This replacing "why" with "open your eyes to what is here", this is just a simple action of opening, getting this what is here, not getting any benefits, anything better, it is not going somewhere, it is the opposite, it is the very stopping, not trying to get something, but getting what is right here.

So you would say that practicing and studying Buddhism is not trying to get something, rather finding what we are getting right at this moment?               

It is very difficult for us, intelligent human beings, to see clearly what is right in front of us. It is difficult to see the value of what is right here. It is difficult to imagine that having breakfast in the morning is the highest purpose of our life. And if right now you are not having breakfast, then of course, the idea of having breakfast as the highest goal is only a strange idea.  But I am not talking about images or ideas about having breakfast. It was only an example. I mean a very ordinary situation right now may be the most important experience in our lives. Why most important? Because each moment is the most important moment. But first it is necessary to find what is here and now. If you are eating a banana, then it is eating a banana, which is the most important thing ever. You are what you are doing right now, you are not Why, you are Doing something. So the same way, zazen is not about why we practice zazen, it is doing zazen. People will always ask you: Why do you practice zazen? Are you trying to attain enlightenment? But you can say, no, I just practice zazen, that's all. They will say: But why? And you can say: This question is the very reason Buddhism exists. People don't know why they are alive. They want to know why they should live. Buddha found out that it is necessary to shift from asking why to the very experience itself. The experience itself is the answer.

So living stupidly, without a purpose, isn't it regressing to the level of animals? 

I didn't say we should have no goals or intentions. No, we are living in  the world of people and it is a very complicated, a very complex network of plans and intentions. We must tiptoe through this complicated world. It is easy to mess up too many things. When I get sick, I go to the doctor and the intention is clear, I want to be  healthy again. But while I am going to the doctor, driving my car, at that moment, that is all that matters. So between getting sick and getting medicine, there are thousands of moments where we are real, living in the real world, each moment matters, each moment is an opportunity to completely realize our Original Mind, to wake up and see clearly. The plans and intentions are just some aspects of our lives but they are not the essence. The "why" is not why we live.  So we could say that the first step is to ask "why". The second step is to practice, rather than discuss our life intellectually. The third step is to see that the practice itself is the answer. So of course, the result is practice that has no end... no expectations... because there is no why, and as there is no why, there is no specific result of practice that we should pursue. So we can practice zazen just like trees grow and the wind blows... no specific reason, no specific results, just amazing actions within the perfectly imperfect universe.


3 comments:

mark said...

Dear Roman

Thank you for this excellent essay. You convey clearly the essential paradox of our human condition: we seek for that which we already possess!

It strikes me that concepts such as 'the state without intention', or 'non discriminating mind' are what makes Master Dogen's approach to Zazen so challenging. It's easy to create ideals from such concepts, such as "I must not discriminate" or "I must not have an intention" etc. However, practice and experience demonstrate that the arising and falling away of intentions, discriminations, images and so on is part and parcel of being human and that Zazen contains everything I can throw at it.

mark said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
roman said...

Thank you, Mark.