A human being is part of the whole, called by us “Universe,” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest – a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.
Every day priests minutely examine the Dharma
And endlessly chant complicated sutras.
Before doing that, though, they should learn how to read
The love letters sent by the wind and rain, the snow and moon.
There is a bright pearl within me,
Buried for a long time under dust.
Today, the dust is gone and the light radiates,
Shining through all the mountains and rivers.
The rain has stopped, the clouds have drifted away,
And the weather is clear again.
If your heart is pure, then all things in your world are pure.
Abandon this fleeting world, abandon yourself,
Then the moon and flowers will guide you along the way.
ZEN ZA WILD GRASS offers a story about yourself.You wear the appearance of a river, Earth, a star and more, and yet, that wonder is, perhaps, still distanced.But when this story ends, no matter how long it takes, there is no long a “you.”Then, there is something that has never been hidden, that is always unhidden.Even then, there are many quirks and shadows and ouches and small and large graces still, but there is no longer suffering.There is no life or death.Sky still looks blue and grass looks green, but they are not.They are you.Whole world and worlds and stars and ocean and birds and piles of dead leaves and moon and more moons are “you” and “mind.”To arrive in such a terrain where you already are, and then arrive again and again, the task is to taste more than to think and know.Then there are no more puzzling gong-an/koans/kong-ans, no more buddha, no more Zen.Zen is to study self, but mainly the large written Zen record is what not to do.Zen is worthwhile because it it clean--there is no dust in it--but in the end, which right now, which is past,present and future, fall in-between the letters of words or concepts, and open the experience of who you are.
There has never been such a thing as “Buddha,” so do not understand it as Buddha.
“Buddha” is a medicine for emotional people; if you have no disease, you should
not take medicine. When medicine and disease are both dissolved, it is like pure water;
buddhahood is like a sweet herb mixed in the water, or like honey mixed in the water,
most sweet and delicious. And yet the pure water itself is not affected.
Thomas Cleary, The Five Houses Of Zen, p.9
Its light penetrates everywhere and engulfs everything, so why does it not know itself?
Lance Kinseth, Ocean Of Zen Series: The Ocean’s In My Chest,
The ocean’s in my chest.
WHEN THINKING ABOUT ZEN, the most popular objective is a simple, clean, non-attaining calmness that seems to address suffering. But there is still a latent suffering that continues. The direct experience associated with the term “Zen” is quite different,and it addresses this latent suffering.
Invisible suffering is the latent suffering that is present in all that we are,
in the guise of ignorance, attachment to the self, and a false perception of reality.
“Buddha” was initially more of a non-image like the Upanishad’s Brahman or Chinese Tao referencing a totality that cannot be represented well by an image. The stupa, a deer, a footprint with a circle representing the wheel of dharma were some early imagery related to “buddhaology.”
“Buddha” describes a self-nature that is akin to a world soul rather than to an individual, with the totality being expressed in every facet of the immanent world. This buddha is the authentic self-nature, and the direct experience of buddha counters a sense of birth and death and specialness. In his lifetime, Siddhartha may have been acknowledged as a venerated teacher rather than as the Buddha.
However, human nature tends to create a derivative, culturally-comfortable “assurance” of a sustaining self-as-ego after death. Along with a transcultural emphasis on ancestors, pre-Buddhist concepts such as karma and rebirth and special birth and death characteristics of unique selfs termed “Buddhas” with supreme enlightenment. The ego might mollify into an insect, person, god, hungry ghost and so forth before, and rarely, transcending this “wheel” into a nirvana where there still may be an egoic quality.
With the written Buddhist record beginning long after Siddhartha, It is impossible to say what Siddhartha really said or believed. Even in the later centuries when writing was established, the “records” of, for example, 7th Century adepts are not really records of fact but recounts penned later by adherents. Buddhism had also splayed out into various sects in various cultures, with their own interpretations as to authentic Buddhism. And the history of each Buddhist sect is, in fact, a record of a roller-coaster of degeneration and reform, subject to periods of cultural support/influence and outright attack and gaps in lineage.
The Zen sect of Buddhism is astonishingly text-rich, even though the experience that forms the primary point of Zen is clean, deconceptual, and cannot be taught. This text-rich information is primarily about what this Zen experience is NOT. This Zen experience references a universal dimension of human experience that has worn many names. it precedes Buddhism and is an experience of authentic self-nature. Siddhartha is idealized as an ultimate example of experiencing and then living human experience from this experience. The task appears difficult and yet it unhidden and “speaking” everywhere. It diminishes a deep suffering that we often do not recognize by liberating selfness from a sense of separation. While everything is empty of self,
(no Bodhi tree
nothing to polish
no where for dust to finally, solidly, alight)
authentic nature or true home is a rich fullness. As Tachu notes what you see, hear, and experience is yourself.
everything is inseparable
When we turn to human life, we tend to find a boundary a the skin, and more, we imagine a separable eternal essence that (in Buddhism) might be imagined to pass through physical animal, and psychic god and/or hungry ghost forms, to finally attain nirvana, and yet, perhaps imagining becoming a free entity on a spiritual mount. However, with such a turn, we remain bound.
When we turn to a flower or a cloud or a mountain, we do not see the need to polish these events. And further, the being-ness of each of these events is boundless. A spring flower is in the evolution of a star and appears with the tilt of the Earth into the sun and melds light into mass, so that eh flower is a radiant event perhaps akin to a wave in the ocean with the Oceanus in the wave and in the flower.
THERE IS no such thing as Buddha, but by necessity the name was given to
him. Originally there is no such
thing as mind. To attain enlightenment
is to realize the one thing. For
the sake of illustration, it is said that the one thing is empty, but it is not
really empty—mind of no mind is the true mind, wisdom of no wisdom is the true
BUDDHISM HAS NO “universally shared core text… …no central
source of Buddhist authority,” * and yet, all Buddhist sects are very
Why? Cultural authority* and appeal.
Essentially, “zen” that is established/shared stands to
be more derivative and even degenerative rather than original. Derivative practices serve
social/psychological perceptions rather than the original intent that
challenges social/psychological perceptions, and can even degenerate into
negative, exclusive vs. inclusive, practices.
Buddhist sects associated with “Zen” prioritize a “radical
dismissal for the need for intermediaries—whether Indian texts, local religious
adepts, or supramundane bodhisattvas.”*
This grows out of a sense of the practice as “demonstration—not
explanation” that advocates a personal and direct experience of the awakening
experience that is credited to Siddhartha Gautama, “outside the
The written record of the words of Siddhartha comes after
centuries of oral tradition that reinterpret the original experience in not
just one way but in diverse Buddhist orthodoxies and diverse schools within
those orthodoxies. How much
Siddhartha literally said and how much others interpreted and embellished and
how much was favored and how much was lost tends to suggest that there is
nothing reliably coming directly from Siddhartha. Even centuries later by the time of Hui-neng, when Indian
sutras were being diligently copied, the historical accuracy of his Platform
Sutra is debated.*
The record of the original experience of Siddhartha is
cultural lore, not fact. And lore has the sweetness of accommodation that has
allowed Buddhism to spread.
“Accommodation” [i.e., comfort/familiarity] equates with melding with
pre-existing cultural values or political values of the time that supported
it. Pre-Siddhartha Indo-Asian
orientations such as karma, reincarnation, nirvana and dominant cultural mores
were added to post-Siddhartha cultural values in the outspread in Asia such as
ancestry, literacy, and the value of communal/societal/familial connection.
Paradoxically, there may be more written about Zen that
favored demonstration rather than explanation than about other Buddhist
sects. In its many cultural expressions,
“zen,” being “outside the teachings” raises sutras to “canonical status.”* And as lore rather than “history,” Zen
practice embellishes and favors.
The foundational, “rock-solid” genealogy of specific transmission from
patriarch to patriarch is not rock-solid, not coherent for centuries after
Siddhartha and then for centuries after Bodhidharma.* Perhaps most bothersome is the attribution of special birth
and magical/psychic powers to Siddhartha and subsequent patriarchs and the
God-like reverence to his image when, paradoxically, his awakening deals with
seeing a true nature that experiences interpenetration rather than
Whether generally Buddhist or specifically Zen sect, culture
tends to reboot Siddhartha’s experience to an individual self-nature that
survives individual death.
Meditation, clothing and images and Zen aesthetics become distinctive
and “correct practice.”
In established centers, practices of Zen Buddhism are
typically appealing when they address psychological and social suffering,
offering simplicity and calmness that can distract from and even obstruct
realization. Meditation and social
gathering and social action may become a system of social support than
self-realization, even incorporating aspects that have nothing to do with
Buddhism, such as appeasement of traditions of folk demons or prophesy that
fund built structures and priests in Japan and contemporary global activities
that link Zen with activities such as writing, yoga, diet, and daily habits.
Siddhartha’s awakening experience offers the resolution of a
deeper existential suffering, involving the direct experience of all as true
body, experiencing ultimate (yet everyday) reality, where there is no Buddha,
Buddhism has housed Zen through centuries, but Siddhartha’s
awakening experience is not unique to Buddhism.That experience is a dimension of human experience that
precedes Siddhartha.Zen pops up
from time to time when someone breaks through broad cultural barriers to
awaken, including rather extensive barriers present in Buddhist practice.Zen involves “an awareness that does
not rely on anything.”*
SIITING IN ZA (at
rest) or in the midst of the everyday, there is this enduring, shifting flow of
thought, moments, weathers, mountains, continents, planets, moons, stars,
galaxies, atoms, aging, breath, sounds, remembrances of phrases of sutras,
scientific data, daydreams,
and in all of it , a cognitive
understanding of a sense of nothing to which dust can reliantly
therefore nothing to which to attach to—all affirming Siddhartha’s disturbing,
albeit comforting dictum that change is a constancy.
With realization, suddenly, there is stillness in all this
There is this direct experience of one thing in all of this
With realization of just one thing, stillness emoting
calmness, tranquility, serenity, eloquence, grace.
In Buddhist lore, in morning star, What does Siddhartha
directly see that passes through the gate
of shifting sensation?
Not buddhas, not oneness, not
emptiness—all shifting things--
Something very direct, very
intimate, very simple.