Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Nature of Water

It is said there are three turnings of the wheel of Dharma. The first turn is the Four Noble Truth's. The Second, the teachings on Emptiness. The third is on Buddha Nature. This last truth is my focus for this post.

The nature of the mind is enlightenment. This is like saying the nature of water is clarity. This is an important point for beginners and the experienced. It is important because it sets the tone in our practice. If we bring a mind to the cushion that is seeking something this mind will look for an object from which to find its enlightenment. In essence, the mind is saying, "I am not enough." This may feel right because this is the collective conditioning we face. This voice, is not always a problem. Its the voice that says I need to mow the lawn or to go to work, but getting stuck identifying with this voice is when suffering arises.

I am drinking a cup of coffee this morning while writing. I love coffee. It is a zen practice of mine. I buy the coffee unroasted, green, and roast them myself. Then I brew it in a French Press. For hot water, I use a steel tea pot that I drilled a hole in the top for a thermometer. I heat the water from 198 degrees- 202 degrees, depending on the coffee. I like to experiment. When I drink this coffee, what am I drinking? Its tastes like coffee. But really, I am drinking water mostly, and a little coffee. Maybe only 2% of it is coffee. What are some other ways of experimenting with this cup of coffee so that the cognisance of water is most prevalent? I could look at it. Looks like dirty water. I could touch it. Ouch! Feels like HOT water. I could smell it. Nope, smells like coffee. Mmmmm. I could pour some more into my cup.... sounds like water. What I really would like to do is taste the water instead of coffee. When dealing with coffee its easy. Just pour some water out of the tea pot. What about the mind? What about Buddha Nature? It's a little different with mind then coffee. We are the mind. A mind that thinks it's coffee. Which is only maybe 2% of the truth.

In this case, the ego is the coffee. So, how do we realize we are the water? First it is necessary to believe in our Buddha Nature, but not blindly. Simply use this belief to notice the grasping of objects, which comes from the ego perspective. Then let go of grasping that object. If you can really let go there will be some sort of confusion. This is a good sign. I have had fear come up at this point. If you work diligently, eventually you will be thrown into body consciousness. This is where you can truly see that you are the water. We need to feel the objects resonate within ourselves.

The nature of water is clarity. The nature of mind is enlightenment. Isn't this beautiful!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

No Buddha, No Enlightenment

I was visiting with the Abbot of Tam Bao Buddhist Temple, Thich Duc Tri, here in Tulsa a few years ago. I asked him, "Are you enlightened?" "No Buddha, No Enlightenment", he said. I smiled and just sat there in silence with him a few minutes. His English wasn't very well at the time, but I heard him loud and clear. Zen says all sentient beings have Buddha Nature, an Awakened Nature. Was he contradicting this theory?

I have heard the saying,"If along your path you shall meet the Buddha, kill him!" Though some may take offence to this, it is a profound statement. Putting the Buddha on a pedestal and naming him as this holy object only increases the distance from us seeing our own enlightened nature. The ego wants to understand the Buddha and enlightenment, but this requires us to be separate from it in order to do so. While going through a Big Mind dialogue with my teacher Sensei Al Fusho Rapaport, I was asked to give Big Mind a voice. "I don't know how to speak from Big Mind", I finally said after struggling. "OK, lets stop here. During this retreat I want this to be your koan", he said. After about a day I realized I was trying to see Big Mind while maintaining my ego perspective. Letting go of the ego, is being Big Mind. I was so used to seeing everything through the ego that I had no other option. I was fully identified with the ego.

Controlling our meditation is a way for the ego to understand what is going on. Being aware of controlling is a way for us to know that we are identified with the ego. I hear many say, "I can't get my mind to be quiet. Too many thoughts are going through my mind." "So what is the mind?", I may say. Really what I am asking is, what is the relationship with the mind? Our thinking may slow down while doing zazen, but this is not what we are trying to do. Being aware of our thinking is enough.

Naming is another way for the ego to maintain its object/subject dichotomy. Bringing an all inclusive perspective to the zafu means letting go of naming objects. This means getting down to the bare bones of what mind is. Just experiment with how the name arises instantly, and you'll find a way of letting go of naming. We really need to feel the mind, be the mind. this requires us to be completely honest and accepting with what ever we feel.

There is no Buddha for the ego to understand. There is no ego enlightenment. So if you meet the Buddha, kill him. That is, kill the difference.