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Lions Roar : May 2015
soon as self-centered striving enters the picture, you’re lost again in duality. Yet even your self-centered striving has to be recognized for what it is—a temporary phenomena—and not pushed away. When you gently hold everything you encounter in your open hands, even your anger, greed, ignorance, and striving, the energy contained in all this troublesome activity trans- forms and releases itself. That is the very nature of phenomena: to change and transform and release. When you don’t interfere or identify with anger, but hold it gently in conscious aware- ness, it transforms, all by itself, into clarity. Greed transforms into compassion and the wish to connect. Ignorance trans- forms into the profound experience of settling deeply into the moment, just as it is, beyond any stories or concepts. Even suf- fering, when you can simply let it be without trying to elimi- nate it, is revealed as part of your awakened nature. There are no exceptions—everything is buddhanature. Of course, we all love to make up stories and concepts, and we’re really good at it. These too are part of the vast undif- ferentiated reality we call buddhanature, and are not to be re- jected. We only need to see them for what they are—a created linking of random thoughts that produce meaning for us. In the Mahayana teachings, we sometimes conceptualize the transformed energies of the kleshas as human-like beings. Manjushri, the bodhisattva of wisdom, carries a sword that cuts through delusion. Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva of compas- sion, sometimes appears with a hundred arms to help all beings in the world and a hundred eyes to see the endless varieties of suffering. There is a lovely story in the Zen tradition about her. A student asks a teacher, “What does the bodhisattva of great compassion do with all those hands and eyes?” The teacher responds, “It is like a person groping for her pillow in the middle of the night.” The awakened heart is who we are, and it can’t help but act through us. Practicing in this way, gradually, over days and months and years, our life is permeated by the sense of being buddhanature itself. There is indeed a transformation, but we don’t make it hap- pen. We only set up the conditions for what is natural to arise. This practice does not protect us from sorrow. The three poi- sons continue to show up and fall away. Our hearts become more tender as we continue to be present with everything that arises, because so much of what we witness is sorrow and suffering. Our hearts break, and these broken hearts reveal themselves as bud- dhanature. We feel a new power that is not personal, beyond hap- piness and sorrow, beyond good and bad, right and wrong. And then we have no choice but to go out and engage with a world that is simply ourselves. We do not strive to repair what is broken. Instead, with an energetic, awakened heart, we en- gage with the world directly. The Buddha said that the world is on fire, and although it is burning, it is the only world we have. It is not nice but it is perfect and complete. It is alive with inconceivable wonder. ♦ Take the Backward Step Shine the light inward. Body and mind will drop away: Meditation instruction from Eihei Dogen, one of Buddhism’s greatest teachers. T HE WAY IS ORIGINALLY PERFECT and all-per- vading. How could it be contingent on practice and realization? The true vehicle is self-sufficient. What need is there for special effort? Indeed, the whole body is free from dust. Who could believe in a means to brush it clean? It is never apart from this very place; what is the use of traveling around to practice? And yet, if there is a hairsbreadth deviation, it is like the gap between heaven and earth. If the least like or dislike arises, the mind is lost in confusion. Suppose you are confident in your understanding and rich in enlightenment, gaining the wisdom that knows at a glance, attaining the Way and clarifying the mind, arousing an aspiration to reach for the heavens. You are playing in the entranceway, but you are still short of the vital path of emancipation. ... Therefore, put aside the intellectual practice of inves- tigating words and chasing phrases, and learn to take the backward step that turns the light and shines it in- ward. Body and mind of themselves will drop away, and your original face will manifest. If you want to realize such, get to work on such right now. ... Once you have adjusted your posture, take a breath and exhale fully, rock your body right and left, and settle into steady, immovable sitting. Think of not thinking. Not thinking—what kind of thinking is that? Nonthinking. This is the essential art of zazen. The zazen I speak of is not meditation practice. It is simply the dharma gate of joyful ease, the practice-re- alization of totally culminated enlightenment. It is the koan realized; traps and snares can never reach it. If you grasp the point, you are like a dragon gaining the water, like a tiger taking to the mountains. For you must know that the true dharma appears of itself, so that from the start dullness and distraction are struck aside. ... This being the case, intelligence or lack of it is not an issue; make no distinction between the dull and the sharp-witted. If you concentrate your effort single- mindedly, that in itself is wholeheartedly engaging the way. Practice-realization is naturally undefiled. Going forward is, after all, an everyday affair. ♦ From Dogen’s Universally Recommended Instructions for Zazen. Translated by the Soto Zen Text Project. SHAMBHALA SUN MAY 2015 53