I cannot teach you the true meaning of Zen if you are more concerned with day to day matters rather than understanding the truth. Please don’t bother me with questions such as where to put your shoes or hang your coats. I am not your father or your mother. I am not here to scold you or to give you warm milk and tuck you into bed. Now some of you, I noticed, when I first came in, looked bored. Are you disappointed in Zen? Did you expect me to pull a rabbit out of a black hat?
Some of you, I suspect, want to see some miracles. I am not a magician either. Zen is not a sideshow. Also, I suspect some of you came here to become instantly enlightened, expecting me to drill a hole in your head and fill it with wisdom at once. I cannot do that. It wouldn’t be Zen. You must learn to wipe your own nose and effect your own enlightenment and attain the mysterious Mind transmission that our founder Bodhidharma still gives out–although some believe that he died a long time ago.
Long ago the Buddha told us that life is hell; that it is a dung pit, and that no matter what we did to improve it, our efforts would still prove unsatisfactory in the long run. To remedy this painful existence the Buddha instructs us not to cling to this world and this mortal body that we are housed in, being in his words, “home dwellers”. He cautioned us that the consequence of such clinging would only make matters worse. I know that you must feel by now that the Buddha is a pessimist; that when he was alive he walked from village to village in ancient India telling everyone that all of existence is miserable and just accept it that way. But this is not the message of the Buddha. The Buddha was not a pessimist. If you want me to tell it to you straight from the heart, the Buddha experienced great joy when he realized enlightenment, becoming disembodied from his parents body and the world it abided in. Even during my own practice, I am amazed to look at my own parent-begotten dung machine and wonder why I took a nose dive into it, getting involved in its birth and death. There is more beauty outside this mortal body than living a life stuck inside it– and there is more freedom in nirvana than going from one body to still another.
So this evening, please try to concern yourself with the pursuit of absolute truth, coming to the joyful realization of your Buddha-nature. It is your only hope for avoiding a future life of pain and sorrow. Students of the Way, if you begin earnestly to seek the truth, I promise you, things will get much better. One day you will thank me for telling you to seek your Buddha-nature. But if you insist on bothering me with petty day to day details, I am afraid that you will never uncover your Buddha-nature. Please stop clinging to such finite matters and instead, question who or what is moving this body of yours around. Try at least to give it some thought tonight.
Text by Zenmar, the Dark Zen mystic
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