Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Joan Tollifson - The old Zen Masters...




The old Zen Masters had a wonderful way of pulling the rug out from under any place that anyone landed and tried to set up camp. If you said you were a person, they’d point out that the self cannot be found. If you insisted that you were not a person and that there is no self, they would point to the absolute, undeniable uniqueness and beauty of each snowflake, each whirlpool, each wave, each person. If you insisted you had to work hard and practice diligently to awaken, they would point to the fact that you are already awake, that it takes no effort and no time to arrive Here / Now. If you said no practice was needed and that kicking the dog was no different from meditating, they might slap (or kick) you. Wherever you try to land, whatever you grasp and begin to assert, wherever you fixate, the true Zen Master pulls that particular rug out from under you.

As people who point to what cannot be spoken, nothing we say is ever the truth, but still, we have to say something. So we use words, inadequate as they all are, and then hopefully we erase them or say something apparently contradictory. I’m reminded of the old Zen koan where the Master says, “Dead or alive? I won’t say!” Or the beautiful Zen expressions: “Not one, not two,” and Dogen’s “leaping clear of the many and the one." Awakening is not about finally having the right formulation or the right conceptual map. It’s about not landing or fixating or getting stuck anywhere. It’s about having nothing.

The thinking mind is always busy trying to get a grip, trying to figure things out. On a survival level, that’s its job, and in certain practical matters, it works very well. But the thinking mind doesn’t always know when to stop. The tendency to grasp onto a formula, to make no-thing-ness into some-thing, to construct a whole reality and then believe in it—this tendency is very strong and deeply rooted. It tends to recur. It’s not always that obvious or easy to see that we’re mistaking the map for the territory yet again. It can get very subtle. So can we be sensitive to this habitual tendency, seeing it as it happens and letting go, now and now and now, daring to find out what happens if we don’t hold onto anything at all, if we let every belief, every formulation and every answer go?



 

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