209.


The most important thing for us to understand is that Zazen is not a practice of the self. It is a practice of the Buddha.

That being so, it is not concerned with purifying or perfecting the self. Or setting the self off on a journey.

It is not concerned with furnishing the house of the self with wisdom and compassion.

But rather, becoming completely intimate with the ground.

My first teacher said, "What is it which stops the Universe from collapsing?"

He didn't answer. Of course, he didn't need to.


 
208.


Master Dogen, in his instructions for meditation, said that when we practice zazen, we have to take 'the backward step'.

That suggests that the world we ordinarily experience is constructed. But also, that what we are searching for is abundantly available to us, and always has been. It isn't somewhere we've not been to yet, but somewhere we've forgotten. It is easy enough for us to say that the ways we demarcate the world is a construction, but harder to say - and to mean - for the self, or, as the Heart Sutra says, 'the five skandas'.

To abandon one but not the other is useless, like collapsing all the props, yet leaving the actor on stage. Which is more essential to the delusion?

In his commentary on the Heart Sutra, Dogen said that the five skandas are five pieces of prajna. Pra-jna. Pre-knowing. So, what is differentiated in the stepping forward into self and world is 'one piece', which is broken when we step forward, unbroken when we fall back, breaking and unbreaking, like space.



 

 
Shinji Shobogenzo, Book 2, Case 1

The Case (adapted):

Nangaku approached the 6th Patriarch.

The 6th Patriarch said, "Where do you come from?"

Nangaku replied, "Mount Su"

The Patriarch said, "What comes thus"

Nangaku could not answer. He stayed in the 6th Patriarch's service for 8 years. There was then a further conversation between them

Nangaku said, "when you said 'what comes thus', I could make no response"

The Patriarch said, "How do you understand the words?"

Nangaku said, "If I try to express it, I miss the mark"

The Patriarch said, "Do practice and realisation exist, or not?"

Nangaku said, "It is not that they don't exist, but they cannot be tainted"

The Patriarch affirmed him.

Commentary:

This is a very rich koan story, often used to illustrate the inseparability of practice and realisation. It isn't clear whether the 6th Patriarch's second statement is a question ('what comes thus?) or a statement ('what/suchness/the ineffable comes, thus'), but either way 'what' and 'it' are often used to signify thus-ness, the ineffable.

I would like however to focus on Nangaku's 'if I try to express it, I miss the mark'

Is this a deficiency, or not? Normally we imagine the word to be like an arrow, hitting the mark of the thing signified. But this is dualistic. Doesn't Nangaku 'fail' to hit the mark because the mark, the air, his sincere effort and the expression are all 'hitting' the arrow? And isn't this full expression?


 
207.


The Verses of Faith Mind is attributed to Sosan, the Third Patriarch. The first line is "The Great Way is not difficult, only avoid picking or choosing."

Well, we may readily think Sosan is being ironic, because when we start practicing, The Great Way seems very difficult indeed. Not just difficult, but impossible to see at all. It's as if all we experience is a repetitive cascade of thought and emotion.

Yet somehow, with enough practice, we will step through this, and then The Great Way will be visible. And will be ours.

Sosan uses the term 'faith mind', because the faith is that this mind, this body, this experience is Buddha.

And we don't see that, because in encountering what we deem this repetitive cascade of thought and emotion, we have already stepped forward into duality. 

Our task is not to imagine that we can step forward further, this time into non duality, wholeness, but rather to fall backwards -

 

 
206.

 

One of the three meanings of satori is awakening, in the sense of awakening from a dream, or awakening within a dream.

We're liable to misunderstand the metaphor, as we equate dream with falsity, and awakening with truth, which is complete nonsense.

The issue is whether we partition and appropriate experience, or not. Awakening to the dream within the dream isn't about seeing falsity, it's about seeing wholeness. Wholeness, seeing.


 

 
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