teisho 1328 (2014)
Although awakening is of utmost importance in the practice, sometimes people put it as the supreme, as the ultimate and this is not the case. The ultimate is to transcend the sense of self, it is this that causes our misery and the misery we cause others, either knowingly or unknowingly. The advantage of awakening is that one can see clearly that this sense of self is a primary obstacle.
The work that needs to be done is not only that which is done sitting on the mat, it is the day to day work, the willingness to face clearly, without any kind of embellishment, everyday life. It is the willingness to work with others, with their faults and shortcomings and all the difficulties that they create around themselves. It is not that we need to become ‘do-gooders’, but it is necessary for us to see that the sense of self is not only the cause of our own misery, but the universal misery.
It is not a question of inflicting misery upon ourselves, but of facing the misery that is inflicted upon us. This is the ultimate work. It is working with anxiety, indecision and uncertainty, the misery of physical pain and emotional pain. Doing this work with humility, gentleness and openness is what is so necessary. It is dealing with that constant nagging that goes on in the mind, not by suppressing it or fighting it, but by enquiring into it, asking ‘what is it that is so discouraged?’ It is, of course, the sense of self, that is grasping after the absolute, after a unique state of perfection.
“From the beginning, not a thing is.” Ask yourself, what does it mean ‘not a thing is’?Explore it. Challenge it. Question in an intelligent and serious manner. “The ten thousand dharmas never came into being.” i.e. nothing came into being. Nothing is born, nothing dies. Don’t just let it slide by. From the beginning everything is empty. Empty of what?
“From the beginning all beings are Buddha.” What is Buddha? What more do you want?You have it all, you lack nothing. It is not a question of trying to understand this, it is not a question of having to practice for another ten years, or of finding a different kind of practice – so what is it? The frustration and torment you feel in response to this question needs to be faced; the temptation always is to walk away from it. One needs to not walk away.
What you are looking for is it, not it out there, but the looking itself is it. The monk asked ‘what is my treasure?’ And the master replied, ‘Your question is your treasure.’ What is this treasure? It is the light of knowing. The question is a form of knowing, it is knowing directed in a certain way. The masters are always pointing directly to it: ‘Do you see that?’ ‘Do you hear that?’ And we look straight past the seeing and hearing and try to discover the significance of ‘that’.
From the beginning, there is nothing that needs to be done. Then why do we have sesshin? Why then do we work so hard? Ask yourself this. Don’t stop working hard, but question why you are doing so. Don’t just do it automatically. Look into this working hard, infiltrate it. Don’t disturb anything, don’t try to change anything. This infiltration is it, you are allowing awareness to soak into the areas of inadvertence, where there is little awareness. It is a constant refinement of the practice. It is not that the practice becomes easier, on the contrary, it calls for more vigilance, attentiveness and alertness.
“The six rays of divine light never cease to shine.” “Mind is without form and pervades the ten directions. In the eye, it is called seeing. In the ear, it is called hearing. In the nose, it smells odours. In the mouth, it talks. In the hands, it holds and grasps. In the feet, it walks and carries.” Fundamentally it is one pure radiance, divided it becomes the six harmoniously united spheres of sense. Fundamentally you are one pure radiance. It is the light that lights the world. “Since mind is nonexistent, wherever you are you are free.” This is not free from the burden of existence, it is freedom from your attachment, your dependence, your resistance to the burden of existence.