teisho 675 (1999)
You have a point of view which is fixed. It is the fixity that is the problem, not the point of view. Life is constantly giving us challenges that make us feel vital and energetic. When we don’t have these challenges we wilt and fade. Creativity comes out of conflict. It is this creative power which is Buddha nature; it is not any content that is produced by Buddha nature. It is in the aroused mind brought about by conflict that there is the possibility of seeing into true nature.
Anxiety is where one is caught up in a yes and a no. Do not waste this conflict. It is like an archer drawing a bow: the yes is at the top of the bow, the no at the bottom, creating a condition of tension in which one is suspended. The challenge is to keep that tension at an optimum level. The tension that you feel in life situations is the fuel for practice. You must bring all your anguish, your longing, all your suffering to the practice. Life is a challenge and the koans give a manageable form to the suffering that we call life. You could say that the koan you are working with is the tip of an arrow, the rest of the arrow is the pain of your life.
One koan starts off: Cease and desist; when the action of the mind is stopped, the iron tree blooms. As Hakuin says, “from dark path to dark path we have wandered in darkness, how can we be free from the wheel of samsara?” The eternal wheel of samsara, this going from yes to no, is the way we pass through the pilgrimage of existence. One gets to a point where one is able to stop the eternal circling. When working with a koan you are not looking for a solution, for an answer; the koan is trying to awaken a sense of bewilderment, of confusion, trying to awaken that creative power, to awaken you. The creativity is awakened by the doubt sensation and once it is awakened it has the capacity to see into itself.
Cease and desist – there is that moment of release which is not an action, which is not a movement of the mind, not another thought, not another concept. It comes from the conflict of yes and no. You may not even know what the content of the conflict is. You can have a releasement from tension and not know what the tension was about. When the action of the mind is stopped, the iron tree blooms; the miraculous power of creativity which opens to itself. Stop taking everything for granted and come home to yourself.