Came across this image in Tim Burkett’s book Nothing Holy about It: The Zen of Being Just Who You Are, one of the best books I read last year. It is one of the most famous ideas of this great teacher… Easy to understand, not so simple to do.
We say “inner world” or “outer world,” but actually there is just one whole world. In this limitless world, our throat is like a swinging door. The air comes in and goes out like someone passing through a swinging door. If you think, “I breathe,” the “I” is extra. There is no you to say”I.” What we call “I” is just a swinging door which moves when we inhale and when we exhale. It just moves; that is all. When your mind is pure and calm enough to follow this movement, there is nothing: no “I,” no world, no mind nor body; just a swinging door.
Emptiness is the track on which the centered person moves.
Je Tsongkhapa, Tibetan Buddhist, (1357-1419)
To know emptiness is not just to understand the concept. It is more like stumbling into a clearing in the forest, where suddenly you can move freely and see clearly. To experience emptiness is to experience the shocking absence of what normally determines the sense of who you are and the kind of reality you inhabit. It may last only a moment before the habits of a lifetime reassert themselves and close in once more. But for that moment, we witness ourselves and the world as open and vulnerable.
Stephen Batchelor, Buddhism without Beliefs
A student asked master Sozan, “The teachings say that everyone who falls down on the ground must stand up again by relying on the ground. What is the meaning of to fall down?”
Sozan said, “If you affirm the situation, that is the answer.”
The student said, “What is the meaning of standing up?”
Sozan said, “Just stand up!”
“What is it to fall down?”
Sozan, Chinese Chan/Zen master, died 606 AD
We think hitting the ground, knocking over the barrier is a mistake, but the ground we hit, the failure we experience is not a mistake. The world is endlessly mysterious, experience is profound to a degree that will always surprise us. But it is never a mistake. To foster even a meager appreciation of that (and when we’re in the midst of a fall, meager is pretty big) is to begin to practice… It is the decision to stop complaining and to start paying attention. Contained in the fall is exactly what we need to stand. Everything we need is available, but we have to invite it. What is it to invite reality?
Bonnie Myotai Treace Sensei M.R.O, Dogen Cubed
Of course we can always imagine more perfect conditions, how it should be ideally, how everyone should behave. But it is not our task to create an ideal. It’s our task to see how it is, and to learn from the world as it is. For the awakening of the heart, conditions are always good enough.
Yesterday’s clarity is today’s stupidity
The universe has dark and light,
Entrust oneself to change.
Ikkyu, 1394 -1481, Japanese Zen Buddhist priest
Please clearly understand that when the mind is still, it’s in its natural, normal state.
As soon as the mind moves, it becomes conditioned (sankhāra). When the mind likes something, it becomes conditioned. When not-liking arises, it becomes conditioned. The desire to move here and there arises from conditioning.
If our awareness doesn’t keep pace with these mental proliferations as they occur, the mind will chase after them and be conditioned by them. Whenever the mind moves, at that moment, it becomes a conventional reality.
So the Buddha taught us to contemplate these wavering conditions of the mind.