A great Zen Master once said that we must realize the urgency for practicing Zazen, to sit and meditate without attaching to the thoughts that seem to arise out of nowhere.. He was Dogen, and lived in Japan about a thousand years ago. He said the urgency should be as when we realize our hair is on fire… So, if you all of a sudden realized your hair was in fact on fire… there is no thought, only action, and it is urgent action.. hands smack your head to put the fire out… no time to think, no time to wait… just action… and just correct action…
Zen is like this.
But why the rush? In Zen, you are taught that if you rush towards Enlightenment, it flies away even quicker than you run towards it.. It is crafty like that! Why is it like this? And even if it is like this, how can a person rush and be urgent when this will ultimately fail? Ok… first question first…. Why is it like this?
In Zen, it is said that if you seek Enlightenment, regardless if you rush towards it or sidle up beside it, the seeking itself means you can never find it… It is because if you seek it, you create it as something already outside of yourself…A dualism is created.. Non-Enlightened person versus the Enlightened person you seek. Buddhism is about discovering that you already are a fully enlightened being! So seeking it is not the Way… what is? Buddhism’s way is about realizing what you already are, not a path to find something outside of yourself. Metaphors and similes can be very good teaching tools in Zen, but they are also dangerous tools. They can help foster a feeling of separation, to fuel dualist thought, which is a trap. So, strong words are to be treated with respect, just like strong medicine. Strong medicine can heal, but if it becomes relied upon, it will ultimately cause harm. In all the different flavors of Buddhism, Zen Buddhism tends to be the most wary of words, of the Sutras, and to practice the Dharma accordingly.
Second question: How can we realize the urgency to become Enlightened when this rushing will ultimately fail us? Well, it is the realization of the urgency that is needed, to provide the correct motivation to practice, to sit Zazen. When proper determination is manifested, it forms the foundation of practice, of sitting Zazen practice and is built upon. When the foundation is complete, then practice can grow in a very nurtured and natural manner. The foundation is built by the urgency. The urgency can then fade away when the foundation of determination to become Enlightened is laid down.
How do we find this urgency? Each person has their own ways of finding this, but, in our world, this is not difficult… there are many many beings suffering horrifically right now. A bumper sticker I once saw said something like: ‘If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention’.. How very true!
A Buddhism vows to help all beings from suffering. Right now, as these words are being read, there are numerous people who are suffering horrifically. My mind sometimes goes into the blackest of places, thinking not just of the horrible suffering many people and beings are going through right now due to famine, disease and similar horrible things, but into darker, more deliberate suffering that some people inflict on others…
Sometimes in the news you hear of a story of a person who has kept a person, or sometimes, people, in underground pits they dug under their homes, and they have kept them there for years and years, decades sometimes. My heart-mind screams out, oh the torture. The horror. I can not imagine. At these times, my determination to help all beings from suffering gets stronger.
Prayer can help, but actions are much more powerful. I recently saw His Holiness, the Dali Lama, and he said this. Prayers are ok, yes, but the effect is small. Action can have big effect. He went on to explain that the word Karma means ‘action’. So, our actions are very very important. So, if we have an ill loved-one, for example, we can pray they heal, which is good, yes, but any actions we take are much more powerful, like visiting them in hospital with a smile and simply being there for them.
But prayers are still important, and even though their effect may be small, there is still an effect. Sometimes, prayer is the only ‘action’ we can take. Maybe everyone who reads this post, can say a prayer, from their heart-minds, for the people who are suffering horrifically. … I may be wrong, but I focus these prayers towards the people who are causing the suffering, they control the power to stop what they do to others, they need to heal and this will only happen with deep love.
In future posts, I will talk more about what Enlightenment and Dharma actually ‘are’. I will also talk about more happy things, like butterflies dancing amongst the rainbows as life is beautiful and wondrous!