More from the Bendowa:
“After the initial meeting with a [good] counselor we never again need to burn incense, to do prostrations, to recite Buddha’s name, to practice confession, or to read sutras. Just sit and get the state which is free of body and mind. If a human being even for a single moment, manifests the Buddha’s posture in the three forms of conduct, while [that person] sits up straight in samadhi, the entire world of Dharma assumes the Buddha’s posture and the whole of space becomes the state of realization.”
I met with a so-called Zen teacher 5 or 6 years ago who creeped me out. I’ve stopped trying to figure out why, because eventually I met another Zen teacher who fit this quote from Dōgen pretty well. He sort of annoyed me in the beginning, but I never got that creepy feeling. I have since read in several different places that any good Zen teacher is going to be annoying. It’s kind of the whole point.
Anyway, the thing I keep on noticing is that it really isn’t about what my teacher says. I’ve learned mostly from listening to other students and observing what happens in a room full of people all pondering and talking about Zen.
One time a student was asking Sensei a question about how to stop doing things that he didn’t want to do. I got the idea that he was talking about losing his temper and saying things that he regretted saying. Sensei really listened; but then his only answer was, “Keep practicing.” But here’s the thing— my lesson came from the way the student who asked the question responded, along with the way the whole room full of people responded. When he heard the answer to his question, the student blew out his lips, slumped back in his seat, rolled his eyes in surrender, and laughed. Everyone in the room laughed too, in a commiserating sort of way. We all got it, and I felt a sort of swell of commonality pass through us. This is the wordless Zen that Dōgen meant when he said, a little earlier in the text, “…it became clear that [the Dharma] is beyond literary expression.”
There is another thing that I hope that I understood while reading this passage: that the enlightenment that arises when someone “sits up straight in samadhi” is somehow unlimited.
“…..myriad things each put their Buddhist body into practice; in an instant they totally transcend the limits of experience and understanding; they sit erect as kings of the Bodhi tree; in one moment, they turn the great Dharma wheel which is in the unequaled state of equilibrium; and they expound the ultimate, unadorned, and profound state of prajñā. These balanced and right states of realization also work the other way, following paths of intimate and mystical cooperation, (…..) At this time, everything in the Universe in ten directions—soil, earth, grass, and trees; fences, walls, tiles, and pebbles—performs the Buddha’s work."
It works both ways!
I’m working backwards now. The other day I had the thought that all of the resisting we do in response to our perception that the world has gone wrong, and our belief that this wrongness expresses itself in our environment through circumstances like pollution, global warming, predatory marketing, economic injustice, abuses of authority, and so on— that this resistance in us is just another form of delusion. It’s based on nothing more than our own notions of how things are ‘supposed to be’.
What if I just stopped feeding that idea? What if I just stopped zip-tying my plain perceptions to my preconceptions?
Well, I tried it! Here’s what happened: My resistances did just exactly what that student did— flopped back in their seats, rolled their eyes, and laughed. My narrow-minded notions did exactly what the room full of fellow students did— snickered compassionately and got the point.
(And Old Man Zen over in the corner takes his hat off from over his eyes, winks, and puts the hat back.)
The world is