‘To study the Way of Buddha is to study the Self. To study the Self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be enlightened by all things. To be enlightened by all things is to cast off the body and mind of the self as well as all others. All traces of enlightenment disappear and this traceless enlightenment continues on and on endlessly.’ In this teaching of Eihei Dogen Zenji, everything is thoroughly stated about the nature of human life and the world.
Practice (studying the Way of Buddha) is to ascertain the essence of things (Self). This is to realise that there is no separation between self and things (forgetting) and that everything is part of one’s body (enlightened by all things). Seikyo Zenji said, ‘Sentient beings are deluded by the self and chase after things.’ However, when there is the realisation that there is nothing to compare outside of one’s functioning right now (seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, feeling, thinking), seeking mind ceases, great loving mind flows forth, and the true nature of the Self is manifested. Seeing that self and other are the same body is expressed in Zen as ‘Self and other are not two’ and the condition where self and all things are one is called ‘the Dharma (causality)’. However, this is a realm that does not permit the intervention of any viewpoint arising from the ego-self.
The habit (viewpoint arising from the ego-self) of dividing the essential nature of oneness into self and other, life and death, pain and pleasure, rising and falling, and so on, is the source of all delusion and anxiety. However, when the source of this delusion disappears completely, this condition is called liberation. It is also called ‘essentially there is no substance to anything’, ‘nirvana’, and ‘the moment now’.
Shikantaza (just sitting) is the quickest way to forget the ego-self and verify this matter for yourself. When the self is forgotten, then the joyous activity that is free of the ego-self is born (all traces of enlightenment disappear) and verifies yourself at every moment, in every place, in any situation (continues on and on endlessly).
It is from this that the Buddhist precepts originate. It is the only way that mankind can make great progress, reach great peace. Long ago a Chinese poet called Tufu wrote ‘These days, people reject this Way (of Buddha) as if it were dirt.(1)’ If there is no awakening to the Way of Buddha, won’t human beings continue to wander endlessly in this chaotic world?
Turning the hand up, clouds form; turning the hand down, rain falls.
Many are the fickle and insincere who turn their hands this way or that.
Don’t you remember the devoted friendship of Kan and Po when they were poor?
These days, people reject this Way as if it were dirt.
More Zen teachings from Harada Roshi.
Buddhism Now May 2004
[Harada Roshi is the Head Priest of Hosshinji in Japan, is the author of The Essence of Zen, and General Director of the Soto Zen sect’s European Office for Administration and Teaching in Italy where he is based. This article is taken from the Spring 2001 issue of Hosshinji Newsletter and reprinted with their kind permission.]