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Lions Roar : July 2018
for peace and sanity rather than aggression and neurosis, in the aspiration that beings not suffer in the turbulent ocean of con- ditioned existence, and in our curiosity and interest in waking up, however that manifests. All along, it has been sacredness seeking sacredness. GAYLON FERGUSON is an associate professor at Naropa University, senior teacher in the Shambhala community, and author of Natural Bravery. Don’t Flinch Meditation is the ultimate honesty, says Koun Franz, because we face whatever arises without looking away. IN SOTO ZEN, we stress that zazen meditation is not for enlightenment. It’s not for the cultivation of certain virtues. It’s not for happiness. It’s not for anything. So why do it? Perhaps the simplest answer is this: it’s honest. We all have things we don’t want to confront, things we feel are too big to handle. Our entire lives, we practice the art of distraction—of choosing to look right when the left is too painful, of thinking how it could be rather than facing how it is, of examining what is small and manageable so we are not overwhelmed by what is too big to comprehend. Looking away comes as naturally to us as breathing. In zazen, we sit down on the cushion, face the wall, and then—nothing. We don’t give ourselves anything else to do. We just sit there. We just breathe. In the choice to be there and not somewhere else—neither to direct the mind nor to restrict it—we make ourselves vulnerable to whatever arises. The mind reveals itself in all its chaotic confusion, its pettiness, and its obsessive drive to rewrite the past and rationalize the present. Most Zen students, at some point, have been told, “Don’t move.” So we imagine people sitting in perfect, strict stillness, not even scratching their noses or shifting their weight. It looks like perfect control. But if it’s you, you know that inside, the totality of your life is happening, all your fears, turmoil, and imagined inadequacies. And before you—on the wall, in the cracks in the paint, in the sound of your own breathing—there is the infinite expanse of this moment. You see it. And if you look long enough, you see that this moment, the one you’re looking at, is as complete as it will ever be. This life is as complete as it will ever be. You are as complete as you will ever be. There is no more. This is it. Whether you at first experience that truth as an incalculable weight or as a vastness without end, in time you come to see that “don’t move” means more than “sit still.” It means “don’t flinch.” Whatever you see, whatever you feel, don’t look away. This is the work of an entire lifetime: just don’t flinch. When you look in the mirror, don’t flinch. When you see the suffering of the world and feel that turning in your gut, the one that says maybe this world is your responsibility, don’t flinch. When, in the face of that possibility, you feel the full weight of knowing that no one can do it but you, don’t flinch. Don’t blink. Don’t move. This is what it means to be honest. KOUN FRANZ is a Soto Zen priest, teacher at Zen Nova Scotia, and deputy editor of Buddhadharma: The Practitioner’s Quarterly. The One Teaching of All the Buddhas Do no harm, practice virtue, discipline the mind. This is the point of meditation, says Jan Willis. IN MY EARLY DAYS on the Buddhist path, I got the chance to practice some meditations under the guidance of Lama Thubten Yeshe, a kind, brilliant, and accomplished Tibetan teacher who generously agreed to help me. I remain grateful beyond measure for his guidance. Lama Yeshe often said that he sensed a feeling of unworthiness among his Western students, a feeling that we tended to view ourselves in limited and limiting ways. He said that made Tibetan practices particularly useful for us, since they showed us a new, and speedy, way to exchange our limited view of ourselves for the much more expansive one of deity practice—that we possess all the skill, talents, and capabilities of an awakened being, a buddha. The method is said to be easy because it simply calls upon us to do what we always do—view ourselves one way—but to exchange our normal way with a new, more positive one. Of course, a teacher’s guidance is essential here. Without it, only one’s ego would grow. This method of meditation, called “deity yoga,” is one method of meditative practice. But there are many others. Indeed, it seems that meditation is all the rage today. Every- one knows about it, or knows someone who does it. But this begs the question, What is the point of meditation? To me the answer is simple: the point of meditation is to wake up. To wake up from the dream of ignorance—the dream that we are separate, independent beings. To wake up to the knowledge that we are dependent beings connected with all other beings, and therefore, by extension, to the knowledge that we are responsible for and to all beings. Compassion arises naturally from this recognition, for it experiences the suffering of others as our own and thus wishes, from the heart, that the suffering will end. Of all the Buddha’s teachings, I am inspired most by the one found at Dhammapada, verse 183: “Do no harm, practice vir- tue, discipline the mind. This is the teaching of all the buddhas.” Meditation helps us discipline the mind so that we can do no harm and practice what is right and just. That is the point. ♦ JAN WILLIS is a professor emerita of religion at Wesleyan University and the author of Dreaming Me: Black, Baptist, and Buddhist. The Real Reasons to Meditate continued from page 67 LION’S ROAR | JULY 2018 80