Zen Essence

“If you want to know the realm of enlightenment, you should make your mind as clear as space; detach from subjective imaginings and from all grasping, making your mind unimpeded wherever it turns…Buddhahood is the realm of the sacred knowledge found in oneself… You do not need paraphernalia, practice, or realizations to attain it…do not see Buddha in one phenomenon, one event, one body, one land, one being – see Buddha everywhere.” –Chinese Zen Master Dahui – (app. 10th Century)

Zen is the simplest of spiritual practices. Chinese Master Ying-an said, “Zen living is a most direct shortcut, not requiring the exertion of the slightest bit.” So simple. So difficult.

But the human mind does not want simplicity. The human mind does not want to be “clear as space” or detached from grasping. The human mind wants complexity. It wants constant stimulation and speculation. It wants to grasp. It wants to be special. It wants to be grand. It wants sacred knowledge to be secret and hidden so that it can be sought in secret texts and initiations and owned exclusively by the specially initiated. The human mind does not want enlightenment. The human mind wants religion. The human mind wants to make Zen another religion. So much paraphernalia, so many practices, so much seeking of special realizations.

“Buddhahood is the realm of the sacred knowledge found in oneself.” You already have it. There is nowhere else to seek. So we are dumbfounded. If there is nowhere else to seek, what do we do? How can we already have it, when we are so confused and crazy?

Having “the sacred knowledge” in oneself and living from it are two very different things. To find the “sacred knowledge” we must awaken from the hypnotic hold of what we confuse to be our minds and discover our essential Beingness. What we call mind is just ego, the culturally conditioned aggregate of thoughts that the mind contains that create the illusion of the separate “me”, and makes the world a panoply of separate objects. We have an egoic mind, useful as a tool to manipulate worldly objects, but we are not our egoic mind, disastrous as an identity and guide to our own and the world’s true nature.

The realm of sacred knowledge is not found in the egoic mind. It is found in the Beingness of our original nature before the conditioned contents of the ego covers it over. This is the awakened Buddhamind. It is not found “in one phenomenon, one body, one land, one being”, but in all phenomenon, bodies, lands and beings. It is the natural world just as it is, just as you are. And are not. This paradox of Being and ego is the human condition, and unraveling this paradox is the realm of Zen.

Are you in harmony with the natural world just as it is? Do you experience the wholeness and balance of the world, or do you struggle and connive and grasp in futile attempts to make the world the way you want it to be? And does this struggling and conniving work? No. It makes us angry and anxious, depressed and stressed, and it is killing the natural world. Would you call anger, anxiety, depression, stress and planetcide sane? Of course not. But it is “normal” if normal is a statistical point of gathering. So “normal” is quite insane, and Humanity continues being angry, anxious, depressed, stressed and killing the natural world (and each other), saying it is normal “human nature”.

Zen teaches us this is not so. Just “make your mind clear as space.” Then you’ll see.

Bill Walz has taught meditation and mindfulness in university and public forums, and is a private-practice meditation teacher and guide for individuals in mindfulness, personal growth and consciousness. He holds a weekly meditation class, Mondays, 7pm, at the Friends Meeting House, 227 Edgewood. By donation. Information on classes, talks, personal growth and healing instruction, or phone consultations at (828) 258-3241, e-mail at healing@billwalz.com.

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