“The goal in Buddhism is simplicity, clarity, and spontaneity. A person with these qualities is extraordinary.” – Thubton Chodrin
Simplicity is showing up in the moment completely receptive to the truth of the moment. It is also in showing up with only kind intention. Kind intention is especially important for it is only with kind intention that we can be simple, as Jesus said, “like the little children,” for it complicates life much too much trying to keep track of how we have manipulated or competed with others in our efforts to be a complex and sophisticated person. If we have the simple intention in every situation to seek what action expresses kindness, and along with kindness, truth and honesty, for there can be no kindness without truth and honesty, this simplifies our lives significantly. The moment will tell us what is needed, what its truth is, and we will find that usually the moment needs nothing, that it is good in and by itself. To know this is then to live by faith and trust.
Our purpose is simply to be witness, to be appreciator and co-creator with the moment as it is. In those times in which the moment calls upon us for our input and action, then simplicity is in calling upon our lifetime of gathering knowledge and skills to bring with efficiency and minimalism that which will fulfill the expression of the moment. This too, arises from trust – and nurtures intuition, allowing spontaneity to inspire and inform us. We then can allow the moment to settle back into its own simplicity of goodness, step away, and return to witness – full and complete within the fullness and completeness that is the moment.
Simplicity is having simple guides to carry us through, such as when the Dalai Lama says, “My religion is kindness,” simple and easily understood, yet an immensely challenging way to direct our energies into the world when society and our own ego keeps telling us to be clever and manipulative. To live “religiously,” that is, as our essential guide and commandment, in – are these actions or words kind? – will help us bring the intention and action into the world that keeps our life simple. Simple, yes, while incredibly challenging, for we who have been raised to be complicated and competitive in a devious world.
Clarity is living as a well-polished mirror, reflecting without distortion what arises, learning to trust that the moment is manifesting as and through us, in interaction with, as the ancients expressed it, the “ten thousand things,” the incredible diversity of existence happening within unified harmony. It is in realizing, as our true nature, no polishing is needed, that we, as life, just as does all life, perfectly reflects our own nature and purpose. It is in trusting that our purpose is to show up intently anchored in the reality of the moment. Clarity is living in knowing that there is an intelligent design deeper than human intelligence that is the Universe unfolding in its perfect balanced complexity within unity and that this intelligence is happening through us. This deepens the sense of faith and trust we can bring into our lives.
Clarity is the felt-sense that our purpose is to be a channel for life and to trust the Universe is acting through us in its expression of intelligent balance, in the dance of interconnectedness, impermanence, and harmony. This clarity is what Buddhism calls “emptiness;” it is when we are empty of egoic intent to benefit this “self,” this “me” that is a construct of self-interest in the mind. It is to take our place, as all spiritual traditions express in some form, within life and death, good and bad, willing to face it all unflinchingly and in acceptance of its unfolding.
Clarity is seeing into the mystical yet very real what-is of the moment, in being witness without judgement, yet with precise discernment, into what clarifies the what-is and what obscures, confuses and damages it. Clarity is faith that by showing up in the moment as “nobody,” asking not what is in the moment for me, rather, what does the moment need of me, that our way will be shown. It means that we can be perfectly content knowing that most often the moment needs nothing from us other than our witness, while by consciously being witness, we are contributing to the fulfillment of the moment.
Most importantly, we must realize that simplicity and clarity rely upon spontaneity. Spontaneity is being alive as a channel for Life. It is to feel how we are a system of energy connected to and within systems of energy, the Earth beneath us, the Heavens, the Cosmos above and all around us. It is to know we are here to “play in the fields of the Lord,” in the world of Sacred Creation that is all about us in human, animal, plant, and mineral forms. It is to know that every “thing” is an energy-form within and emanating from the vast and boundaryless energy that is the Universe, so that its, and our own, apparent separate thingness is, at a deeper level, an illusion. It is in feeling the energy of Life, what the Chinese call Chi, flowing through us connecting us with the life-energy that is the “ten thousand things.” It is THIS moment, and we ARE this moment arising in awareness with the faculties of a human mind and body that, when surrendered to the moment, will know exactly what is needed.
Yes, it is true, that within the faculty of mind, this moment is colored by experience from the past and intention for the future – yet this moment has more to tell us about the reality of the past – for this moment is built upon it – and what the future will be – for the future is built upon what we do in this moment – than any imaginings of our mind. Living deeply in this moment opens us to the meaning of the Buddhist notion of karma, that all that happens is action built upon the foundation of preceding actions. It teaches us that all we need, in any given moment, is to be deeply present, to feel this action-energy emerging into the present moment and then to either merge with it, actualizing its flow or make a conscious choice to alter it with our energy and will, creating a new karmic action-energy path. Spontaneity is in showing up with our intention being to let go as much as possible of our assumptions and colorations, that we are here to experience and express this moment in its suchness, in its exactly-what-it-isness.
Important to realize is that spontaneity happens best when we get out of our own way, not over-thinking the situation, when we operate from trust, having faith that in spontaneity we have the best chance to bring our lifetime of experience and knowledge to the moment – with the moment being that which summons our actions and not our ego. From this will emerge “flow,” the merging of self and the moment into exactly what the moment calls for. Buddhism teaches us to get the “self,” meaning ego, out of the center of our experience to allow experience to be the center of our self. With this, the moment manifests through us with its own clarity and energy, and our thoughts and actions will reflect this clarity and energy in the service of the moment rather than some neurotic agenda of the ego-self.
* Buddhism teaches that the faculties of human body and mind are best expressed when we realize there is an intelligence deeper than egoic mind, and this is intelligence that flows from the Universe itself, and if we can learn to quiet our minds, to enter into what the great Zen master Dainin Katagiri describes as “no-sound,” the no-sound of the Universe that is the silent all-sound, we will know what sound is the truest expression of who we are, what Katagiri calls “wholehearted presence.” If the sound we make in this world arises from no-sound, we will fulfill this call to manifest with simplicity, clarity, and spontaneity, for this is the beautiful dance known as Zen, the translation of which is “just sitting.” We, meaning our essence as consciousness, will be just sitting, awake, within the vastness AND the particulars of existence, with full awareness that this passing moment in the world of sound and things is all happening within a great unfolding. Then, while “sitting” we can reach into the world of sound and act, and then and only then, can our actions be the mysterious no-action that Zen teaches as, “just so” – and the “sounds” we make will be “extraordinary!”