What-is is perfect… but not for us

September 8, 2014 § Leave a comment

“The Pure Land is now or never.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

My daughter Haneul, not happy with What-Is

The Pure Land is a state of mind, the awakened mind, in which all phenomena are seen to be just as they are, perfect, ephemeral mind-displays, endlessly occurring to apparent selves, locked into apparent suffering, living apparent lives.

However, make no mistake about it: perfect does not mean perfect for us. Reality is perfect, because it is.

What-is always trumps what we want. What we want is always thought-stuff. What we don’t want is always thought-stuff. This stuff is only as real as a dream. If Reality is a cinderblock wall, our desires and aversions are feathers, whisked away by a hot, summer wind or snowflakes being blown into an iron furnace.

What we wish for, our ceaseless cravings, never squares with reality. But reality wins, hands down, every time. And herein lays the crux of our suffering: We want, quite simply, what is not. We want what does not exist. We want a state of affairs that is an illusion.

And there is, only ever, what is, and this what-is doesn’t give a damn for our petty preferences and demands. It is eternal, irrevocable, and unyielding. Our work is to meet it where it is and surrender our selves, letting go

My first Zen teacher, Joko Beck put it so well:

Most of our difficulties, our hopes, and our worries are empty fantasies. Nothing has ever existed except this moment. That’s all there is. That’s all we are. Yet most human beings spend 50 to 90 percent or more of their time in their imagination, living in fantasy. We think about what has happened to us, what might have happened, how we feel about it, how we should be different, how others should be different, how it’s all a shame, and on and on; it’s all fantasy, all imagination. Memory is imagination. Every memory that we stick to devastates our life.

On knowledge and humility

April 14, 2012 § Leave a comment

“Nowadays, there are quite a number of scholars who study Buddhism. However, almost all of them simply read the words of the sutras and commentaries seeking arguments and rationalizations to prove that they are versed in the Dharma.

Those with the sincerity and devotion to cultivate according to the Dharma are few indeed! I have always said that to reap the real benefit of the Dharma, you should approach it with a truly reverent mind. One-tenth of reverence and devotion annihilates one-tenth of afflictions and evil karma, and increases merit and wisdom by one-tenth — and this applies to two-tenths, three-tenths, or total reverence and devotion.” (Pure-Land Zen, Zen Pure-Land, p. 24).

More true today than in the early twentieth century China when Master Yin Kwang penned it in a letter to his disciple.

Whenever I login to Buddhist forum, I immediately regret it. It’s rare to find congenial words. One expert after another, having graduated from Google University, proffers their deep and hard-earned wisdom, vying to outdo each other.

How difficult it is to feel reverence and devotion. Sutras and commentaries are approached as historical artifacts rather than living texts, capable of transforming us, and thereby, in a very real sense, saving us. Books and teachings are cheap, like water, which is of infinite value, but seemingly free and therefore unappreciated.

Do you find it challenging to approach the Dharma — whether books, teachings, or teachers — with reverence and devotion?

I do. I’m naturally an iconoclast, although you might not think it, given the nature of this blog. I’d better say, I was an iconoclast, a Zen student, a hardened nondualist. However, after some fleeting insights, earth-shattering to me at the time, I found myself still floundering in bad habits, negative thinking, and just plain misery. This is, of course, natural, if one hasn’t had the basic training in virtue, generosity, and loving-kindness. In these foundational aspects of the path, I am still a newborn.

For those who speak a good game, Yin Kwang writes:

“There are also certain individuals of great talent and ability, whose writings can astound the gods. However, their actions are no different from those of the dullards in the marketplace. The root cause is their rejection of phenomenal cultivation and cause and effect [karma]. This grave error is repeated by other people; it is a case of betraying the Dharma with one’s body (actions). The depth of such offenses and transgressions is immeasurable! Witnessing this, those endowed with profound wisdom can only sigh in pity and compassion.” (Pure-Land Zen, p. 26).

Reminds me of myself. More importantly, however, this applies to many of us today. Most of us naturally overestimate our insight and progress.

Please be aware of this tendency. Great misery follows arrogance. The path to awakening resides in humility.

Chanting the Buddha’s name is a humble path. The more learning you have, the more difficult it will likely be. Drop your extensive learning. Just come back to your breath. Namu Amitoufo. Let the Buddha’s name bring you back to simplicity.



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