Do we need a raft, a boat, a catapult? What is your Way?
Many Buddhists feel compelled to sit and meditate. If they belong to a particular group, meditation may be the cornerstone of the functioning of that group. Sitting is paramount. It is explained as being part of ‘The Way’ to enlightenment, if not the Way all by itself.
Yes, sitting meditation is highly regarded and encouraged and even demanded by some Buddhist teachers, and the reasoning behind this is obvious to most Buddhists, and even non-Buddhists….. Simply, the Buddha himself sat and meditated and came to realize his Enlightened nature and he kept on sitting throughout the rest of his life.
However, the Buddha never demanded that people sit, never said that sitting is the Way and never said Enlightenment is not possible without sitting. The reason to sit and meditate is to question and be attentive to this… to discover one’s true self. Sitting is the raft to the ‘other shore’, but it is not the other shore itself, and there are always more than one way to build a raft! And not even just different rafts, but sometimes there are planes and catapults!!
I think Toni Packer, founder of the Springwater Center, explained this very clearly. To quote her from her book, The Work of This Moment,:
“This work of deeply wondering about everything that is going on-wondering who and what one actually is, and whether there may actually be something beyond the endless struggles of daily life-can never be the result of any imposed outward pressure. Pressure only results in more pressure. A free spirit of inquiry isn’t the result of anything. It is there, spontaneously, when we are not dominated by systems of inner and outer control. Let me give you an example. When one needs to listen to a strange sound, doesn’t one naturally stop making noise? One cannot listen carefully as long as one is talking, thinking, or moving about inattentively. The need to listen carefully creates its own stillness. When one actually realizes how inattentive one is and begins to wonder about what is actually going on inside and out, doesn’t one have to look and listen quietly?
If one needs quiet times for questioning and attending, just as one needs food to eat and air to breathe, no outer discipline is necessary to make one do it. One simply does it. That is the beauty of it.”
So, if you struggle to meditate, find it difficult, and feel little progress is being achieved, or even if you find it easy and very beneficial… it may be wise to think about what you are trying to achieve.
Our true selves are beautiful and whole and full of wonder. This ‘true self’ may feel hidden beneath layers and layers of conditioning and barrier-ed off by walls we built to cover previous pains we have felt.. it may feel like we must experience deep hurt, perhaps, to get back to our true selves… But this is simply thoughts. Our true self is always with us, never buried, never revealed through reliving pain. Let it all go…. let it fall away and see what remains… No sitting is needed, no meditation technique is required…. Enlightenment is here now, not after you log 10,000 hours of Zazen meditation! The 6th Patriarch of Zen realized his true nature not after years of sitting, but simply hearing the words of the Diamond Sutra.
We must let go and see what remains. Sitting is just sitting, not good, not bad. Is it part of your true nature? What is that nature? Put your thoughts down and see what happens. Will you drown? What do you grasp for? Will it really help you? Just as if we are in the Ocean, our bodies naturally float, no raft is needed to be found, to be built, as we are the raft already. Only we ourselves know if we must build a raft, if we must doggie-paddle, or if we must simply float across with the current. As the Buddha said, be a lamp unto yourself. You already know the Way.