May 12, 2019

Kids (goats) and What more is there to learn?

note: The following text was translated from my original Czech article using Google Translate plus my editing.

When I think about what I saw at the sesshin at the farm in Komorce, a week later, it is quite evident that we all very, very often express the true self, Buddha, whatever you call it. All the participants but also Vanda, my brother, dogs, goats, etc. express their true self very often. Of course, goat kids have the least problem with being themselves. We people often have a big problem with it. That's why Buddha Shakyamuni asked - who am I? And he practiced and then one day he found out. He didn't become himself that day, but he understood who he had been so far and most importantly, who he had been essentially, not that he became a new person, a buddha, no, he realized how he had already been buddha before, which is a big difference. He noticed that he often used to cover his true self. Now it was clear to him who he essentially was. So others began to call him Buddha, awakened.

We are often like the goat kids, completely ourselves, at a sesshin. There is no problem expressing our true selves at an event like this. Even if we ask a question, we express ourselves freely as long as  we do not have a shadow of doubt at the same time - am I asking a stupid question? Wouldn't it look stupid if I ask such a question? Or a senior participant may feel very confident... "no need to ask, I know already." A beginner has no problem asking, I mean, the fact that he or she asks a question does not mean the true self is not expressed. Quite the contrary. If a beginner has a single doubt, no problem. He doubts clearly and without a doubt. E.g. she may have a sincere doubt about being a buddha. Am I really a buddha? So she asks the teacher. When she asks clearly and honestly, it is obvious that she is a buddha. But if it is a very complicated question and the student's mind is very complicated at the time of asking, then true self cannot be expressed. As I said, it is easy for a goat kid to be itself, but for an intelligent, well-educated person it can be a big problem.

Frankly, until the beginning of 2017 I was suffering from a major inferiority complex. I had never realized it, I thought it was just me... I didn't even know it was feeling inferior, I just thought some of my colleagues or peers were much better and I underestimated myself and my abilities, obviously, this was just my feeling. It was clearly a mental disorder. When I had to talk to the others, in front of others about something important and everyone was listening, I was very nervous. When somebody criticized me publicly in front of others, I felt like I was being sent directly to hell.  It was a terrible feeling. It was very complicated, so it often interfered with my true self. I remember I wrote an article about Buddha several years ago and Mike wrote something very positive about it. When you have this inferiority complex, and someone you admire praises your work, it is like a junkie getting a dose at last. Aaaah... in heaven again. So just like a junkie you go down to hell and up to heaven over and over again, never realizing what your personal value realistically is.  Zen is a bit cruel to a person who suffers from this complex. Because it keeps telling you, be yourself, find courage, self-esteem, go straight ahead, don't give up, don't worry if others criticize you. But you just can't. And you think it is just not Zen enough... to admire others and look down on yourself or tell others Look, how great I am because I did so and so... you know this is not the way you are trying to follow.

At a sesshin the people may have all kinds of personal problems, who doesn't? But they still most of the time come across as self-confident. Anyway, about two years ago - I really don't know how it happened, but probably twenty five years of every day zazen and regular input from Mike and possibly some kind of success at work and a newly required respect from my colleagues, not sure which of these things or if all of them contributed to overcoming my mental sickness ,but at last I felt free from it. I feel much more relaxed about myself these days, at work and in situations that used to be horrible for me in the past.  So what happened two years ago made my life much easier. At last I feel like I'm a just another guy, just another guy, at times making a mistake, another time succeeding, nothing much better or worse than others. Just another participant at another retreat. Of course, I know I am different, very different, but not much worse or much better than anyone anywhere in this world...  it is still nice when I get a positive feedback and unpleasant when criticized, but I am not a junkie any more. My life doesn't depend on whether someone says I am an idiot or a sage. I'd rather have a nice cup of coffee.

... But back to the true self. Does this mean that when you overcome an inferiority complex, you automatically become your true self? Well, most people do not suffer from this mental disorder, and yet cover their true self with all kinds of ideas, dreams, opinions, attitudes... I don't believe Zen is supposed to work as psychotherapy, but we can't deny that zazen has an impact on our psyche, a big effect, that's for sure. However, the task of zazen is not to cure our mental disorders, but to let the true self appear. In other words, stop obstructing your true self.  When I was suffering from the complex, it didn't mean I was never my true self. For example, when freely swimming in the ocean, there was nothing that would prevent me from expressing myself freely.  And I saw this free expression with all the sesshin participants. You almost always show your true self - if you just do something, or simply ask, or just tell someone that the shower is busy. It is our most ordinary, essential experience that we express in a most essential, ordinary way. In a noble way, it is called the Buddha. Or simply our "everyday experience". But it's the same. Buddha or everyday experience.  So what else should we learn if we express our true selves so often and if it is not important if we sometimes forget who we truly are?

I think that at some stage of our practice it is our primary task to learn to distinguish between what I am essentially and what is my shadow. We can ask sincerely and simply, and not in a complicated way, hiding our true questions. I write long articles about Buddhism. But if they don't point to what is essential, then these articles are useless. If they do not encourage us to let go of complicated ideas and philosophies, they are useless. If they suggest that thinking is more important than acting, they are useless. If they suggest understanding is more important than honest actions, then they are wrong. So the first stage of practice - is it really me? Am I this? Is this my essence? And in the second stage, when we have already clarified what we are essentially, we may wonder how the complications of mind and life prevent us from expressing ourselves completely and truly. And we together with zazen and other people work on this never ending task of everyday life and everyday zazen practice. Then every day is a new task. If possible go to the present moment. If possible. If not, don't worry, try again later. Sometimes angry, sometimes sad, sometimes clear, sometimes cheerful, sometimes mischievous...

Kodo Sawaki said he was deluded and only thanks to zazen he saw his delusions clearly. I am not saying that we should be deluded, I am saying that we should see our weaknesses and delusions. And zazen is a very simple way to see ourselves. The Buddha does not mean you are not ordinary, but damn well you know and practice and realize in your real life that ordinary Buddha. Goat kids do this naturally. But it's amazing that someone like Buddha figured out the key to our original nature. And that although we can't do it all the time, we can often be ourselves. There's always a lot to learn. And when we like to learn and do it honestly, we immediately express our true self. What is that? I want to know! A kid goat. It is running away. It is scared. Running to its Mom.

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