Effort

Calmly bursting

Calmly bursting

Nature in Spring…. lots of energy transformations, lots of action….All of this busy work..it happens without effort.. yet it takes all the effort of the Universe.

What is ‘effort’? We can say our blood flows without effort… we do not have to put any effort into that.. it just flows and flows…

But what about carrying a heavy rock up a hill? That takes effort! What about the rutting animals? That takes effort!

‘Effort’ can almost be defined as an action that goes against the ‘easy path’. Now, in nature, matter seeks to be in the ‘easiest’ energy states and energy always works this way. Nothing wrong with ‘easy’! lol.

Now… back to carrying that heavy rock….. it would be ‘easier’ to not carry the rock up the hill, so we need to exert some ‘effort’ to go against this easier option of leaving the rock behind…. but we make the effort anyhow and pick up that rock and carry it up the hill anyhow! Why? Well, i don’t know, i just made this example up! haha… but lets say it is to be used in building a well or a wall or a house..whatever…. We have this concept, this idea, that the effort will pay dividends in the long run… We might have a dry, safe place to live after the house is built, for example… and this will save potential future effort of keeping dry, warm and fighting off bears!

Can we exert that effort of carrying that rock with exerting any effort? Is that possible? Does the beaver who drags huge heavy logs to the river and builds a dam think they are exerting effort? Well, they may feel exhausted and may need to rest up after dam building but I do not think the beaver is thinking they are going against the ‘easy path’.. If they did think about it, they would probably wouldn’t think there was any other choice, so ‘effort’ doesn’t have any meaning. They need to build a dam, so they build a dam.

Now, we as humans can learn a lot from our animal relatives. It could be argued that they are ‘enlightened’ as they do not attach to a concept of ‘self’. Yet, it could be argued that they are not enlightened as well. I will not go into the Mu koan (Does a dog have buddha nature? No!) here…. but it is a great koan for trying to understand what is happening… what makes humans different, if at all, from other animals and other beings and things such as plants and rocks.

Did it take the Buddha effort to sit under the Bodhi tree and witness Venus on the horizon? (i.e. his enlightenment)

Did it take the Buddha effort to get to the point of getting to sit under that tree? (ie. his seeking)

In Buddhism, one of the 8 folds in the 8 fold path is having ‘right effort’. Let us think deeply about what this means.

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Buddha nature and ‘Mu!’

It is taught in Buddhism that all people have Buddha-nature. This crudely boils down to saying that all people have the ability to become a Buddha. We already are a Buddha, because we all possess buddha-nature. Buddhism is about understanding, and more so, realizing, this inherent aspect of being human. In Buddhism, being born a human being is very very special. Only through a human form can a being realize their inherent buddha-nature and become Enlightened. Humans, however, in traditional Buddhist cosmology, are not the ‘supreme’ beings… we stack up in the middle, above animals and hungry ghosts but below various gods and goddesses. So, why is being human so special?

This sort of thinking relates to a story of a Zen master and a disciple. The question was asked: “Does a dog have buddha-nature?” In Zen, words are used carefully and are understood that often they can be very dangerous mental traps we set for ourselves. The Zen master replied to the question with “Mu!” This translates roughly as ‘no!’.

This was a strange repsonse! Even though it is thought that only humans can realize their own buddha-nature, it was also thought that all beings, dogs, cats and otters, all too, have buddha-nature. They just do not have the ability to realize it. So how could an Enlightened Zen master claim that a dog does not have buddha-nautre?

This is part of Zen training. Zen likes to slap you in the brain. It likes to be brutally honest, to be cunningly accurate in attacking your barriers to realizing your inherent enlightened nature. This monk who asked about a dog, his mind was slapped HARD by “Mu!”. Why why why… why Mu he kept asking himself, he carried Mu with him everywhere… to the point that was all he had.. Mu ,mu, mu, Mu! !! (And no, he didnt turn into a cow with all his moo-ing!).

The Mu helped the monk overcome the conceptions in his mind that existed that was a barrier to understanding what buddha-nature means. When all the monk had was ‘Mu’ in his mind, ‘buddha-nautre’ had no space left to reside, so it faded away….. there was no more buddha-nature! Cascades of realizations soon followed… ‘ah, this is why he said Mu’! there is no buddha-nautre!… but then ‘AH, now THIS is why he said ‘Mu!’.. by dropping the concept of buddha-nature, I can realize it now…. but then again ‘ Mu is Mu and Mu is buddha-nature, buddha-nature is Mu’! and then even more so.. ‘ oh my! ..words fail this merging’ .. then ‘no merging’… Then the sting of the mind slap comes into focus, ringing like a giant bell inside his mind, and it shatters his shackles.