Recently a wonderful friend sent me this quote from a book called "The Truth of This Life", by Katherine Thanas that he's been reading. It reads as: "Practice is about penetrating the membrane of mentality that is between us and our life. It's meeting something beyond what the mind knows: meeting with our body, our senses, our skin, our ears. We accomplish this when we trust ourselves enough to drop off what the mind knows." Poetically beautiful.
Instantly what was triggered in Consciousness was the ending of the "Heart Sutra," chanted daily in homes, Zen centers, temples, and monasteries. "Gāté Gāté Pāragāté Pārasamgāté bodhi svaha," often translated as "Gone, gone, gone to another shore, completely gone to the other shore, awake!"
Beautiful as well... But beyond what? How can one crossover when there's nothing and no thing to cross? How could self cross the self? How can one penetrate a gateless barrier of a "Mental membrane" that's a projected construct of ego? How does one get out of something that's not happening? How can you exit a place that you've never been? How does one get out of their own way? When we awaken from sleep, opening our eyes, was that really an accomplishment? Is sleeping or being awake a barrier? It's the nature of mind to subjectively create gaps, spaces, distance, and time where objectively it doesn't actually exist. There's no way to get beyond what's not here. Conundrum!
From such texts there's subtle and overt implications of moving from one state of being to another state. Zen is very definitely not a state. There's not a coming, or a going. There's no becoming enlightened or awakened... there's no 1.0 version aiming to become a 2.0 version of self. There's not a broken, sinful person, fighting, struggling, to be unbroken and sinless.
The mind has a way of telling us a really good story, trying to persuade us to believe that we're moving; without actually moving. How about ceasing to be deluded rather than buying into the thought-world of us and them? How about rather than becoming Buddha, what about noticing that our inherent DNA is already Buddha-DNA without having to do some sort of magic trick to become, that which we've dreamed, imagined, or assumed that we're not? If there's an impulse to aim our attention and awareness, how about Zazen, Zazen, Zazen Zazen? This is the pointless point of practice.
In Twelve Step Recovery-land, Step 11 says something fascinating. “We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact" with Reality as we understand It, praying only for clarity in how to meet present-moment reality, "and the power to carry that out.” In other words it’s an invitation to manifest our Truth; knowing Where, Who and when we are “As“ and ”In” This very moment, urged to act creatively and spontaneously. In Japanese this is known as ”Buji.” There’s no where else to get, go, or attain. There’s no one else to be, other than our authentic self, there's no where need to go, trying to manifest realness. There other else to do, other than be as our authentic Universal Loving Presence, rather than going through the trials and tribulations of the make-pretedning we’re not. We really do make things harder than necessary… not because we necessarily want to, but rather because we’ve fallen under the sway of the dream of aspects of mind… the ghost in the machine of our consciousness, compulsively needing to see its reflection in our life. This is a key purpose of Zazen. Just notice the reality, before the ego has a chance to grab it, turning it into what it’s not… something that’s being represented at a distance.
In the Song of Zazen, by Hakuin Ekaku Zenji, he relentlessly describes to the best of his ability the experience, we're discussing. I translate it in This Way:
All beings by nature are Buddha,
As ice by nature is water.
Apart from water there is no ice;
Apart from beings, no Buddha
(Universal Identity of Loving Presence).
How sad that so many ignore
our Original Presence,
Searching and seeking for Reality faraway;
It's like Being water Itself,
Crying out in thirst totally desperate.
We're like a child of a wealthy family
Wandering among the poor
wrongly identifying ourselves worthless.
Lost on dark paths of ignorance,
We wander through the Six Worlds,
From dark path to dark path–
When shall we be freed from birth and death
despite having never been imprisoned?
Zazen is our Bodhisattva practice!
Zazen is worthy of our time,
harmonizing our unified Life-Force!
Devotion, repentance, humility, training,
The many paramitas
(practices to help notice our
Generosity, ethical conduct, patience,
perseverance, mindfulness, and wisdom.
All have their source in zazen.
Those who try zazen even once
Wipe away beginning-less crimes.
Where are all the dark paths then?
Pure Land Itself is Here at hand.
Those who hear this fact even once
listen with an appreciative heart,
Valuing It, revering It,
Experience Universal Loving Presence,
that Is our eternal nature.
Those who notice Truth within
bearing witness to self-nature,
Self-nature that is Clear-nature,
naturally stop parroting ego's talk.
Here effect and cause are the same,
The Way is neither one, two nor three.
We are form that is no-form,
no-form that is form
(Ocean and wave at the same instance),
Going and arriving,
Without going - without arriving
we are never astray.
Thought appearing from no-thought,
Singing and dancing are creativity and Grace.
Boundless and free is the sky of Samádhi!
Bright the full moon of wisdom!
Truly, is any thing missing now?
(was any thing ever truly missing?)
Nirvana is Here, as our eyes,
This very place is the Lotus Land,
This very body, is the body of Buddha...
Universal Identity of Loving Presence.
Hakuin Zenji describes from experience, not theory; as a result of Zazen. Most people don't know, the ultimate trick of the human brain is to take the vertical moment of Now, and turn it on its side; artificially fabricating: a past, a present, and a future. Despite this fact, it's useful to learn the meaning, "Things are not as they appear, nor are they otherwise," from the Lankavara Sutra.
Returning to the Katherine Thanas quotation, I could put it like this: "In Zazen, there is nothing to penetrate, though thoughts rendering may influence us to believe it is so. Ceasing to be deluded, without inside or outside, we notice there is nothing between us and our life. In Zazen we gift ourselves a temporary vacation from everything the mind dreams that it knows: harmonizing body, senses, skin, ears. Inherent Buddha-DNA, nothing to accomplish, we are every inch of the Universe Itself creatively transforming as Loving Presence; we trust Reality as Reality, Being Reality Itself, nothing to drop, no knowing is the posture of Zazen."
Opening the clinched fist of thought, we clearly experience there is nothing in our hand. The eyes are horizontal, the nose is indeed vertical. When we flip on a light switch, it takes light no effort to remove darkness. Turn the switch off, it takes darkness no effort to remove light. Beyond is a myth. Becoming is a myth. Gaining is a myth. Losing is a myth. Because we naturally emerged through the Dharma gate of our mothers womb, the cry from our first breath is "I am enough." When we exhaust the breath completely, body, breath, and mind naturally still, and we will continue being enough, in a different Way. This is without question, yet still valuable to notice; through intentional and conscious practice of This Way. Aim and align the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual posture of Zazen, and confirm for you as YOU.
一Dignity and Grace