We practice from the perspective of Buddha, not from the perspective of the self. But that doesn’t mean you are Buddha. Buddha is the state when the you has fallen from a central position.


The congealing of experience into a you is the primary grasping. All other grasping follows from it. It is the lodestone of suffering.


An asthmatic thinks he can’t breathe in, when really he can’t breathe out. His lungs are too full to allow any air in. Buddha is like breathing out. Mara is like breathing in. We affirm the self, we cast the self off. This is our life, and this is why practice isn’t an ego project, isn’t a vassal territory of psychological imperialism, where the thought may arise that one more in breath might do it


You are hanging by your teeth from a branch above a void. Someone asks you to express something about Buddhism. What do you do?


Dotoku – expression – consists of two Chinese characters: ‘do’ meaning ‘the way’ or ‘to say’ , and ‘toku’ – ‘to attain’ or ‘to be able’


So for Dogen, everything is expression: the branch is expressing itself, the void is expressing itself, the teeth are expressing themselves, the words are expressing themselves.


Implicit in an ordinary reading of the story is an assumption that the world is just the backdrop to the drama of us, when in fact the world is continually leaping out of itself. As are you.


If we claim to know our experience, how can we avoid falling into dualism? Prajna, pre-knowing, is the state prior to knowing and naming.

Zazen is the practice of prajna. We can also call it intimacy, because there is no separation. We can also call it illumination; not because each thing is brighter, but because it is no longer smudged by the fog of the self.


My teacher Michael Luetchford said that people imagine that Wholeness is taking two distinct things –mind and body say, or self and world, and fusing them together by dint of a stupendous spiritual effort.


Which is idiotic. The core insight of Buddhism is dependent origination; in Dogen’s terms, Full Dynamic Functioning. Taen seriously, it is the diamond which cuts through all delusions: self, separateness, grasping and rejecting, time as the container of things and the narrative space of the self; everything.


But it’s no good as an idea. We have to feel it.


Emptiness isn’t conceptual; it’s descriptive. It is experience unencumbered by you. It is felt, not thought.


If the feeling dimension is missed, practice can become very arid.


It was for this reason that, alongside the articulation of Emptiness, the Mahayana School developed the doctrine of the three bodies of the Buddha. Theravadan Buuddhism had two – the actual body of the historical Buddha [Nirmanakaya] and the Dharmakaya, the Truth Body, which is always there and which is identified with Reality. We picture reality sometimes as the myriad things, sometimes as the body of the Buddha.


Mahayana introduced the Bliss Body [Sambogakaya] which, I think, makes explicit the feeling dimension of Emptiness, and the feeling dimension of reality, of all things.


In the same way, the Pure Land sutras give descriptions of the Pure Land which are magical and enchanting  - wish fulfilling trees, jewelled birds, and so on. Obviously, we aren’t meant to take this literally, but the descriptions evoke our feelings – delight, gratitude, grace.


This feeling and felt world is itself the body of the Buddha. The world itself has liberative force.

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