All Beings are Buddha

The verse on the Faith Mind in the chant booklet is rather long, but it is saying the same thing over and over in different ways: “don’t discriminate – awakening is going beyond is and is not.”

But how? We are given koans to work with, a question to ask. And immediately start looking for an answer. But it is the question that has the possibility of leading to the truth.

(teisho 983 – 2005)

What kind of question is it we are asking? We do not ask it to get information or knowledge.

But what other type of question can there be? A question means that one seeks an answer, and an answer surely adds something to one’s repertoire of knowledge.

The question “Who is it that asks the question… Who am I?” moves us right out of that realm. What can prompt that question if it is not knowledge that is being saught? What are you expecting of this question?

Everything, anything that you can know or experience, or feel, or sense, is not you. We have a constant experience of the body, day and night, it is always with us, but we are not the body. We provide the experiencing and the body is what is experienced. Or the world is what is experienced. A mirror is unaffected by any of its reflections, totally untouched, and in the same way, we are totally untouched by experience. No matter how terrible, how grueling, how anguished. Each one of us has passed through extremely difficult times in our lives, and yet, that too has passed. It is seeing we cannot be touched.

It is the constant discerning of what you are not that is called for. Anything that comes up is not you. It is seeing that intrinsically one is untouched by whatever comes up. It is not a question of purifying the mind, but of seeing that the mind is inherently pure. This untouched quality is what is meant by discerning. A thought comes up, there is knowing that thought, the thought goes away and it leaves no trace. A memory comes up, it stays for a while, it goes away, it leaves no trace.

Nisargadatta: “What you are you already are. If you can let the truth of that statement come home to you, nothing more needs to be done.” This is home. You are home now. What you are, you already are.

Nisargadatta: “By knowing what you are not, you are free of it and remain in your own natural state. It all happens spontaneously and effortlessly. The effort of practice comes out of the contradictory nature of the personality. It is nothing other than the personality wrestling with the personality. Eventually the personality exhausts itself, with the exhaustion comes melting, and with the melting ‘I am’ appears spontaneously, without effort.”

You discover that there is nothing to discover. True awakening is to see that there is nothing to discover. People think awakening is going to enhance one’s state, but it is not like that. True awakening is finally letting go of the expectation of some heightened state; the expectation of total release and peace from the conflicts of the personality. Waking up is to see that everything from the beginning is completely OK. It is and always has been and always will be OK. This is what is meant when we chant: “From the beginning all beings are Buddha.”

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Teisho as Dokusan. (Teisho 1314 – 2013)

After Albert’s death, I received many emails and cards from members expressing their love and appreciation for him and the work he had done and, in addition, expressing their wish to help keep the Centre going. The best way to do this is to do zazen. As the Sixth Patriarch said to his students on the day he died: “Live as though I were still here. Do zazen together. When I am gone, just practice correctly according to the Teaching, just as you did during my days with you. Remember, even were I to remain in this world, if you do not follow my teaching my presence among you would be pointless.”

Some people are concerned about dokusan, Albert not being here to give it. Yet, when I listen to his teishos, it is as though I am hearing what is being said in the dokusan room. He says it in one way, he says it in another, but always the same thing: how to practice. The following is a direct excerpt from a teisho that could be said in dokusan:

Seeing into the truth, that what you think is the real you is but a shadow, is the basis of the practice. It is the reason that you ask the question ‘What am I?’ The Prajna Paramita deconstructs the whole sense of self: “No eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, mind.” Everything we think of as our own is shown to be empty.

It distresses me when I ask you what you are doing when working on ‘Who am I?’ and you have no idea. Look into that which you think you are, directly at that; it is that which sustains you from the moment you get up in the morning until the time you go to sleep; it is that sense of being, of being a person, someone. I see, I hear, I walk, I talk. So what is this? What do you think you are? You are not what you think you are, but that does not mean to say that you don’t think you are it.

Practice must be a 24-hour job, it isn’t a 9 to5 job. The practice is not only the zazen on the mat, the practice is full-time and that will only be possible if you have the urgent need for the practice to be full-time because you are convinced that the way you are living at the moment is unsatisfactory and constantly causing suffering.

You are getting older, and you are going to get older yet. This is the time when you are really facing it and you need to face it more directly. Now, what is it?

You think there is the question, and over there somewhere is the answer. But it is not like that, the question is already the answer.

Here is another direct excerpt from the teisho, that could be said in dokusan:

Nisargadatta says that the value of regular meditation is that it takes you away from your daily routine and reminds you that you are not what you believe yourself to be.

Is this what meditation does for you? Or are you just sitting there dozing, waiting for the bell to ring?

When you are working on “Who am I?” you must just allow the truth to reveal itself; not look for the truth, but just allowing. You must lend yourself to what is revealed, however difficult that may be. When you see into the non thingness of things, there is a recoil. One must nevertheless go forward for that is the moment when possibility becomes actuality.

The preparation is gradual. Change is sudden and complete. You need patience and courage. The trouble with most people is that they are in a hurry; they haven’t got the patience to let the flower bloom. Your problem is that you are not fully convinced. You would like what I say to be true, but are not convinced. Look at these doubts, find out what they are, what underlies them.

I doubt students would have got such a full explanation in dokusan; that is the benefit of teisho over dokusan. As he says elsewhere, you have to take his words as windows, look through them to the vista beyond. Words cannot say it, but then neither can silence.

Jean Low

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Pain (teisho 972, 2005)

When I wrote that Albert’s death was an opportunity, I realized that this applied to me as much as any one else. When I just wanted to sit down and wail, I looked at my life and asked myself: What more do I want? Albert and I had had 65 good years together. I thought about the physical pain Albert had dealt with without any complaint, and decided I would try to deal with this pain in the same way. After all, he tells us how to deal with it in his teishos. I followed what he said about pain and, as he says, it doesn’t take the pain away, but one has a different reaction to it. It is no good just listening to what he says, we have to apply it to our lives.

I met one of our neighbors in the street and he commiserated with me on Albert’s death. We talked a bit, and as he was going, he said, “you look good”. It was almost an accusation… but I am sure Albert is only too pleased that I am at last listening and really working on myself. They say it takes pain and suffering to push you to it.


The question of pain always comes up during a sesshin. First of all, there is the physical pain of sitting. We are not used to the position, or to sitting for long periods of time. In addition, we are told not to move. Then there is another kind of pain, which is the pain of nothing happening. The mind rushes around, but nothing happens. It is a feeling of intense spiritual pain. There is then another pain: during sesshin we have little personal space, either in the zendo or in the bedroom and, in addition the discipline, this can after a while become irritating. We feel humiliated.

We identify ourselves with the pain. We say, ‘I hurt’. I am something, and that something is pain. We have separated ourselves from ourselves, and the pain therefore increases.

Nisargadatta says, “Do not pursue pleasure and shun pain. Accept both as they come, enjoy both while they last; let them go as they must.”

Enjoy pain? How can one enjoy pain?

Nisargadatta: “The bliss is in the awareness of it, of not shrinking or turning from it. All happiness comes from awareness.” But there are different ways of being aware. The normal way we are aware of pain is that we are identified with it. In other words, the pain is uppermost. ‘I hurt’ is what is most evident. It is useful in so far as one believes one has to be something, because it intensifies the sense of self. It is essential to get beyond the belief “I am something”.

It is the pain of ‘I hurt’ with which we must come to terms. The way to do this is just to be aware of the pain. It is no longer ‘I hurt’, or ‘my being is hurt’, or ‘I am something and that something is pain’. Now, it is just the feeling ‘there is pain’. This does not relieve the pain, but now one is no longer trying to get rid of the pain. The pain may increase or decrease, but this is no longer the center of interest. The main condition is one of peace, of the correctness of what is. There is a dissolving and melting, a yielding. If we remain with it, there is a letting go of the identification and, instead of the pain being uppermost, it is now seen against a background of awareness. Awareness is now predominant. The sense of ‘I hurt’ is very constrictive and tense, but when awareness is predominant there is a sense of space, of openness. As Nisargadatta says, “All happiness comes from awareness. Your true nature is happiness, awareness is peace and happiness. Acceptance of pain, non-resistance, courage and endurance, these open deep and perennial sources of true happiness and bliss. The happiness of being, the bliss of being. Not being yourself, just being.”

By being present to yourself in your daily life, with alert interest – with the intention to understand rather than to judge, in full acceptance of whatever may emerge, you encourage the deep to come to the surface and enrich your life and consciousness with its captive energy.

“Dharma gates without number, I vow to penetrate” – this is what we are vowing: that we will be present, we will be there, we will be open. And whatever comes, we will see that as another opportunity, another challenge, another way by which we can open up to the light of purity and strength which is our true nature.

Note: Albert had plenty of opportunity to work with pain in the last years of his life. The last bout started when he decided he would have to get a second hip replacement. When he saw the surgeon and she saw the ‘photos’ of his hip, she exclaimed that she could not understand how he had lived with the pain – the femur was almost completely worn away. She put him near the head of her list for an immediate operation. This was a success, even though it left him with one leg half an inch shorter than the other because of the worn away femur. However, a few days later, all the attention left his hip to go to his lungs, which were collapsing. So, there were none of the usual post hip operation exercises. All attention was on his lungs. He was moved to the lung ward, put on oxygen while they tried to discover what had caused this collapse. He had never had trouble with his lungs before – I can confirm this, from having tried to keep up with him while walking on our holidays in Cornwall and cycling in France. It seemed to have been caused by one of the medications he was on for his heart. After six weeks he was allowed to come home, with oxygen.
In addition to his hip he had slipped discs in the spine and spinal stenosis, which also gave a great deal of pain. He could no longer walk around, but had to rely on an electric wheelchair for movement. Finally, when he was able to come off the oxygen and off the cortisone which had cleared up his lungs, I was overjoyed. But then, he fell and hit his head and was back in hospital.
He was not to come home again.
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Happiness (based on Teisho 1047, 2006)

We hear so much about suffering that I was rather surprised to hear on one of Albert’s teishos that “awakening and happiness are the same.” In fact it brought me up short and stayed with me, filling me with happiness. By happiness, I mean that feeling of relaxed openness. In this state, one could face and deal with anything. Of course, it did not last very long, but the memory of those words has stayed with me, making me understand at last just what it is I want. Happiness.

Such an ordinary word, not grand at all. Surely all this work is not just for happiness? …but then the teisho goes on to explore this word in depth. As is often the case, it is an exploration and elaboration of some of Nisargadatta’s statements.

Nisargadatta makes very clear that he is not talking about pleasure when he refers to happiness: The difference between happiness and pleasure, he says, is that pleasure depends on things, happiness does not. We “get” pleasure, we never say we “are” pleasure – but we say we are happy. This indicates the vast difference between the two.

Happiness is a bit like silence, silence is always here. Noise does not overcome silence. When there is noise, silence does not disappear. In the same way, happiness is always present. Pain does not do away with happiness.

This last sentence takes some digesting: is it true? One has to examine once again what one means by the use of this word happiness, and remember to disassociate it from pleasure. I think the main word to associate with happiness is “openness”. So much of the time we are tense, resisting things because we “don’t like” them, shutting ourselves off from this and that. We have certain ideas, “beliefs” Nisargadatta calls them, about things, about what reaction certain situations call for. He says these beliefs make our world; certainly they make our life. If we can let go of these beliefs and open ourselves, we may be surprised to find that we don’t actually have to react as we do. As long as we believe we need things to make us happy, we will believe that in their absence we must be miserable. Certain people, certain situations, certain circumstances can all be classed as “things” that we believe we need to make us happy.

It is stated that happiness is our true nature; that there is being, knowing and feeling, and that the fundamental feeling is happiness. If we can see that happiness is fundamental, then we will be less inclined to reach outside when we ask “Who am I?” or “What is it all about?” When we want the ultimate we reach out, for the mind to get beyond itself. If we can see that happiness is already present, that “being” is being happy, that “knowing” is knowing happiness; that “being”, “knowing” and “happiness” are one, that they come from one common source which lies beyond it all, then we will be more inclined to allow what is to come up, to reveal itself.

Real happiness is utterly unselfconscious. This is why it is said that the awakened person does not know they are awakened. Awakening and happiness are the same. One comes home to one’s ultimate happiness. That does not mean to say one walks around on a pink cloud – one gets on with life, one gets involved, one works, but the working is no longer to get feedback, praise and admiration: one does it just to do it, one does things for the sheer joy of doing them…there is a natural pleasure in being able to use our abilities. One gives attention to the doing of it, and not to the meaning of it or the end result of it.

Awakening and happiness are the same – what a joyful statement. What encouragement for those of us who are asking “Who am I?” “What is it all about?”

Jean Low

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Everyone is feeling the loss of Albert, wondering how they are going to continue with their practice, how they are going to get answers to their questions, how they will know what to do and not to do. Where they will get inspiration from.

I spoke with someone the other day, she was very upset about all this, felt she had missed her opportunity, didn’t know what to do, how to deal with the pain she was feeling. I have been listening each day to one of Albert’s teishos, and that afternoon I called up one from the very beginning of the list on the computer, an early one. As I listened, it was as though he were addressing directly all the fear and anguish I had heard that morning, directing, guiding.

It was an early teisho, but the message, the teaching was the same as at his last sesshin. It was all there, and not just the written word, all the intonation and energy, the encouragement and persuasion of his voice. This is where we need to turn, to all those teishos made over the years, the same thing said over and over again. We have to learn how to hear what he was saying.

I received many loving messages during his last stay in hospital and after his death. One person said “I will always carry away what he taught me when I had cancer. It was not possible to feel sorry for myself, or even to indulge. He said, ‘This was an opportunity I might never get again!’ What a difference this made to my attitude.”

Imagine you are sitting in dokusan, and you tell him that your teacher has died and left you on your own. What would his answer be? “This is your opportunity, don’t feel sorry for yourself, use it.”

The only way we can learn to hear what he was saying is to clarify the question, give yourself over to it, you have to follow it through. You do not have to try to find the answer, it has been given to you, in all those teishos. Just allow the question, the longing, to flow through you, to flow through your life.

Jean Low

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Ask yourself this question:

The following was written after a conversation Albert and I had one evening.

He was impressing on me the need to ask the question “What was my face before my parents were born?”, And then he said, you don’t have to try to find an answer, just pursue the question; the answer has already been given to you in the Prajna Paramita. This last sentence was said quite casually, no extra emphasis or fan fair. But suddenly the whole world broke into laughter and I could not stop laughing. He did not recite all the Prajna Paramita of course, just “no eye, ear, nose….” I write it all out as a hymn of joy for that moment.

No eye, ear, nose,
Tongue, body, mind;
No colour, sound, smell,
Taste, touch or what the mind
Takes hold of.
Nor even act of sensing.
No ignorance or end of it,
Nor all that comes of ignorance:
No withering, no death,
No end of them.
Nor is there pain, or cause of pain,
Or cease in pain, or noble path
To lead from pain,
Not even wisdom to attain,
Attainment too is emptiness.

“What is my face before my parents were born?”
Go beyond words, go beyond thoughts,
Go right beyond.
Awake, rejoice!

Albert was very disappointed at not being able to get out a blog for you, and so I though I would post this – it is after all what he wants to say to all of us. He is now in hospital again, having fallen and hit his head badly. – Jean Low

Ask yourself this question: “What was my face before my parents were born?”

It is the same question as “What is your true nature?” or “Who am I?” but it is put in a different format; a format that will take you right beyond if your pursue it diligently. It will cut through all the anchor points that hold firmly in place your sense of self, the feeling of who you are. Like Gulliver in the children’s story, tied down by all the tiny strings, unable to move. This question will cut through these strings and set you free.

But you have to really ask it, not just say the words. It doesn’t matter how much force and effort you put into saying the words, that is not enough. You have to follow it through. You do not have to try to find an answer, the answer has already been given to you in the Prajna Paramita; but you cannot hear this answer unless you can really ask the question.

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On the sense of self

We forget ourselves. We are fascinated by things, and by our experience of things, and we have come to believe that things––forms that can be perceived in one way or another––are all that exist. We practice, on the other hand, to break the spell of ‘things,’ to remember ourselves, to become aware of our own existence.

The fundamental teaching of Gurdjieff was, “Man does not remember himself.” All Gurdjieff’s teaching was directed to enabling us to break out from the mechanical, automatic reflexive reactions that give us the impression of being the ‘doer’. In fact, all that we do is a kind of knee jerk; something happens and something else responds. But no self is involved.

Gurdjieff used a metaphor, saying that we are like the old horse drawn cabs. He continued the metaphor saying that the horse is half starved, and ill treated. The carriage that should be oiled by the rough passage as it goes over the various bumps and holes and hollows in the road, is now so pampered that natural maintenance is no longer possible. The cab driver, he said, is invariably half drunk, and when he is not half drunk, is half asleep. The worst part is that any stranger can hire the cab, which means that all kinds of strangers are climbing in and out all day giving contradictory instructions and going in different directions.

In the metaphor, the horse is the emotions, the carriage the body, the cabby is the mind and the passenger is the Self. Gurdjieff used the metaphor to show the sad state of modern people. The owner moving in and out, being changed constantly, is the ‘I’ that is constantly changing, being taken over by this, being taken over by that. This instability is what Gurdjieff has in mind when he says, “Man does not remember himself.” Dogen said something similar: “The practice of Zen is to know the self. To know the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be one with the ten thousands things.”

Now-a-days, one might protest and say that people give too much attention to the self. They’re only too well aware of their own existence. One only has to think of so-called ‘selfies’ to realize to what extent people are self-absorbed. The words “I” and “my” are now overworked: iPhone, iPad, iBanking, iPublishing. But this is the self that Dogen says we should forget.

If we really “know the self” we see its instability, and its lack of ‘being.’ The ‘self’ is like the reflection in a mirror: it is there, but it is not there. On the other hand, the ‘Self’ that Gurdjieff speaks of is the tenth person.

Ten people have to cross a river, swollen because of a recent storm. After crossing, one of the group said that they should count to be sure all had crossed. When he counted he could only find nine. Another member of the group counts and only counts nine. The one who counts is never counted. In English the expression, “the one who counts” refers to the mot important one. Even so, the one who counts is never counted and so is forgotten.

We all know people who are full of themselves, who think of no-one but themselves. They see themselves as important, as interesting, or as superior. They regard others simply as extras required to dance in attendance, to admire and to pay respect. Surely, one might think, these people remember themselves only too well. But no, all this importance is just a dance of shadows having no foundation or meaning. These people are not full of themselves, but of illusions, indeed delusions, about themselves. They just want to attract the attention or admiration of other people, and so be reassured that they exist.

The problem is that we are fascinated by the reflection of ourselves. We know this reflection through ‘feelings’ and ‘emotions,’ ‘sensations,’ ‘ideas,’ ‘thoughts,’ and it is what we call our inner self or our inner mind. The cult of today is to have an ‘interesting’ self, an interesting personality. We go to great lengths to experience this reflection of the self. Indeed, most people confuse ego satisfaction––or reflection of self–– with happiness.

Ego satisfaction, which is a clear reflection of the self, and happiness are fundamentally different. It is not unusual for people to have intense ego satisfaction and yet at the same time be intensely unhappy. Workaholics are an example. It is also possible, but unusual, for someone to be quite happy without any sense of ego satisfaction. We all know this sense of happiness without ego satisfaction when we are deeply asleep. After we wake up from a dreamless sleep we have a feeling of deep well-being, deep peace. But in deep sleep there is no ego satisfaction.

Many people, paradoxically, hold on to their suffering because they are afraid that if they let go they will no longer have any ego satisfaction. Suffering is certain, it is always at hand and so is a very good foundation for the ego. Such people are unable to discern the difference between true happiness and the sensation of themselves, even if that sensation is the sensation of suffering.

Holding on to our suffering is just one of the many ways that we maintain the sense of self. One sees other ways, for example, in the way we stroke the chin, or twiddle the thumbs, cross the arms or legs, all with the intention of feeling the sense of self.

When in the face of others, we are uncomfortable, or feel awkward, or embarrassed, we say that we feel “at a loss.” The loss is a temporary loss of a secure sense of self. We have a number of stratagems by which we can recover the sense of self. But they too occur at a physical, mechanical level, and are quite innocuous. They are not cause for concern or the need to change.

But beyond these innocuous ways are other different, painful ways by which people provoke the sense of self. They hurt themselves, not necessarily literally but metaphorically, in order to regain the feeling of the sense of self, in order to get the feeling that they are, they are there, they are real.

Our practice is to go beyond the reflection that gives rise to the conflicting, contradictory aspect which ruins our lives.

Initially, we just need an insight, a flash, a moment in which there is no reflection of self. These moments occur occasionally. But when they occur, we close up immediately; no-reflection, we feel, is a loss of the sense of self, and because we lose the sense of self, we react, we clench to restore that sense of self, the very sense which we are practicing to transcend. We have an automatic resistance to these moments of openness and freedom.

To be present, alert, wakeful is to be in such a way that when such a moment occurs you are able to allow it to be, you do not flinch away from it. It is a moment beyond content, beyond knowing ‘something;’ it is upstream of reflection; it is to be without any awareness of the fact that you know: you just know. This is what Dogen calls ‘forgetting the self.’

This moment of pure knowing could be called ‘not knowing.’ When emperor Wu asked Bodhidharma “What are you?” Bodhidharma replied, “I do not know.” To speak of a knowing that is not knowing is either paradoxical or nonsensical. But not knowing is a global knowing, a knowing without limits or content. Its feeling counterpart is pure peace. Peace which is beyond any understanding, beyond any grasping.

Yet to one who is used to knowing himself through suffering and conflict, not knowing is a threat; it is like an abyss, a hollow menace. It can strike one with intense dread. But if one is present, it is possible at this moment to bring about a complete change, a turn-about. The lusting after reflections loses its grip. Dogen said that the process of coming to awakening was inexhaustible. But, even so, it is possible in an instant to break the grip of this fever of a reflective self.

Breaking the grip of the reflective self, loosening the clutch of the sense of self, is the essence of practice. One is then no longer aware of things, people or situations, but is upstream of all necessity to focus the attention on one thing rather than another.

Those who are working on Mu or Who, or even those who are following the breath, may find it strange to be told to go upstream of focusing the mind. “ Isn’t it really what the practice is all about: to focus intently on Mu, on Who, on the breath?” Yes, there is a time when one needs to focus the attention, to concentrate. We do so in order to withdraw the mind from all of its petty focuses, all of the petty concerns that we are hooked on. If we can focus the attention simply on Mu or Who or on the breath, we break the threads that tie us down like the Lilliputians tied down Gulliver; millions of small threads.

But we must go beyond focusing the attention. Practice is not simply a practice of concentration. It is rather a practice of contemplation. “Contemplation” means to be “one with;” it is being completely open. This is why it is important to maintain the questioning. Questioning allows the mind to become open and unfocused to the point that awareness, just pure awareness without content, without reflection without desire, can spring to the fore, burst to the light, explode.

These are all ways of talking about a turn-about, a release of the tyranny of the reflective mind. Focusing is closing the mind, fixing in place. When Gurdjieff says: “Remember yourself,” the only way to do so is simply to be. It’s like the famous quotation from the Bible, “Be still and know that I am God”. And yet this is far too much. All that one really needs to say is “Be still and know.” Again this is also far too much. All that one needs is “Be still” and all the rest is contained in that. No, just “Be”.

But in order to do this, in order to be able to enter into the stillness which is one’s own true nature, one has constantly to break up the addiction, fascination and compulsion to be things, to be something. This is why our practice always goes in two directions. One is the direction towards arousing the mind without resting it on anything. But in order to enter the stillness, we have to melt down the identities that we have created over a lifetime.

Awareness is a solvent. Simply by allowing a thought or an idea, a compulsion or an anxiety to rest in the field of pure, disinterested awareness is enough to dissolve that particular problem. You must experience this for yourself because it is an essential element of the work. Moreover, if you ask someone who is very anxious, to pin point exactly what is worrying him, that in itself––just allowing the person to really become totally aware of what is giving concern––is enough to bring about a release. It’s quite likely that much of the value that comes from psychotherapy comes from this dissolving aspect of the mind. But this dissolution will only occur if the person can open the mind without any kind of judgement whatsoever.

The most important aspect of our practice is to allow whatever lies within the field of awareness to remain there. But, you must be present, alert to this field. Naturally, there must be no judgement, no partiality, no wish to change. If you are able to do this then many strange thoughts and ideas, possibly quite cruel or violent, may pass through the mind. You will see that all kinds of thoughts surge up. These ideas can be quite antisocial, possibly unacceptable to anyone else if you told them about them. But that’s all right. Allow them to be, whatever they are.

I’m not saying that we’re all filled with horrible thoughts; I’m trying to encourage allowing whatever there is to float into awareness, no matter how terrifying it might be, and to have the faith that awareness will dissolve it. The all forgiving aspect of God, the all merciful aspect of God is really, in terms of what we’re saying, the solvent power of awareness. But it does take faith and willingness to just allow the mind to hang loose and to allow whatever there is to come and go as it will.

It is not necessary to go on a fishing expedition to try to get the mind to produce its garbage. One just stays steadily with Mu or Who, or allowing the breath to come and go, steadily working with that practice. Tensions will arise, resistance will occur, and agitation distract. As these feelings of discomfort invade, just continue without trying to change anything, without trying to add anything, or take anything away. It is like a sheet of paper that has become crumbled and every facet of this crumbled ball of paper is now reflecting against every other facet. This sets up a cacophony, a dissonance, a noise of random thoughts, fears and desires.

But, left alone, the paper smooths itself out, the wrinkles go, and, as this happens, an increasing clarity takes over. It is the nature of the mind to reassert its unity and wholeness. This reassertion of unity is the cause of our suffering. We suffer because we are whole: the mark of our suffering is the mark of the truth of our wholeness. Wholeness ultimately will assert or resolve itself. It does not matter whether you work or you don’t work. It does not matter whether you practice Zen or you don’t practice Zen. You are whole and complete, and ultimately you will return to that state. But because wholeness is returning to that state, you are working on yourself. Because of the smoothing out you are practicing Zen. The resistance to the practice comes from ‘I,’ ‘I’ want to be happy, ‘I’ want to get rid of all this suffering, ‘I’ want to come to awakening. ‘I’ is the resistance to wholeness. And it is from that very resistance that a deeper kind of pain comes about.

A difference exists between opening yourself to the natural hunger that one has to come home to unity, and ‘wanting to come to awakening.’ Wanting to come to awakening is simply a continuation of focusing the mind in order to be, or to grasp, something. It’s just another stratagem in order to ensure that the reflective consciousness has a focus. A focus gives the illusion of reality, an intensity, and this in turn gives a sense of meaning to what is otherwise a meaningless pursuit of shadows.

Yielding to the natural hunger that we have to come home, yielding to this natural need that we have to know ourselves for what we are, lacks drama. Very often it is a feeling that nothing is happening, or even that one has lost one’s way and is going through darkness. This is because we are released from the focus, from the orientation point, that gives a sense of significance that lies in the reflective self. It is the sense of self that provides what we feel is the meaning of our life. Everything that you know, everything that you know, all the values that you have, all the meaning that you have, all of this is the reflection of yourself. If you let it all go, the true self will still shine. But it will shine in a way which is free, open and unlimited.


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