Patience | Budhism

Kneeling in the Snow

Talk two of six on patience or kshanti

The title of this talk comes from an image that stuck in my mind after reading a book several years ago. I don’t recall the title of the book now. It was written by a Dutch man and was about his experiences of living in a Zen monastery in Japan. One of the things he mentioned was the tradition of making newcomers wait outside for a few days as a sort of test of their aspiration and commitment to join the monastery. They would have to hold themselves in a particular position, probably more like squatting than kneeling, and just wait. Sometimes the Abbot would send someone out to chase them away. This was a compassionate act to give them respite from their uncomfortable position, although the novices wouldn’t necessarily know that. So if they really wanted to join the monastery badly enough, they would just wait – kneeling in the snow – as I’ve put it (perhaps fancifully). They would be patient.Can you imagine the dark, angry, resentful thoughts that might assail you if you were put in that position? Even if you knew it was a ritual of waiting – you would still find it hard to put up with. So the ability to exercise patient endurance was seen as a necessary prerequisite for monastic life. It’s as if the Zen monks are saying “If you don’t have patience, if you can’t endure, well, don’t bother, because you won’t get very far”. So this patient endurance is Kshanti, or at least an aspect of Kshanti. And as we can see from the example, it requires effort. It requires energy to be patient and to endure. It also requires positive emotion. Without positive emotion the aspiring monk would simply think that the Abbot hated him and he would go away disillusioned, despondent and resentful. Similarly, without positive emotion we may think that the spiritual life is just too much, that other people are making it impossible for us, or that we don’t have what it takes. So we need energy and positive emotion, and both of these are aspects of patience and are developed through the practice of patience.The alternatives to patience in the spiritual life are frustration, anger and waste of energy. By trying to force ourselves to grow we hinder our growth. If we try to force others to change we prevent them from changing. Patience is needed to further our own spiritual growth and to help others to grow. This does not mean a lack of effort, in fact it means great effort. Patient effort, enduring effort, persistent, consistent effort is greater, more noble, than the violent effort of frustration and anger. And patient enduring effort is also more successful. This sort of effort, the effort that persists day after day, the effort that persists during good times and bad times, is an effort that understands and uses the law of karma. Actions have consequences. Skilful actions have beneficial consequences. Patient, enduring effort in skilfulness of body, speech and mind brings about spiritual progress. Patient, persistent effort in ethics, meditation and study brings about spiritual growth. Patience is a Perfection (paramita) because it is an aspect of Reality, an aspect of Wisdom. The Wisdom of Enlightenment is expressed in the concept of the law of conditionality. The law of conditionality states that everything arises in dependence on conditions. Spiritual progress too arises in dependence on conditions, and in the absence of those conditions it does not arise. We need to patiently and persistently create and put in place the conditions for spiritual growth to arise. This is in accordance with the law of conditionality.If we try to attain spiritual insight in the absence of the right conditions we will more likely achieve a headache or frustration. What are the right conditions for spiritual growth then? There are two aspects to the correct conditions for spiritual growth. There is the inward-looking aspect that aims at self-knowledge and psychological integration through ethical practice, through self-questioning, through reflection and meditation and through internal dialogue. There is the outward-looking aspect that aims to overcome the illusion of a separate self-hood, the illusion of ego identity, through ethical practice, through friendship, co-operation and communication. There needs to be a constant movement between going deeper into the inward-looking aspect and being ever more expansive in the outward-looking aspect. This is the creative tension of the spiritual life which eventually leads to a transcendence of inward and outward. Through the persistent effort to gain a deeper and more honest self-knowledge and at the same time be in more generous and open communication with others, we create the conditions for transcendent Insight to manifest in our experience. So we have to continuously make an effort in these two directions, the inward and outward, if we want to make progress. We have to meditate every day, steadily and persistently and patiently working on our minds to change unskilful mental states into skilful mental states. We have to practice generosity constantly in our actions and words and thoughts, always bringing ourselves back to the spirit of generosity when we gravitate towards selfishness and fear.Patience, then, is necessary if we are to progress spiritually. We have to exercise patience towards the natural world, towards ourselves, and, of course, towards others. So let us look at these three areas now and at how to develop patience in relation to them. In the Bodhicaryavatara (the Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life) Shantideva says “There is nothing which remains difficult if it is practised. So, through practice with minor discomforts, even major discomfort becomes bearable. The irritation of bugs, gnats, and mosquitoes, of hunger and thirst, and suffering such as an enormous itch: why do you not see them as insignificant? Cold, heat, rain and wind, journeying and sickness, imprisonment and beatings: one should not be too squeamish about them. Otherwise the distress becomes worse.”(8) So here we are being exhorted to be patient with the natural world; insects, itches, the weather. Shantideva seems to be saying that we should use these relatively minor things to develop our ability to practice patience so that when it comes to more major and significant things we will be ready. He is also saying that if we don’t practise patience in relation to such things as the weather or itches or insect bites, then we will increase our suffering rather than lessen it. To put it another way, the more we seek comfort in our lives, the more precious we are about ourselves, the less we will be able to endure any discomfort or hardship, and therefore we create more potentiality for suffering and distress. It has been said that we late 20th century Westerners suffer from the “disease of preciousness”(9), by which is meant that we have little ability or willingness to endure discomfort or hardship. If this is the case, then it is bad news for our spiritual development. The spiritual life is not easy. It requires discipline and an ability to endure suffering and distress. Change produces discomfort and if we shy away from discomfort we will shy away from change. We will “squander our pain”, to paraphrase Rilke. (9) Hopefully for those of us who are practising Buddhists, it is not quite so bad, and we understand the need to sometimes “suffer into consciousness”. (10) We can train ourselves to be patient in the face of discomfort by practising patience in relation to the natural world – especially perhaps the weather. The glorious variety of the English weather gives us a great opportunity. Let’s hope we don’t waste it in complaining and comfort seeking. Of course, it’s not just the natural world that presents us with opportunities to practise patience. There are lots of minor irritations that occur all the time in city life which we can choose to respond to with anger or with patience – delays on public transport, the till closing down in the supermarket or post office, power cuts, burst water mains, and so on. Just this morning we had no hot water upstairs because our boiler broke down. So there are all sorts of minor difficulties that we can use as a way of training ourselves to be patient.The second area in which we need to practise patience is ourselves. We need to be patient with ourselves. This means being patient with our bodies – with illnesses and the process of aging. It also means being patient with our spiritual progress. Because we have a body, we are prone to illness, aging, and eventually death. This is how it is. Sometimes when people are ill they feel very sorry for themselves and want a lot of sympathy. It is as if they had received an unjust punishment. But illness goes hand in hand with having a body, there is no escaping that, and we need to be patient and forbearing in relation to this fact of life. We should also be truthful. I think sometimes people are prone to exaggerate their suffering and illnesses in order to gain sympathy. Not every headache is a migraine. Not every cold is influenza. We need to continue to be truthful, in the sense of factual accuracy, even when we are ill. It is of course important to look after ourselves and to alleviate suffering where possible, for ourselves and others. It is also important to let others know when we are unwell so that they can help if necessary. But we need to be patient with the course of nature and not childishly petulant. Illness is not a moral retribution or punishment, it is a physical phenomenon and therefore the question of justice or injustice doesn’t enter into it. Whether we are deserving or undeserving is irrelevant. You could say that nobody deserves to be ill. The same applies to the process of aging. We can refuse to accept it and fight against it. We can expend large amounts of energy, time and money trying to maintain our youthfulness. We can be extremely careful about what we eat and when we eat it. We can take the right vitamin and mineral tablets. We can wear the right clothes, get the right kind of haircut, and go to even greater lengths to stay young. But we will grow old and we will die. It is in the nature of natural things to go through the cycle of birth, decay and death. So as we start to experience our bodies deteriorating we need to accept the fact of aging and patiently amend our lifestyle and outlook so that we can grow old gracefully. After all there is a lot to be said for growing old. Older people have gained experience and therefore the opportunity for wisdom. Older people are less at the mercy of their physical appetites and therefore have a better chance of attaining tranquillity and equanimity. When you are older it is less important what other people think of you and therefore there is a great opportunity for your uniqueness and individuality to flourish. As for death, well from a Buddhist perspective the dissolution of the body is simply yet another opportunity for the liberation of consciousness and nothing to be feared. The worst that can happen to us is that we will be reborn and if we play our cards right, so to speak, and set up the right conditions and tendencies in our lives, then being reborn may not be so bad – it may even be better than this time around. So we need to practise patience in relation to our own bodies, our illnesses, our aging and our inevitable death. We also need to practise patience in relation to our spiritual progress. We need to be patient with our meditation practice and patient with our friendships. Sometimes we hear people say “I’m not a good meditator”. In fact I’ve heard myself say it! Usually what we mean is that we are not having strong experiences of dhyana, we are still working with the hindrances. So the question is, what is a good meditator? What are the distinguishing characteristics of a good meditator? A good meditator is someone who meditates regularly and who makes an effort in meditation. Meditating regularly means meditating at least once a day for a minimum of twenty minutes. Making an effort in meditation means making an effort to transform unskilful mental states into skilful mental states and making an effort to return to the object of concentration when we notice our distraction. A good meditator, then, is a patient meditator, one who is consistent and persistent. Developing spiritual friendship also requires patience. There isn’t really a point at which you can say “Now I’ve developed this friendship; no more effort is required”. Spiritual friendship is a process rather than a thing and therefore there is really no end to it. It just carries on deepening. If we want to engage in spiritual friendship we have to be patient with the unfolding process of it, the gradual deepening of trust and growth in honesty and caring. More generally in relation to our endeavours to live the spiritual life and make spiritual progress there are four points we should bear in mind. Firstly, it is important to develop positive routines or habits and to be disciplined. Secondly, we should expect difficulties. Thirdly, we should not be looking for powerful experiences, or even the powerful experience. Fourthly, it is fundamentally important that we try to develop and maintain an attitude of goodwill towards ourselves. The discipline of a positive routine helps us to be regular and consistent in our practice. It also builds strength and stamina, both physical and mental. It builds strength and stamina because we are not wasting energy. When we set up a positive routine for our meditation and study and so on, we don’t have to engage in any internal debate about what to do next, and in this way we save our energy for getting on with what matters. The forces of resistance are strong in us and if we give them a chance they will take over. The discipline of a routine helps us to deal with our resistance to practice. The second point to bear in mind in relation to our spiritual progress is that we can expect difficulties. Perhaps we could go even say that we should not only expect difficulties, but we should welcome them. The difficulties we experience in the spiritual life are often a sign of progress, of greater awareness and greater ethical sensitivity. When we embark on the spiritual life, the life of self-transformation, we can expect to experience difficulties because only part of us wants to progress spiritually. For a time that may be to the fore and carry us along nicely. But then we become more conscious and frequently what we become more conscious of is the parts of us that don’t want to change. We become aware of our resistance to spiritual growth and spiritual practice. We become aware of internal conflict. And sometimes part of that internal conflict gets projected outside on to other people or on to the situation we live and work in. And so our internal difficulty becomes an external difficulty too, and the spiritual life begins to feel painful and we wonder what we are doing. Why are we putting ourselves through all this? After all, we took up meditation because we wanted to be happy and relaxed. And so, thinking in this way we fail to see the positive side of our difficulties; we have become more conscious, we have had a measure of success. If we carry on through our difficulties we will eventually get a clearer perspective and come to a realisation of the real significance of difficulties in the spiritual life. Although I’ve said we should expect difficulties, it is much more in the spirit of Kshanti as patience to have no fixed expectations at all. Sangharakshita has said, “Fixed expectations are the antithesis of patience”. (12) Really, what is required of us is that we are prepared for every eventuality, that we learn to live happily with impermanence and change. Change often does seem to be at the least an inconvenience, and can even be traumatic. To change is to move beyond current attachments, and that is difficult, because our attachments are what give us security and stability. Through our spiritual practices we are developing an inner stability and security – that is what metta is. The third point to bear in mind in relation to our spiritual life is that we should not be looking for powerful experiences. This is a wrong way of thinking about the spiritual life and constitutes a hindrance to spiritual progress. It is an acquisitive, even consumerist attitude and has more to do with our mundane preoccupations than with anything of spiritual significance. Sangharakshita speaks about this in his seminar on The Ten Pillars of Buddhism. He says: ­”You experience something as powerful when there’s a great discrepancy between it and you. But on the higher spiritual levels that isn’t the case, you can’t have that sort of experience. To take an example: if you’re wallowing on the kama-loka plane, and suddenly there supervenes a dhyana type experience, you experience that as dramatic or even powerful, because it is so different from your normal state. But if, say, while you’re in the third dhyana you experience the fourth it doesn’t have that sort of impact because there isn’t that sort of discrepancy between the third and the fourth dhyana. So what a lot of people are after is the powerful type of experience, that is their model for a valid or higher experience, something that really knocks you off your seat almost, knocks you off your feet, something violent almost. This is how they think of it. But actually the more advanced you become in spiritual life, the less likely you are to experience things in that sort of way. But I have been rather interested, not to say rather amused sometimes, by the extent to which people talk of powerful experiences. They’ve almost a hankering after powerful experiences. And in Tibetan Buddhist circles one sometimes hears people saying things like “Oh, it’s a very powerful initiation” or “such and such lama gives very powerful initiations” or “he belongs to a very powerful line” et cetera, et cetera. I think this is quite revealing. It’s as though they don’t want to rise above their present level, they want to just be as they are or what they are, and then have the experience come along from outside and just hit them, and give them some sort of transcendental shock. This seems to be their sort of model of spiritual experience very often.”(13) So you may have strong experiences in meditation from time to time and they may give you faith that there are states of consciousness beyond what you usually experience, but don’t get distracted by these experiences or start to chase after them. What is really important is whether you are kind and generous and truthful the rest of the time and whether your relations with others are becoming more friendly. Strong or powerful experiences in meditation are an occasional by-product of the spiritual life for some people. They are not what the spiritual life is about. What is significant in the spiritual life is what sort of person you are becoming and how you behave, especially how you behave towards other people. The fourth point to be borne in mind in relation to following the spiritual path is that we should develop and maintain an attitude of goodwill towards ourselves. An attitude of goodwill towards ourselves means being patient with ourselves. It means working from the assumption that we are fundamentally alright. Too often people seem to have an assumption that they are basically or fundamentally worthless. This is often unconscious even, but it nevertheless affects behaviour and relationships. So we need to have an attitude of goodwill towards ourselves, an attitude of friendliness, of metta. This is vitally important in the spiritual life. When you have high ideals and high standards, you will find yourself often falling short of them and when you do fall short you can either berate yourself for being a useless person and get into a self-deprecating, self-hating mood or you can acknowledge your failing, confess what needs to be confessed and resolve to do better next time. You are inevitably going to fall short of your ideals again and again. You need to be patient and with an attitude of goodwill towards yourself, just keep on making an effort. You cannot force-grow yourself. Plants that are force-grown are the weakest plants. In the spiritual life we want to bring all of ourself along on the path. We want to become a sturdy, robust individual, capable of coping with the world and capable of handling the experience of the Transcendental Insight. We don’t want to create a beautiful, effete, head-in-the-clouds sort of person who is easily overwhelmed by the slightest whiff of a setback, like some hothouse rose. The foundation, the grounding for a sturdy, robust individual is a strong feeling of self-metta, a strong experience of goodwill towards oneself. So we can exercise patience towards ourselves by being realistic about illness, aging, and death, and by applying steady effort in our spiritual life with an attitude of self-metta.As well as exercising patience towards the natural world and towards ourselves, we must also exercise patience towards other people. According to the Dhammapada, “patience is the greatest asceticism”. (14) This was quite a statement to make in ancient India where people practised all sorts of strange and severe austerities, starving and mutilating themselves in the hope of spiritual attainment. So when the Dhammapada says that patience is the greatest asceticism, it is saying that it is both more difficult to practise than mortification of the flesh and more efficacious than any other austerity. This probably applies particularly to patience towards other people. Being patient with others means particularly being patient with the faults and failings of others. It also means being patient with difference. Sometimes others are just different from us and we interpret that as a failing on their part and get annoyed with them. The main reason why it is so difficult to be patient with others is because we experience ourselves as the centre of the universe. And from this standpoint we can get hurt and upset and angry when others don’t seem to be going along with it. So in order to develop patience towards others we need to get beyond selfishness and begin to see that real self-interest includes the interests of others. This requires imagination and a willingness to question our anger and indignation. Imagination is a prerequisite for the spiritual life. Without imagination we would not be able to conceive of a higher ideal or of the possibility of changing ourselves. Imagination is also essential to the development of metta and compassion. It is through our ability to imagine what it is like to be another person that we can empathise and sympathise with others. We all have imagination. We daydream, we fantasise, we tell stories, we exaggerate, we fall in love, we save money; all of these require imagination. To consciously use our imagination in order to develop a greater empathy with others is perhaps more rare. But it is what we need to do if we are to progress spiritually. And it is certainly what we need to do in order to develop greater patience in our relations with others. There is a story in the Pali Canon where the Buddha comes upon some young boys tormenting a crow with sticks, just the sort of thing young boys do. The Buddha doesn’t chase them away. Instead he gets them to use their imagination. He asks them how they would feel if they were treated like the crow. They say of course that they wouldn’t like it because it would be painful. So He explained to them that the crow too feels pain and doesn’t like to be beaten. And understanding this they leave the crow alone. (15) Just like those children, we too need to imagine beyond ourselves and not just in terms of suffering but much wider and deeper than that. We have to use the experience of our own humanity, even the experience of our own selfishness, to make an imaginative connection with all humanity. By doing this we prepare the ground for metta to arise. Metta can be seen as understanding. Understanding is a great antidote to anger. If we can understand why others behave as they do we will be less likely to hold onto feelings of anger towards them. There is a French proverb, “to understand all is to forgive all”. So if there is someone who annoys us by their behaviour, perhaps we need to get to know them better, to understand why they are like they are. When we see others as we see ourselves we can more easily feel friendliness and goodwill towards them and we can be more patient with them. When we become impatient with others and experience anger and annoyance towards them there is a strong tendency to justify ourselves. Anger often masquerades as truth. But we should never trust our anger. It is more likely to lie to us than tell the truth. When we get angry with someone or some situation we should make an effort to take our attention away from whatever happened and turn our attention to a questioning of our own response. Our tendency might be to go over the details of what happened in an obsessive manner and continue to wind ourselves up into fresh feelings of outrage. But we should question this. We should ask ourselves “Why an I responding with anger? Is this the only possible response? Is there perhaps a more creative response? Why don’t I choose a different response? What is behind my anger? How should I have to change in order to have a more creative response? Do I want to change? What will the consequences be if I carry on being angry?”, and so on. By questioning ourselves in this way we can use our anger as an opportunity for gaining greater self-knowledge. We can also create a gap in our experience for a more creative response to arise. In the Bodhicaryavatara Shantideva gives a number of reflections on anger in the chapter on Kshanti. He says for instance: “Having found its fuel, the frustration of my desires, hatred sets in. Because I undertake what is to my detriment, and omit what is to my advantage, frustration sets in. Thus fuelled hatred consumes me. It is the fault of the childish that they are hurt, for although they do not wish to suffer, they are greatly attached to its causes. I do not want to suffer; but in my confusion I desire the causes of my pain – so why be angry with others when you are the cause of your own pain” He also says: “Why be unhappy about something if it can be remedied? And what is the use of being unhappy about something if it cannot be remedied?”(16) Elsewhere Shantideva reflects on the relation between self and other: “All have the same sorrows, the same joys as I, and I must guard them like myself. The body, manifold of parts in its divisions of members, must be preserved as a whole; and so likewise this manifold universe has its sorrow and its joy in common. Although my pain may bring no hurt to other bodies, nevertheless it is a pain to me, which I cannot bear because of the love of self; and though I cannot in myself feel the pain of another, it is a pain to him which he cannot bear because of the love of self. I must destroy the pain of another as though it were my own, because it is a pain; I must show kindness to others, for they are creatures as I am myself… Then, as I would guard myself from evil repute, so I will frame a spirit of helpfulness and tenderness towards others … We love our hands and other limbs, as members of the body; then why not love other living beings, as members of the universe?”(16) So by reflecting in this way, by questioning our irritability and anger and by consciously exercising our imagination to develop empathy, we can develop patience towards other people and in the process gain greater self-knowledge and make progress on the spiritual path. Perhaps I should make it clear at this point that there is a distinction to be made between being patient and being passive. To be patient doesn’t mean being a doormat and allowing others to walk all over you. That would not be consistent with self-metta. Patience can create the gap between feeling and response where we can sow the seeds of spiritual attainment and move towards ever greater self-transcendence.I will leave the last word with Shantideva, who is very persuasive indeed about the benefits of exercising patience. He says: “Never mind future Buddhahood arising from the propitiation of living beings! Do you not see good fortune, renown, and well-being right here and now? “Serenity, freedom from disease, joy and long life, the happiness of an emperor, prosperity: these the patient person receives while continuing in cyclic existence.“(14)Notes: 8. The Bodhicaryavatara, translated by K.Crosby and A. Skilton 9. The Supreme Mystery, Cittapala, Padmaloka Books 10. The Duino Elegies, Rilke 11. The Oresteia, translated by R. Fagles 12. Seminar on The Jewel Ornament of Liberation 13. Seminar on The Ten Pillars of Buddhism 14. The Bodhicaryavatara, chapter on Forbearance 15. quoted in The Ten Pillars of Buddhism 16. The Bodhicaryavatara Kshanti

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On Truth and Obligation

That’s what has been happening down the ages. That is the way of autohypnosis. John Lilly is absolutely wrong. “What the mind believes,” he says, “is true….” It is not. It only appears true.
And he says “… or it becomes true.” It never becomes true by being believed, but it starts appearing true. Yes, for the believer it becomes true, although it is not true, because belief begins in ignorance. Belief cannot create truth; truth is already the case.
Remember the first preliminary of Atisha: truth is. You need not believe in it for it to be. Your belief or your disbelief is not going to make any difference to the truth. Truth is truth, whether you believe or you disbelieve.
But if you believe in something it starts appearing as true to you at least. That’s what the meaning of belief is: belief means to believe in something as true – you know that you don’t know, you know that the truth is unknown to you, but in your ignorance you start believing, because belief is cheap.
To discover truth is arduous, it needs a long pilgrimage. It needs a great emptying of the mind, it needs a great cleansing of the heart. It needs a certain innocence, a rebirth: you have to become a child again.
Only very few people have ever dared to discover truth. And it is risky, because it may not console you; it has no obligation to console you. It is risky: it may shatter all that you have known before, and you will have to rearrange your whole life. It is dangerous: it may destroy all your illusions, it may shatter all your dreams. It is really going through fire; it is going to burn you as you are, it is going to kill you as you are. And who knows what will happen later on?
How can the seed know that by dying in the soil it will become a great tree? It will not be there to witness the happening. How can the seed know that one day, if it dies, there will be great foliage, green leaves, great branches, and flowers and fruits? How can the seed know? The seed will not be there. The seed has to disappear before it can happen. The seed has never met the tree. The seed has to disappear and die.
Only very few people have that much courage. It really needs guts to discover truth. You will die as yourself. You will certainly be born, but how can you be convinced of it? What guarantee is there? There is no guarantee.
Hence, unless you are with a master who has died and is reborn, who has crucified himself and is resurrected – unless you come across a man like Christ or Buddha or Atisha – you will not be able to gather enough courage.
Seeing Atisha, something may start stirring in your heart, a chord may be touched, something may be triggered, a synchronicity. The presence of somebody who has arrived may create a great longing in you, may become the birth of an intense passionate search for truth.
Belief cannot give you the truth, it only pretends. It is cheap, it is a plastic flower. You need not take all the trouble of growing a rosebush, you can simply go to the market and purchase plastic flowers – and they are more lasting too, in fact they are almost eternal. Once in a while you can wash them, and they are fresh again. They will not deceive you, but at least they can deceive the neighbors, and that is the point. You will know all along that they are plastic flowers. How can you forget it? You have purchased them! The neighbors may be deceived, but how can you be deceived?
And I don’t think that even the neighbors are deceived, because they have also purchased plastic flowers. They know they are deceiving you, they know you are deceiving them. Everybody is perfectly aware that everybody else is deceiving. “But this is how life is,” people say. Nobody is really deceived. People just pretend to be deceived. You pretend that you have real flowers, others pretend that they are deceived. Just watch, observe, and what I am saying will be experienced by you. It is a simple fact; I am not talking philosophy, just stating facts.
What John Lilly says is utter nonsense. He says, “What the mind believes is true.” It is never true, because belief has nothing to do with truth. You can believe that this is night but just by your believing, this is not going to become night. But you can believe, and you can close your eyes and for you it is night – but only for you, remember, not in truth. You are living in a kind of hallucination.
There is this danger in belief: it makes you feel that you know the truth. And because it makes you feel that you know the truth, this becomes the greatest barrier in the search. Believe or disbelieve and you are blocked – because disbelief is also nothing but belief in a negative form.
The Catholic believes in God, the communist believes in no God: both are believers. Go to Kaaba or go to the Comintern, go to Kailash or to the Kremlin, it is all the same. The believer believes it is so, the nonbeliever believes it is not so. And because both have already settled without taking the trouble to go and discover it, the deeper is their belief, the stronger is their belief, the greater is the barrier. They will never go on a pilgrimage, there is no point. They will live surrounded by their own illusion, self-created, self-sustained; it may be consoling, but it is not liberating. Millions of people are wasting their lives in belief and disbelief.
The inquiry into truth begins only when you drop all believing. You say, “I would like to encounter the truth on my own. I will not believe in Christ and I will not believe in Buddha. I would like to become a christ or a buddha myself, I would like to be a light unto myself.”
Why should one be a Christian? It is ugly. Be a christ if you can be, but don’t be a Christian. Be a buddha if you have any respect for yourself, but don’t be a Buddhist. The Buddhist believes. Buddha knows.
When you can know, when knowing is possible, why settle for believing? But again, the society would like you to believe, because believers are good people, obedient, law-abiding. They follow all formalities and etiquette, they are never trouble-makers. They simply follow the crowd, whichever crowd they happen to be in; they simply go with the crowd. They are not real men, they are sheep. Humanity has not yet arrived.
Somebody once said to George Bernard Shaw, “What do you think about civilization?”
He said, “It is a good idea. Somebody should try it.”
It has not yet been tried. Humanity is still arriving; we are still groping between animality and humanity. We are in limbo: man has to be born, man has to be given birth to; we have to prepare the ground for man to appear.
And the most significant thing that will help that man to come will be if we can drop believing – if we can drop being Christians, Hindus, Mohammedans, Jainas, Buddhists, communists. If you can drop believing, immediately your energy will take a new turn: it will start inquiring. And to inquire is beautiful. Your life will become a pilgrimage to truth, and in that very pilgrimage you grow.
Growth is a by-product of the inquiry into truth. Believers never grow, they remain childish. And remember, to be childlike and to be childish are poles apart, they are not the same thing. It is beautiful to be childlike. The man of trust is childlike and the man of belief is childish. To be childlike is the ultimate in growth; that is the very culmination – consciousness has come to the ultimate peak. To be childlike means to be a sage, and to be childish means to be just un-grownup.
The average mental age of human beings on the earth today is not more than twelve years. When for the first time this was discovered, it was such a shock. Nobody had ever thought about it; it was just by accident that it became known. In the First World War, for the first time in human history, the people who were candidates, who wanted to enter the army, were examined. Their mental age was inquired into, their IQ was determined. This was a great revelation – that they were not more than twelve years; the average age was just twelve years.
This is childishness. The body goes on growing, and the mind has stopped at the age of twelve. What kind of humanity have we created on this earth? Why does the mind stop at twelve? Because by the time one is twelve, one has gathered all kinds of beliefs; one is already a believer, one already “knows” what truth is. One is a Christian, another is a communist; one believes in God, one does not believe in God; one believes in The Bible and the other believes in Das Kapital; one believes in the Bhagavad Gita, another believes in the Red Book of Mao Zedong.
We have drilled concepts and ideologies into the innocent minds of poor children. They are already becoming knowers. Do you know – by the age of seven, a child already knows fifty percent of all that he will ever know. And by the time he is fourteen he has almost arrived; now there is nowhere to go, he has only to vegetate. Now he will exist as a cabbage. If he goes to college then, as they say, he may become a cauliflower. A cabbage with a college education is a cauliflower. But there is not much difference, just labels change. The cabbage becomes an M.A., a Ph.D., this and that, and just to show respect we call it a cauliflower. But the mental age is twelve.
The real man grows to the very end. Even while he is dying, he is growing. Even the last moment of his life will still be an inquiry, a search, a learning. He will still be inquiring – now inquiring into death. He will be fascinated: death is such an unknown phenomenon, such a mystery, far more mysterious than life itself – how can an intelligent man be afraid? If in life he has not been afraid to go into the uncharted and the unknown, at the moment of death he will be thrilled, ecstatic. Now the last moment has come: he will be entering into the darkness, the dark tunnel of death. This is the greatest adventure one can ever go on; he will be learning.
A real man never believes; he learns. A real man never becomes knowledgeable; he always remains open, open to truth. And he always remembers that “It is not that truth has to adjust to me, but just vice versa: I have to adjust to truth.” The believer tries to adjust truth to himself, the seeker adjusts himself to truth. Remember the difference; the difference is tremendous. One who believes, he says, “Truth should be like this, this is my belief.”
Just think of a Christian…. If God appears not like Jesus Christ but like Krishna, not on the cross but with a flute and girlfriends dancing around him, the Christian will close his eyes; he will say, “This is not my cup of tea.” Girlfriends? Can you think of Jesus with girlfriends? The cross and girlfriends can’t go together. Jesus hanging on the cross and girlfriends dancing around? It won’t fit, it will be very bizarre. He was waiting for Christ to appear, and instead of Christ this guy, Krishna, appears: he seems to be debauched. And the flute? The world is suffering and people are hungry and they need bread – and this man is playing on the flute? He seems to be utterly uncompassionate, he seems to be indulgent. The Christian cannot believe in Krishna: if God appears as Krishna, then the Christian will say, “This is not God.”
And the same will be the case with the Hindu who was waiting for Krishna: if Christ appears, that will not be his idea of God – so sad, such a long face, so gloomy, with such suffering on his face.
Christians say Jesus never laughed. I don’t think they are right, and I don’t think they are representing the real Christ, but that’s what they have managed to propagate. The Hindu cannot accept the revelation; he must think this is some kind of nightmare. Jesus will not appeal to him.
The believer cannot even trust his own experience. Even if truth is revealed, he will reject it, unless it fits with him. He is more important than truth itself: truth has an obligation to fit with him. He is the criterion, he is the decisive factor. This kind of man can never know truth; he is already prejudiced, poisoned.
The man who wants to know truth has to be capable of dropping all concepts about truth. Everything about truth has to be dropped. Only then can you know truth. Know well: to know about truth is not to know truth. Whatsoever you know may be utter nonsense; there is every possibility that it is utter nonsense. In fact people can be conditioned to believe any kind of nonsense; they can be convinced.
Once I went to address a conference of theosophists. Now, theosophists are people who will believe any bullshit – ANY! The more shitty it is, the more believable. So I just played a joke on them. I simply invented something; I invented a society called “Sitnalta.” They were all dozing, they became alert. “Sitnalta?” I made the word by just reading “Atlantis” backwards. And then I told them, “This knowledge comes from Atlantis, the continent that disappeared in the Atlantic ocean.”
And then I talked about it: “There are really not seven chakras but seventeen. That great ancient esoteric knowledge is lost, but a society of enlightened masters still exists, and it still works. It is a very very esoteric society, very few people are allowed to have any contact with it; its knowledge is kept utterly secret.”
And I talked all kinds of nonsense that I could manage. And then the president of the society said, “I have heard about this society.” Now it was my turn to be surprised. And about whatsoever I had said, he said that it was the first time that the knowledge of this secret society had been revealed so exactly.
And then letters started coming to me. One man even wrote saying, “I thank you very much for introducing this inner esoteric circle to the theosophists, because I am a member of the society, and I can vouch that whatsoever you have said is absolutely true.”
There are people like these who are just waiting to believe in anything, because the more nonsensical a belief is, the more important it appears to be. The more absurd it is, the more believable – because if something is logical, then there is no question of believing in it.
You don’t believe in the sun, you don’t believe in the moon. You don’t believe in the theory of relativity: either you understand it or you don’t understand it; there is no question of belief. You don’t believe in gravitation; there is no need. Nobody believes in a scientific theory – it is logical. Belief is needed only when something illogical, something utterly absurd, is propounded.
Tertullian said, “I believe in God because it is absurd: Credo Quia Absurdum, my creed is the absurd.”
All beliefs are absurd. If a belief is very logical, it will not create belief in you. So people go on inventing things.
Man is basically a coward, he does not want to inquire. And he does not want to say “I don’t know” either.
Now, that president of the theosophical society who said, “I have heard about this society” – he cannot say that he does not know, he does not have even that much courage. To accept one’s ignorance needs courage. To accept that you don’t know is the beginning of real knowledge. You go on believing, because there are holes in your life which have to be filled, and belief is easily available.
There are three hundred religions on the earth. One truth, and three hundred religions? One God, and three hundred religions? One existence, and three hundred religions? And I am not talking about sects – because each religion has dozens of sects, and then there are sub-sects of sects, and it goes on and on. If you count all the sects and all the sub-sects, then there will be three thousand or even more.
How can so many beliefs, contradictory to each other, go on? People have a certain need – the need not to appear ignorant. How to fulfill this need? Gather a few beliefs. And the more absurd the belief is, the more knowledgeable you appear, because nobody else knows about it.
There are people who believe in a hollow earth, and that inside the earth there is a civilization. Now, if somebody says so you cannot deny it; you cannot accept it, but at least you have to listen attentively. And that serves a purpose: everybody wants to be listened to attentively. And one thing is certain, this man knows more than you. You don’t know whether the earth is hollow or not; this man knows. And who knows? He may be right. He can gather a thousand and one proofs; he can argue for it, he can propound it in such a way that you at least have to be silent if you don’t agree.
Believers and believers and believers – but where is truth? There are so many believers, but where is truth? If John Lilly is right, then the world would be full of truth, you would come across it everywhere. Everybody would have truth, because everybody is a believer. No, it is all nonsense.
He says, “What the mind believes is true or becomes true.” No. What the mind believes is never true, because truth needs no belief. Belief is a barrier to truth. And what the mind believes never becomes true, because truth is not becoming, truth is being; it is already the case. You have to see it – or you can go on avoiding seeing it, but it is there. Nothing has to be added to it, it is eternally there.
And the best way to avoid truth is to believe. Then you need not look at it. Your eyes become full of belief; belief functions as dust on the eyes. You become closed into yourself, the belief becomes a prison around you. Belief closes you: then you are living within yourself in a windowless existence, and you can go on believing whatsoever you want to believe. But remember, it is belief, and belief is a lie.
Let me say that even when the truth is told to you, don’t believe in it! Explore, inquire, search, experiment, experience: don’t believe in it. Even when truth is conveyed to you, if you believe in it, you turn it into a lie. A truth believed is a lie, belief turns truth into a lie.
Believe in Buddha and you believe in a lie. Believe in Christ and you believe in a lie. Don’t believe in Christ, don’t believe in Buddha, don’t believe in me. What I say, listen to it attentively, intelligently; experiment, experience. And when you have experienced, will you need to believe in it? There will be no doubt left, so what will be the point of belief? Belief is a way of repressing doubt: you doubt, hence you need belief.
The rock of belief represses the spring of doubt.
When you know, you know! You know it is so; there is no doubt left. Your experience has expelled all darkness and all doubt. Truth is: you are full of it. Truth never creates belief.
How to attain to truth? By dropping all kinds of beliefs. And remember, I am saying all kinds – belief in me is included. Experience me, come along with me, let me share what I have seen, but don’t believe, don’t be in a hurry. Don’t say, “Now what is the point? Now Osho has seen it, all that is left for me is to believe it.”
What I have seen cannot become your experience unless you see it. And it is the experience of truth that delivers you from ignorance, from bondage, from misery. It is not the belief that delivers you, it is truth.
Jesus says, “Truth liberates.” But how to attain to truth? It is not a question of belief, but a question of meditativeness. And what is meditation? Meditation is emptying your mind completely of all belief, ideology, concept, thought. Only in an empty mind, when there is no dust left on the mirror, truth reflects. That reflection is a benediction.

Osho on Insecurity and Fear

How does it happen? When you drop the fear of insecurity, insecurity disappears; it exists in the fear of it. Rather than being afraid of it, you start enjoying its thrill – because insecurity is adventurous, it brings new surprises to you, it is a constant venture into the unknown. It has a great thrill. It takes you from the known to the unknown every moment, there are always surprises, and each moment of your life becomes unpredictable.
Sanai says:
Until you throw your sword away.
The sword represents security.
.you’ll not become a shield.
If you carry the sword in your hand, afraid, protecting yourself, you will remain unprotected, you will not become a shield. Throw away the sword and immediately you become the shield. Throw away the fear of insecurity, throw away the desire to be secure, and you are secure.
All security is in God, with godliness, with the whole. If you exist separately as a self, you are insecure. If you forget about yourself, if you merge into the whole, you are secure. In that union is security: you become a shield.
.until you lay your crown aside,
you’ll not be fit to lead.
And this is the basic evil, to search for security. Evil is really a selling or trading of aliveness for survival. The mind state is interested only in survival. The ego is continuously hankering to survive, the mind wants to remain secure in every possible way, and because of its obsession with security it cripples you, paralyzes you. And to trade aliveness for survival is the fundamental evil.
Drop this fear of insecurity. Love insecurity, because insecurity is life. Don’t live out of fear, because one who lives out of fear does not really live, he only vegetates. Those who live out of fear live constantly focused on death. Fear means fear of death. All fear can be reduced to the fear of death. And those who are focused on death go on missing life, because how can you enjoy life if you are constantly thinking of death?
If a man is afraid of adventures, then he will remain closed. He will live almost in a grave. Then he will find that fear is everywhere: all kinds of fears will torment him, he will become paranoid. He will not be able to live at all; he will at the most survive. He only survives, he does not live.
You have to drop this fear – because this fear perpetuates itself; it becomes bigger and bigger and it drowns you in its mud.
The death of soul
is the destruction of life;
but death of life
is the soul’s salvation.

Freedom – Zen

Soen-sa said, “Freedom means no hindrance. If your parents
tell you to do something and you think that you are a
free person so you will not listen to them, this is not true
freedom.True freedom is freedom from thinking, freedom
from all attachments, freedom even from life and death. If I
want life, I have life; if I want death, I have death.”
‘No, I won’t change; I am free!’, then you are attached
to your dirty shirt or to your freedom itself. So you
are not free. If you are really free, then dirty is good and clean
is good. It doesn’t matter. Not changing my shirt is good;
changing my shirt is good. If my parents want me to change,
then I change. I don’t do it for my own sake, only for theirs.
This is freedom. No desire for myself, only for all people.”
So always keep don’t-know
mind. This is true freedom.”
“Where is your question coming from?This
is your treasure. It is precisely what is making you ask the
question at this very moment. Everything is stored in this
precious treasure-house of yours. It is there at your disposal,
you can use it as you wish, nothing is lacking. You are the
master of everything. Why, then, are you running away from
yourself and seeking for things outside?”
This don’t-know mind cuts off all thinking,
and is the true quiet mind

Purpose of Being

Be Alight with Who We Are

–by Mark Nepo (Jun 12, 2017)

There is always purpose in being, but not always being in purpose.
How easily we get caught up in defining who we are in relation to those around us. I remember walking home from school in fourth grade, when I noticed Roy, a classmate I didn’t really like, walking at the same pace as me on the other side of the street. Until I noticed Roy, I was lost in the joy of walking home, free of school, not yet enmeshed in the anger that waited inside my house. But once seeing Roy, I began, without a word, to walk faster, to try to outwalk him. He, of course, sensed this immediately and picked up his gait. As he strode ahead of me, I felt lacking and so stepped up my gait. Before I knew it, we were both racing to the corner, and I felt that if I didn’t get there first, I would be a terrible failure.
I have lived enough in the world to know by now that this is how our ambitions often evolve. We first find ourselves alone in the joy of what we’re doing. But somehow, there are suddenly others along the way, and we lapse into the breath-less race of comparison, and then we are hopelessly running to avoid being termed a failure.
From here, we often latch onto the nearest goal as a purpose; if we can’ t find one nearby, we are thought to be adrift. But our lasting sense of purpose is in our breathing, in our being. As the humanitarian Carol Hegedus reminds us, “Our purpose is that which we most passionately are when we pay attention to our deepest selves.”
So underneath all our worries about careers and jobs and retirements, our purpose really comes down to living fully, to being alight with who we are beneath all the names and titles we are given or aspire to.
Imagine Buddha in his moment of enlightenment, of being lighted from within. I doubt if he knew he was aglow. In fact, when Buddha rose from under the Bodhi tree, it is said a monk approached him in utter amazement at his luminosity and asked, “O Holy One, what are you? You must be a God.” Buddha, not thinking of himself as anything but present, answered, “No … not a God,” and kept walking. But the dazzled monk persisted, “Then you must be a Deva,” and Buddha stopped and said, “No … not a Deva,” and kept walking. Still, the monk pursued him, “Then you must be Brahma himself!” At this, Buddha simply uttered, “No.” The monk, confused, implored, “Then what are you—Tell me, please—what are you?!” Buddha could not repress his joy and replied, “I am awake.”
Can it be that our purpose, no matter whom we run into, no matter what we are told, is simply to be awake?

Quotes – Zen Mind, Beginner Mind

“As long as you are concerned about what you do, that is dualistic. If you are not concerned about what you do, you will not say so. When you sit, you will sit. When you eat, you will eat. That is all. If you say, “It doesn’t matter,” it means that you are making some excuse to do something in your own way with your small mind. It means you are attached to some particular thing or way. That is not what we mean when we say, “Just to sit is enough,” or “Whatever you do is zazen.” Of course whatever we do is zazen, but if so, there is no need to say it.”

“Knowing that your life is short, to enjoy it day after day, moment after moment, is the life of “form is form, and emptiness emptiness.” When Buddha comes, you will welcome him; when the devil comes, you will welcome him”

“You must be true to your own way until at last you actually come to the point where you see it is necessary to forget all about yourself. Until you come to this point, it is completely mistaken to think that whatever you do is Zen or that it does not matter whether you practice or not. But if you make your best effort just to continue your practice with your whole mind and body, without gaining ideas, then whatever you do will be true practice. Just to continue should be your purpose. When you do something, just to do it should be your purpose”

“Usually to bow means to pay our respects to something which is more worthy of respect than ourselves. But when you bow to Buddha you should have no idea of Buddha, you just become one with Buddha, you are already Buddha himself. When you become one with Buddha, one with everything that exists, you find the true meaning of being. When you forget all your dualistic ideas, everything becomes your teacher, and everything can be the object of worship”

“When everything exists within your big mind, all dualistic relationships drop away. There is no distinction between heaven and earth, man and woman, teacher and disciple. Sometimes a man bows to a woman; sometimes a woman bows to a man. Sometimes the disciple bows to the master; sometimes the master bows to the disciple. A master who cannot bow to his disciple cannot bow to Buddha. Sometimes the master and disciple bow together to Buddha. Sometimes we may bow to cats and dogs.”

“Bowing is a very serious practice. You should be prepared to bow even in your last moment; when you cannot do anything except bow, you should do it. This kind of conviction is necessary. Bow with this spirit and all the precepts, all the teachings are yours, and you will possess everything within your big mind”

“Each bow expresses one of the four Buddhist vows. These vows are: “Although sentient beings are innumerable, we vow to save them. Although our evil desires are limitless, we vow to be rid of them. Although the teaching is limitless, we vow to learn it all. Although Buddhism is unattainable, we vow to attain it.” If it is unattainable, how can we attain it? But we should! That is Buddhism”

“To think, “Because it is possible we will do it,” is not Buddhism. Even though it is impossible, we have to do it because our true nature wants us to. But actually, whether or not it is possible is not the point. If it is our inmost desire to get rid of our self-centered ideas, we have to do it. When we make this effort, our inmost desire is appeased and Nirvana is there. Before you determine to do it, you have difficulty, but once you start to do it, you have none. Your effort appeases your inmost desire. There is no other way to attain calmness. Calmness of mind does not mean you should stop your activity. Real calmness should be found in activity itself. We say, “It is easy to have calmness in inactivity, it is hard to have calmness in activity, but calmness in activity is true calmness.”

“Even though you try very hard, the progress you make is always little by little. It is not like going out in a shower in which you know when you get wet. In a fog, you do not know you are getting wet, but as you keep walking you get wet little by little. If your mind has ideas of progress, you may say, “Oh, this pace is terrible!” But actually it is not. When you get wet in a fog it is very difficult to dry yourself. So there is no need to worry about progress. It is like studying a foreign language; you cannot do it all of a sudden, but by repeating it over and over you will master it. This is the Soto way of practice. We can say either that we make progress little by little, or that we do not even expect to make progress. Just to be sincere and make our full effort in each moment is enough. There is no Nirvana outside our practice”

“Of course, whatever we do is the expression of our true nature, but without this practice it is difficult to realize. It is our human nature to be active and the nature of every existence. As long as we are alive, we are always doing something. But as long as you think, “I am doing this,” or “I have to do this,” or “I must attain something special,” you are actually not doing anything. When you give up, when you no longer want something, or when you do not try to do anything special, then you do something”

“But as long as you think you are practicing zazen for the sake of something, that is not true practice.”

“If you continue this simple practice every day you will obtain a wonderful power. Before you attain it, it is something wonderful, but after you obtain it, it is nothing special”

“So to be a human being is to be a Buddha. Buddha nature is just another name for human nature, our true human nature. Thus even though you do not do anything, you are actually doing something. You are expressing yourself. You are expressing your true nature. Your eyes will express; your voice will express; your demeanor will express. The most important thing is to express your true nature in the simplest, most adequate way and to appreciate it in the smallest existence”

“The most important thing is to forget all gaining ideas, all dualistic ideas. In other words, just practice zazen in a certain posture. Do not think about anything. Just remain on your cushion without expecting anything. Then eventually you will resume your own true nature. That is to say, your own true nature resumes itself.”

“We say railway track, but actually there is no such thing. Sincerity itself is the railway track. The sights we see from the train will change, but we are always running on the same track. And there is no beginning or end to the track: beginning-less and endless track. There is no starting point nor goal, nothing to attain. Just to run on the track is our way. This is the nature of our Zen practice.”

“They thought that the physical side of man bound the spiritual side, and so their religious practice was aimed at making the physical element weaker in order to free and strengthen the spirit. Thus the practice Buddha found in India emphasized asceticism. But Buddha found when he practiced asceticism that there was no limit to the attempt to purge ourselves physically, and that it made religious practice very idealistic. This kind of war with our body can only end when we die”

“this idea of asceticism is in the back of their minds. But practicing in this way will not result in any progress”

“Anyway, we cannot keep still; we have to do something. So if you do something, you should be very observant, and careful, and alert. Our way is to put the dough in the oven and watch it carefully. Once you know how the dough becomes bread, you will understand enlightenment. So how this physical body becomes a sage is our main interest. We are not so concerned about what flour is, or what dough is, or what a sage is. A sage is a sage. Metaphysical explanations of human nature are not the point. So the kind of practice we stress thus cannot become too idealistic. If an artist becomes too idealistic, he will commit suicide, because between his ideal and his actual ability there is a great gap”

“Because there is no bridge long enough to go across the gap, he will begin to despair. That is the usual spiritual way. But our spiritual way is not so idealistic. In some sense we should be idealistic; at least we should be interested in making bread which tastes and looks good! Actual practice is repeating over and over again until you find out how to become bread. There is no secret in our way. Just to practice zazen and put ourselves into the oven is our way.”

“It is necessary for us to keep the constant way. Zen is not some kind of excitement, but concentration on our usual everyday routine. If you become too busy and too excited, your mind becomes rough and ragged. This is not good. If possible, try to be always calm and joyful and keep yourself from excitement. Usually we become busier and busier, day by day, year by year, especially in our modern world. If we revisit old, familiar places after a long time, we are astonished by the changes. It cannot be helped. But if we become interested in some excitement, or in our own change, we will become completely involved in our busy life, and we will be lost. But if your mind is calm and constant, you can keep yourself away from the noisy world even though you are in the midst of it. In the midst of noise and change, your mind will be quiet and stable”

“Just continue in your calm, ordinary practice and your character will be built up. If your mind is always busy, there will be no time to build, and you will not be successful, particularly if you work too hard on it. Building character is like making bread-you have to mix it little by little, step by step, and moderate temperature is needed. You know yourself quite well, and you know how much temperature you need. You know exactly what you need. But if you get too excited, you will forget how much temperature is good for you, and you will lose your own way. This is very dangerous”

“On the other hand it may seem as if I am speaking about gradual attainment. This is not so either. In fact, this is the sudden way, because when your practice is calm and ordinary, everyday life itself is enlightenment”

“The most important point in our practice is to have right or perfect effort. Right effort directed in the right direction is necessary. If your effort is headed in the wrong direction, especially if you are not aware of this, it is deluded effort. Our effort in our practice should be directed from achievement to non-achievement.”

“Usually when you do something, you want to achieve something, you attach to some result. From achievement to non-achievement means to be rid of the unnecessary and bad results of effort. If you do something in the spirit of non-achievement, there is a good quality in it. So just to do something without any particular effort is enough. When you make some special effort to achieve something, some excessive quality, some extra element is involved in it. You should get rid of excessive things. If your practice is good, without being aware of it you will become proud of your practice. That pride is extra. What you do is good, but something more is added to it. So you should get rid of that something which is extra. This point is very, very important, but usually we are not subtle enough to realize it, and we go in the wrong direction.”

“If you think you will get something from practicing zazen, already you are involved in impure practice. It is all right to say there is practice, and there is enlightenment, but we should not be caught by the statement. You should not be tainted by it. When you practice zazen, just practice zazen. If enlightenment comes, it just comes”

“We say, “To hear the sound of one hand clapping.” Usually the sound of clapping is made with two hands, and we think that clapping with one hand makes no sound at all. But actually, one hand is sound. Even though you do not hear it, there is sound. If you clap with two hands, you can hear the sound. But if sound did not already exist before you clapped, you could not make the sound. Before you make it there is sound. Because there is sound, you can make it, and you can hear it. Sound is everywhere. If you just practice it, there is sound. Do not try to listen to it. If you do not listen to it, the sound is all over. Because you try to hear it, sometimes there is sound, and sometimes there is no sound. Do you understand? Even though you do not do anything, you have the quality of zazen always. But if you try to find it, if you try to see the quality, you have no quality.”

“You are living in this world as one individual, but before you take the form of a human being, you are already there, always there. We are always here. Do you understand? You think before you were born you were not here. But how is it possible for you to appear in this world, when there is no you? Because you are already there, you can appear in the world. Also, it is not possible for something to vanish which does not exist. Because something is there, something can vanish. You may think that when you die, you disappear, you no longer exist. But even though you vanish, something which is existent cannot be non-existent. That is the magic. We ourselves cannot put any magic spells on this world”

“The world is its own magic. If we are looking at something, it can vanish from our sight, but if we do not try to see it, that something cannot vanish. Because you are watching it, it can disappear, but if no one is watching, how is it possible for anything to disappear? If someone is watching you, you can escape from him, but if no one is watching, you cannot escape from yourself.”

“So try not to see something in particular; try not to achieve anything special. You already have everything in your own pure quality. If you understand this ultimate fact, there is no fear. There may be some difficulty, of course, but there is no fear”

“So try not to see something in particular; try not to achieve anything special. You already have everything in your own pure quality. If you understand this ultimate fact, there is no fear. There may be some difficulty, of course, but there is no fear”

“If people have difficulty without being aware of the difficulty, that is true difficulty. They may appear very confident, they may think they are making a big effort in the right direction, but without knowing it, what they do comes out of fear. Something may vanish for them. But if your effort is in the right direction, then there is no fear of losing anything. Even if it is in the wrong direction, if you are aware of that, you will not be deluded. There is nothing to lose. There is only the constant pure quality of right practice.”

“When we practice zazen our mind is calm and quite simple. But usually our mind is very busy and complicated, and it is difficult to be concentrated on what we are doing. This is because before we act we think, and this thinking leaves some trace. Our activity is shadowed by some preconceived idea”

“The thinking not only leaves some trace or shadow, but also gives us many other notions about other activities and things. These traces and notions make our minds very complicated. When we do something with a quite simple, clear mind, we have no notion or shadows, and our activity is strong and straightforward. But when we do something with a complicated mind, in relation to other things or people, or society, our activity becomes very complex.”

“Most people have a double or triple notion in one activity. There is a saying, “To catch two birds with one stone.” That is what people usually try to do. Because they want to catch too many birds they find it difficult to be concentrated on one activity, and they may end up not catching any birds at all! That kind of thinking always leaves its shadow on their activity. The shadow is not actually the thinking itself. Of course it is often necessary to think or prepare before we act. But right thinking does not leave any shadow. Thinking which leaves traces comes out of your relative confused mind. Relative mind is the mind which sets itself in relation to other things, thus limiting itself. It is this small mind which creates gaining ideas and leaves traces of itself”

“If you leave a trace of your thinking on your activity, you will be attached to the trace. For instance, you may say, “This is what I have done!” But actually it is not so. In your recollection you may say, “I did such and such a thing in some certain way,” but actually that is never exactly what happened. When you think in this way you limit the actual experience of what you have done. So if you attach to the idea of what you have done, you are involved in selfish ideas.”

“Often we think what we have done is good, but it may not actually be so. When we become old, we are often very proud of what we have done. When others listen to someone proudly telling something which he has done, they will feel funny, because they know his recollection is one-sided. They know that what he has told them is not exactly what he did. Moreover, if he is proud of what he did, that pride will create some problem for him”

“Repeating his recollections in this way, his personality will be twisted more and more, until he becomes quite a disagreeable, stubborn fellow. This is an example of leaving a trace of one’s thinking. We should not forget what we did, but it should be without an extra trace”

“To leave a trace is not the same as to remember something. It is necessary to remember what we have done, but we should not become attached to what we have done in some special sense. What we call “attachment” is just these traces of our thought and activity.”

“In order not to leave any traces, when you do something, you should do it with your whole body and mind; you should be concentrated on what you do. You should do it completely, like a good bonfire. You should not be a smoky fire. You should burn yourself completely. If you do not burn yourself completely, a trace of yourself will be left in what you do. You will have something remaining which is not completely burned out”

“Usually when it is so simple we say, “Oh, I know that! It is quite simple. Everyone knows that.” But if we do not find its value, it means nothing. It is the same as not knowing. The more you understand culture, the more you will understand how true and how necessary this teaching is. Instead of only criticizing your culture, you should devote your mind and body to practicing this simple way.”

“Then society and culture will grow out of you. It may be all right for the people who are too attached to their culture to be critical. Their critical attitude means they are coming back to the simple truth left by Buddha. But our approach is just to be concentrated on a simple basic practice and a simple basic understanding of life. There should be no traces in our activity. We should not attach to some fancy ideas or to some beautiful things. We should not seek for something good. The truth is always near at hand, within your reach”

“Every existence in nature, every existence in the human world, every cultural work that we create, is something which was given, or is being given to us, relatively speaking. But as everything is originally one, we are, in actuality, giving out everything. Moment after moment we are creating something, and this is the joy of our life. But this “l” which is creating and always giving out something is not the “small I “; it is the “big I.” Even though you do not realize the oneness of this “big I” with everything, when you give something you feel good, because at that time you feel at one with what you are giving. This is why it feels better to give than to take.”

“According to Christianity, every existence in nature is something which was created for or given to us by God. That is the perfect idea of giving. But if you think that God created man, and that you are somehow separate from God, you are liable to think you have the ability to create something separate, something not given by Him, For instance, we create airplanes and highways. And when we repeat, “I -create, I create, I create,” soon we forget who is actually the “I” which creates the various things; we soon forget about God. This is the danger of human culture”

“Even though something has no material or relative value to any “small I,” it has absolute value in itself. Not to be attached to something is to be aware of its absolute value. Everything you do should be based on such an awareness, and not on material or self-centered ideas of value. Then whatever you do is true giving, is ” dana prajna paramita.”

“When we sit we are nothing, we do not even realize what we are; we just sit. But when we stand up, we are there! That is the first step in creation. When you are there, everything else is there; everything is created all at once. When we emerge from nothing, when everything emerges from nothing, we see it all as a fresh new creation. This is non-attachment. The second kind of creation is when you act, or produce or prepare something like food or tea. The third kind is to create something within yourself, such as education, or culture, or art, or some system for our society. So there are three kinds of creation. But if you forget the first, the most important one, the other two will be like children who have lost their parents; their creation will mean nothing”

“Everything creates some problems. But usually people think that when they die, everything is over, the problems disappear. But your death may create problems too! Actually, our problems should be solved or dissolved in this life. But if we are aware that what we do or what we create is really the gift of the “big I,” then we will not be attached to it, and we will not create problems for ourselves or for others.”

“And we should forget, day by day, what we have done; this is true non-attachment. And we should do something new. To do something new, of course we must know our past, and this is all right. But we should not keep holding onto anything we have done; we should only reflect on it. And we must have some idea of what we should do in the future. But the future is the future, the past is the past; now we should work on something new. This is our attitude, and how we should live in this world”

“When you are idealistic, you have some gaining idea within yourself; by the time you attain your ideal or goal, your gaining idea will create another ideal. So as long as your practice is based on a gaining idea, and you practice zazen in an idealistic way, you will have no time actually to attain your ideal. Moreover, you will be sacrificing the meat of your practice. Because your attainment is always ahead, you will always be sacrificing yourself now for some ideal in the future. You end up with nothing. This is absurd; it is not adequate practice at all”

“When you are tired of sitting, or when you are disgusted with your practice, you should recognize this as a warning signal. You become discouraged with your practice when your practice has been idealistic. You have some gaining idea in your practice, and it is not pure enough. It is when your practice is rather greedy that you become discouraged with it. So you should be grateful that you have a sign or warning signal to show you the weak point in your practice. At that time, forgetting all about your mistake and renewing your way, you can resume your original practice. This is a very important point.”

“If you find some difficulty in your practice, that is the warning that you have some wrong idea, so you have to be careful. But do not give up your practice; continue it, knowing your weakness. Here there is no gaining idea. Here there is no fixed idea of attainment. You do not say, “This is enlightenment,” or “That is not right practice.” Even in wrong practice, when you realize it and continue, there is right practice. Our practice cannot be perfect, but without being discouraged by this, we should continue it. This is the secret of practice.”

“And if you want to find some encouragement in your discouragement, getting tired of practice is itself the encouragement. You encourage yourself when you get tired of it. When you do not want to do it, that is the warning signal”

“If you understand the cause of conflict as some fixed or one-sided idea, you can find meaning in various practices without being caught by any of them. If you do not realize this point you will be easily caught by some particular way, and you will say, “This is enlightenment! This is perfect practice. This is our way. The rest of the ways are not perfect. This is the best way.” This is a big mistake. There is no particular way in true practice. You should find your own way, and you should know what kind of practice you have right now”

“toward some particular object, such as a clay, a bronze, or a wooden Buddha, it will not always work. So as long as you have some particular goal in your practice, that practice will not help you completely. It may help as long as you are directed towards that goal, but when you resume your everyday life, it will not work.”

“When we hear the sound of the pine trees on a windy day, perhaps the wind is just blowing, and the pine tree is just standing in the wind. That is all that they are doing. But the people who listen to the wind in the tree will write a poem, or will feel something unusual. That is, I think, the way everything is”

“So which do you hit, the cart or the horse? Which do you hit, yourself or your problems? If you start questioning which you should hit, that means you have already started to wander about. But when you actually hit the horse, the cart will go. In truth, the cart and the horse are not different. When you are you, there is no problem of whether you should hit the cart or the horse. When you are you, zazen becomes true zazen. So when you practice zazen, your problem will practice zazen, and everything else will practice zazen too”

“Even though your spouse is in bed, he or she is also practicing zazen -when jou practice zazen! But when you do not practice true zazen, then there is your spouse, and there is yourself, each quite different, quite separate from the other. So if you yourself have true practice, then everything else is practicing our way at the same time”

“Actually, just to work on the problem, if you do it with single-minded effort, is enough. You should just polish the tile; that is our practice. The puipose of practice is not to make a tile a jewel. Just continue sitting; that is practice in its true sense. It is not a matter of whether or not it is possible to attain Buddhahood, whether or not it is possible to make a tile a jewel. Just to work and live in this world with this understanding is the most important point”

“It is quite usual for us to gather pieces of information from various sources, thinking in this way to increase our knowledge. Actually, following this way we end up not knowing anything at all. Our understanding of Buddhism should not be just gathering many pieces of information, seeking to gain knowledge. Instead of gathering knowledge, you should clear your mind. If your mind is clear, true knowledge is already yours. When you listen to our teaching with a pure, clear mind, you can accept it as if you were hearing something which you already knew. This is called emptiness, or omnipotent self, or knowing everything”

“When you know everything, you are like a dark sky. Sometimes a flashing will come through the dark sky. After it passes, you forget all about it, and there is nothing left but the dark sky. The sky is never surprised when all of a sudden a thunderbolt breaks through. And when the lightning does flash, a wonderful sight may be seen. When we have emptiness we are always prepared for watching the flashing”

“So you should accept knowledge as if you were hearing something you already knew. But this does not mean to receive various pieces of information merely as an echo of your own opinions. It means that you should not be surprised at whatever you see or hear”

“But if a Japanese Buddhist comes to the United States, he is no longer a Japanese, i am living in your cultural background. I am eating nearly the same food as you eat, and I am communicating with you in your language. Even though you do not understand me completely, I want to understand you. And I may understand you better than anyone who can speak and understand English. This is true. Even if I could not understand English at all, I think I could communicate with people. There is always a possibility of understanding as long as we exist in the utter darkness of the sky, as long as we live in emptiness”

“Even though clouds and lightning come, the sky is not disturbed. Even if the flashing of enlightenment comes, our practice forgets all about it. Then it is ready for another enlightenment. It is necessary for us to have enlightenments one after another, if possible, moment after moment. This is what is called enlightenment before you attain it and after you attain it.”

“When we say something, our subjective intention or situation is always involved. So there is no perfect word; some distortion is always present in a statement. But nevertheless, through our master’s statement we have to understand objective fact itself-the ultimate fact. By ultimate fact we do not mean something eternal or something constant, we mean things as they are in each moment. You may call it “being” or “reality.”

“the natural expression of yourself. We emphasize straightforwardness. You should be true to your feelings, and to your mind, expressing yourself without any reservations. This helps the listener to understand more easily.”

“When you listen to someone, you should give up all your preconceived ideas and your subjective opinions; you should just listen to him, just observe what his way is. We put very little emphasis on right and wrong or good and bad. We just see things as they are with him, and accept them. This is how we communicate with each other. Usually when you listen to some statement, you hear it as a kind of echo of yourself.”

“You are actually listening to your own opinion. If it agrees with your opinion you may accept it, but if it does not, you will reject it or you may not even really hear it. That is one danger when you listen to someone. The other danger is to be caught by the statement. If you do not understand your master’s statement in its true sense, you will easily be caught by something which is involved in your subjective opinion, or by some particular way the statement is expressed. You will take what he says only as a statement, withhout understanding the spirit behind the words. This kind of danger is always there.”

“A mind full of preconceived ideas, subjective intentions, or habits is not open to things as they are. That is why we practice zazen; to clear our mind of what is related to something else.”

“To be quite natural to ourselves, and also to follow what others say or do in the most appropriate way, is quite difficult. If we try to adjust ourselves intentionally in some way, it is impossible to be natural. If you try to adjust yourself in a certain way, you will lose yourself. So without any intentional, fancy way of adjusting yourself, to express yourself freely as you are is the most important thing to make yourself happy, and to make others happy”

“Our teaching is just to live, always in reality, in its exact sense. To make our effort, moment after moment, is our way. In an exact sense, the only thing we actually can study in our life is that on which we are working in each moment”

“When we talk about our way, there is apt to be some misunderstanding, because the true way always has at least two sides, the negative and the positive. When we talk about the negative side, the positive side is missing, and when we talk about the positive side, the negative side is missing. We cannot speak in a positive and a negative way at the same time. So we do not know what to say. It is almost impossible to talk”

“Dogen-zenji said, “When you say something to someone, he may not accept it, but do not try to make him understand it intellectually. Do not argue with him; just listen to his objections until he himself finds something wrong with them.” This is very interesting. Try not to force your idea on someone, but rather think about it with him. If you feel you have won the discussion, that also is the wrong attitude. Try not to win in the argument; just listen to it; but it is also wrong to behave as if you had lost. Usually vv’hen we say something, we are apt to try to sell our teaching or force our idea. But between Zen students there is no special purpose in speaking or in listening. Sometimes we listen, sometimes we talk; that is all. It is like a greeting: “Good morning!” Through this kind of communication we can develop our way.”

“And I thought it must be a very difficult experience for each drop of water to come down from the top of such a high mountain. It takes time, you know, a long time, for the water finally to reach the bottom of the waterfall. And it seems to me that our human life may be like this. We have many difficult experiences in our life. But at the same time, I thought, the water was not originally separated, but was one whole river. Only when it is separated does it have some difficulty in falling. It is as if the water does not have any feeling when it is one whole river”