Today, at the Day of zazen in Prague, I was translating a talk given by Dae Kwang, who was my teacher at the Providence Center in the USA in the summer of 1992. I would like to summarize the basic ideas Dae Kwang spoke about in his talk. Actually, he talked about the basic things Buddha found out.
Firstly, Buddha realized that everything and all beings have Buddha's nature, nature of awakening.
Secondly, Buddha realized that suffering is caused by misunderstanding ourselves, by not understanding our Buddha nature.
Thirdly, as we do not understand ourselves, we blame others for our own misery. We have enemies, we hate them and they usually hate us.
Here I added my own comment - of course, criminals are causing suffering to others. In Buddhism, however, we do not respond to the fact that someone causes suffering to us by hatred. Instead, we understand that what this person has caused is the result of his misunderstanding of himself or herself. So again, the suffering originates not from outside, but from internal conditions. While we generally claim that someone has caused us suffering, when we really understand the essence of ourselves and the others, rather than suffering, we can see the character of human conflicts. Like that we do not consider ourselves victims, rather an observer of an unfortunate situation.
Fourthly, when we only read and study the beautiful ideas of Buddhism, it does not have any real effect on our lives. Because Buddhism is not about understanding, it is about our own experience we get in practicing Buddhism, practicing zazen. When we practice zazen, we learn not to hold on to any opinions or thoughts, so we are actually returning to our own awakened nature, and experience our own awakening. Therefore, one must clearly see the difference between understanding Buddha's beautiful ideas and their own experience of awakening. These are two completely different things! There is nothing beautiful or ugly in one's own awakening. There is no room for any thoughts, neither stupid nor wise in waking up.
Here's my last comment. Awakening is not the ultimate solution to our lives. Life itself, moment by moment, experienced honestly and directly, is the ultimate solution. Of course there is no finality here, on the other hand every moment is the last. It is not about living clearly and flawlessly, rather about stumbling over obstacles over and over again, without being afraid that we won't get anywhere. Without being proud about how far we have gone.