teisho 1309 – 2013, based on a talk given by Rinzai to his monks.
You are not here to practice Zen. Once you feel there is a way you have to follow, things you have to do, then you are living outside your life. The whole secret of real practice is to let go of this outside view. In this world, there is not a thing that has self-nature, nor a nature that is productive of a self. We hear these words, but they mean nothing to us – they are Zen words. From the beginning not a thing is. The sheer wonder and mystery that those words contain pass us by. But it is these words that you take for granted that you have to penetrate. When you get to the meaning, you can let go of the words. It is essential for you to get to the meaning of ‘not a thing has self-nature.’ There is not a nature that is productive of a self – everything is going on, it is one continuous fountain of being. You are taking worthless words to be real, you set them up as idols: awakening, sartori, kensho. They all have a meaning that you have given to them, rather than one found beyond them. Constantly teachers are trying to make us realise the trap of words; words to which we cling, that give us the sense of something secure, certain and worthwhile. Ideas, thoughts, that we carry constantly in our mind, ideas that we have never examined, ideas that we take completely for granted. They are like robes to be put on and taken off; there is the robe of awakening, the robe of self, of no self, of knowing, of Buddha. These are all words we idolize, that we make beyond the ordinary, special. These are the props that hold up the emptiness we call the personality.
I am – don’t look for anything beyond that. Not words, not ideas, not even knowing, – go beyond it all. It is not something new you are going to add to your life, it is the stripping away of all that you think you are, all the unnecessary ideas that you are carrying around like so many precious gems. Anything you grasp after, anything you feel is necessary to your life, this is what is binding you.
We tend to think that people like Rinzai and Joshu were different, or that they were fortunate to live in spiritual times. But where you are, what you are, what you have achieved, what you have failed to achieve, have nothing to do with reality. They are dreams that you have, that you are still having. True sincerity is extremely difficult to find. True sincerity is working for no reason, with no expectation of some reward for the work you do. The work is done in response to a call. It is striving to hear, striving to be responsive to that call that is the practice.
Because your faith in yourself is insufficient, you turn to words and phrases. The ability to be without any support, without any reason, without any destination, is faith, faith in yourself. Awakening is sometimes called opening the faith mind. To be open, unprotected, without defenses is faith. Faith is not belief in something or someone; as long as you believe in this or that you are separated from it and so it is no longer faith. To be totally at one, to allow everything to be included, good and bad, right and wrong, here and there, this is faith. The openness of the unconditioned. Let go of your hold on the cliff. It is only opening up to the being which you are that is real practice.