Ambiguity: teishos 630/1998 1370/2015

Even if blows fall from the stick like raindrops, with all the encouragement talks, all the dokusans, you are still far from the truth of Buddhism. Hyakujo said, “throughout the whole of China, there is not a single teacher of Buddhism.”

We search for the absolute. We want the One, the Whole, the Holy. But the opposite of the absolute, the One, the Holy, is not the devil, it is the ambiguous. And the ambiguous, when we have to act on it, forces us into the dilemma. We have to choose because we want the One, but the problem is not choosing between good and bad. The problem is choosing between the good and the good, it is this that tears us apart. It is like a child who has to choose between security and freedom. If he chooses security, he must pay for that with his freedom. If he chooses freedom he must pay for that with his security. This is the type of choice we have to make all the time in life. We deal with this by saying, once we have made our choice, that the other option is bad.

This is the tragedy, we have to choose because we want the One. How can we live in ambiguity and at the same time be whole, be One? This is the challenge: it is not to attain to the One. This is why Joshu said, “the great Way is not difficult, simply avoid choice and attachment.” But even with a single word, there may be choice and attachment. Resolving ambiguity by choosing one side absolutely is attachment, that is choice. How do you live a life within ambiguity without turning your back on the One?

In the ten Ox-herding pictures, picture number 8 is a circle, this represents clarity, Oneness. But there are two more pictures, the last one, number ten, being a picture of a man with a bottle of wine in the marketplace. A man who has no sign of clarity, no mark of Buddha. How do you live in this world of choices without being attached and rejecting?

People want to retire, withdraw from the world of ambiguity. They dream of monasteries, convents, mountain tops. They dream of a quiet harbour, they dream of death. Ambiguity is suffering and uncertainty, it is having no absolute, nothing to hold on to; it is living according to the moment, but it is living according to harmony and wholeness. How do you do this? How do you live without rules or principles? Rules and principles are sentries with which we barricade ourselves into the good.

The great way is not difficult for those who do not pick and choose. When you ask “Who am I?” are you picking and choosing? Are you looking for this rather than that? Have you made up your mind in advance what it is you are seeking? You think you are seeking clarity, and that is the problem. It is only in confusion that you will find yourself. It is only when you let go of the search for the One that the One can manifest. But to let go of the search for the One is to let yourself go into confusion and uncertainty.

The great Way is not difficult until you try to find it here rather than there, up rather than down, in rather than out. The great way is not difficult until you pick and choose. But how are you going to go forward without picking and choosing?

In One there is diversity, in two there is no duality. How can we understand this? One moon shines in every pool: in one there is diversity. You are not part of the One, you are the One. From the beginning all beings are Buddha. It is not that all beings are part of Buddha or the children of Buddha: you are the whole, the One. In One there is diversity, in two there is no duality. How can we see beyond one and two? How can we see that in Oneness there is diversity, but it is still One? How can we see that in two there is no duality, but it is still two? How can there be a world of One and there still be me and you?

When you have not penetrated the great Way it is like a silver mountain and iron fist. When you have penetrated you find you are the silver mountain and the iron fist. When you have not penetrated the great Way, it is impossible. It is like a mosquito trying to penetrate an iron plate with its proboscis. It is this impossibility which is the hallmark of true practice. If you simply stay with what it possible you simply stay with what is remembered. It is always based on the past, and nothing new can come through. It is going beyond the possible and impossible. It is impossible because you are using the wrong kind of mind to penetrate this barrier. Once you move from the discriminating, conceptual mind with which you are trying to solve a problem that is unsolvable in that way, then you are the silver mountain. Before you come to awakening you feel a blockage, but once you come to awakening you are the blockage, you are everything, everything is your experience.

Everything is what it should be, and this itself is worthwhile pondering on. We are always thinking it could, should or might be different and it is this belief that prevents us from entering wholeheartedly into any situation. As long as you feel “well, I will do this for the time being, but I am sure there is another way of practicing that is probably better”, – all of these doubts that accompany your practice keep you from being totally involved. When you are involved the sense of self looses a lot of its power. The sense of self and the situation become more or less one, there is a kind of unity, and in that condition it is possible for something else to transpire.

You are already awakened. You are not going to add anything or take anything away, so it doesn’t matter from the point of view of the great Way whether or not you come to awakening. The pain of life as it is being lived provides the motivation to work to come to awakening.

Why is talking about it a waste of time? Why are explanations and descriptions of how it is not accepted? Why does one have instead to give a demonstration? What can a demonstration give that words cannot? The words, the discriminating mind, is the fundamental problem in Zen and the fundamental problem in life. The reason being because we are substituting a verbal world for the real world. We live ‘as if’; we do not live as the situation is, but ‘as if’ the situation is.

The full moon in the sky, where does it’s light originate? The full moon is a metaphor for the awakened self. Where does it get its light from? It is a light that shines by itself. You do not need anything outside yourself either to know or to be. You are not the effect of any cause. Your body, your personality of course are, but that which you are has no cause, no origin outside.

When you are sitting in zazen you get to the point where your legs ache and you try to find a more comfortable position. And it is impossible, every position has its own difficulties. And this is typical of life itself. Life is both comfortable and uncomfortable, good and bad. This is why in Zen it is said there is no good and bad – what this means is that there is no absolute good, no absolute bad. There is always a wish to find something absolute.

If we do not make preferences what kind of life are we going to live? Naturally for some time it will be a life which is confusing, we will constantly have to slip away from attitudes of mind that lead us to be dogmatic, certain and sure of ourselves – states of mind that most people feel are highly desirable. If we let go of being sure of ourselves, there is a feeling of weakness, of being unable to stand up to things. But this is only a feeling, it is not the truth, it is simply the other side of the feeling of being in control, in command, which is also just a feeling.

Let me repeat, it is just a feeling, it is not how it is. How it is is that you are fundamentally Buddha – that is the only reality, all the rest is dreams and delusions. You are already awakened. All the feelings do not matter, they are simply dreams and delusions. If you can let go of the need to choose, then the truth will shine through.

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3 Responses to Ambiguity: teishos 630/1998 1370/2015

  1. sandraolney says:

    Thank you for bringing us these important messages from Albert. Although i rarely comment I read them all, sometimes clipping out a piece to put on my paper-holder beside my computer where it can catch my eye.

  2. Lucie Lévesque says:

    Thank you Jean, these postings are important for me. They often arrive at the right moment.

  3. Tony Stern says:

    Thank you, Jean. Beautiful.
    Tony Stern

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