teisho 643 (1999)
Working with Mu, or Who am I? you come to the point where you feel you have done everything you can do, and that every strategy that you have used is of no use. That all the intelligence and intuition that have given you confidence and that you have relied upon to help resolve life situations are utterly inadequate to this task. When you come to this point you must inevitably wonder what is the point of going on. When you reach this point it is, at last, going to be possible for you to undertake spiritual work for the first time.
There is immense pressure from within to realize ourselves and if we do not respond in an authentic way, then we feel guilty, inadequate. Intellect and intuition cannot deal with the koan. Who am I? or What is Mu? will not be seduced, browbeaten, or bullied – our cleverness is of no use. Indeed, any movement of the mind is itself an impediment, an obstacle. Kensho comes out of a moment, or an eternity, of a still mind. And yet our deepest fear is of a still mind and we do everything we can to keep the mind moving.
You are encouraged to simply become one with the question. When you become one with the question you become one with the mind, and then the movements of the mind are stilled. But this stillness is not absolute, there is no absolute stillness because the mind is dynamic. Which means the mind is alive, vibrant. It is the opposition, the conflict, and resistance that sets up the sense of movement of the mind. When we say any movement of the mind is an obstruction, we mean any movement that is in opposition to the inherent dynamism of the mind. In other words, it is no good trying to pacify or still the mind. Any techniques to quieten or pacify the mind, if they are successful, simply deaden the mind.
When you are working with this questioning one must go in the direction of letting go rather than overcoming. One lets go of problems, one does not try to solve them. One lets go of the ideas that hold anger or anxiety in place. Koan practice gives the same in essence as the practice of shikantaza. Shikantaza is the faith that nothing needs to be done, it is the faith that fundamentally we are whole and complete.
Whatever is present at the moment is fuel for practice. If you think of some conditions as good for practice and others as not good, you are at war with yourself. If you can say ‘whatever happens to me in life, good or bad, will be fuel to power the practice which will enable me to come home to myself,’ then it is possible for your whole life to become more and more unified and directed in such a way that in itself will bring about some of the peace one is looking for. If you can say ‘I will not blame others for whatever happens to me’ and no longer look outside yourself for the cause of your suffering, then you will be able to become totally involved in the practice and use every situation as a dharma gate. When you work authentically and sincerely, you work for the sake of all sentient beings.
Thanks for this posting, Jean. Each one is always timely. Marie