People who haven’t awakened to the true nature haven’t fulfilled their mission as humans. For other creatures, even insects, there is no need for awakening. They are nature as they are. Humans have fallen from their natural state because of delusion. So they awaken to their original nature that everything is one—to that original feeling. The mission of humans is to cease producing the waves [of thought] that have occurred up until now as a result of egotism. When that is done, a human being is born for the first time; that is the definition of a human being. Without that experience, no matter how renowned or eminent one is, no matter how great one’s achievement in history is, one is after all a scoundrel, no different than the criminal [waiting to die] on the gallows. Without that [experience], no matter how respectable one may appear to be, everyone (excuse me for saying this), even the emperor, is a villain on the gallows. . . . So we have to do zazen. It’s the most important thing in the life of a human being. Other animals are doing zazen naturally, so they don’t have to make a special effort. Even insects, bugs, and worms are all doing zazen.
Dogs and cats discriminate. They have true discrimination. Humans have deluded discrimination. Dogs, cats, and insects are hot when it is hot, cold when it is cold, but they don’t discriminate in delusion as humans do. Humans, too, if they practise zazen, will naturally attain this state.
[Extract from Living and Dying in Zazen: Five Zen Masters of Modern Japan, Arthur Braverman, 2003, courtesy of the author.]
Buddhism Now August 2004
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Zazen (Jap. lit. za ‘sitting’ and zen ‘meditative absorption’)
Zen teaches that zazen is the most direct way to enlightenment, awakening. Zen Master Dogen, the founder of the Japanese tradition of Soto Zen frequently referred to zazen as ‘casting off body and mind’. His own awakening came in China years earlier when his master, Ju-ching, told him, ‘You must let fall body and mind.’
Zazen is not sitting and thinking about life or methodically trying to work things out; that is just the mind trying to make sense of things; zazen is direct experience, directly being this very moment without descriptions, judgements, or any sense of self or separation from others.
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