Life always presents us with pairs. There are always two aspects that complement each other—sun and moon, day and night, mother and father, life and death. But how easily our minds become occupied in a one-sided way! And when we see one aspect and ignore the other, somehow we feel incomplete and the circumstances of our lives seem insufficient.
We can talk about aspects of our Zen practice as coming in pairs, like enlightenment and delusion, or the relative and absolute points of view, or sudden and gradual teachings. We tend to set one side against the other and compare them. But when we look closely we can see that each pair is always just two aspects of one thing. Seeing this one thing we can appreciate each aspect in a better way.
When he returned to Japan, Dogen Zenji said of the five schools of Zen in China, ‘Although the five schools are different, they all transmit one Buddha Mind.’ He said that we shouldn’t even look upon Zen as a sect. The point is that we should genuinely understand and realise what this one Buddha Mind is. Dogen Zenji says all kinds of beautiful things about it, but we should really penetrate it ourselves. Do you know what it is?
This reminds me of another statement Dogen Zenji made when he returned from China, ‘I have returned empty-handed, without the smallest bit of Buddha Dharma.’ ‘Empty-handed.’ When you’ve got nothing in your hands, they are free to be used in the best way. And, ‘without the smallest bit of Buddha Dharma.’ In other words, everything is the Buddha Dharma. It’s not a matter of having it or not. This very life, as it is, is nothing but the Buddha Dharma itself.
To read more from Taizan Maezumi Roshi click here.
Maezumi Roshi (1931-1995), a Japanese Soto Zen monk, was ordained at the age of eleven and became a dharma successor in three lines of Zen. In 1956 he went to Los Angeles to be a priest at Zenshuji Temple, and in 1967 established the Zen Center of Los Angeles. This article was first produced in the Center’s paper The Ten Directions in October 1981 and is reproduced in Buddhism Now with their kind permission.