The Emotional Climate of Nondualistic Practice, by Ken Jones

Photo by @KyotoDailyPhotoI believe that the emotional climate generated by nondualistic practice, individually and also collectively (in a sangha or on a retreat), differs from that of a practice which tends to emphasize the attainment of higher spiritual states. If we feel we are already intrinsically wise and compassionate, even though we have yet fully to manifest it, then our practice is surely less anxious and stressed, and more playful. Certainly that has been my experience with retreat participants. Again, the great Chan poem “Faith in the Heart (Xin-Xin-Ming) offers the reassurance of living in suchness, as in the following passage (Waley translation):

The Great Way is calm and large hearted;
for it nothing is easy, nothing hard.

Small and partial views are uncertain and insecure;
sometimes assertive, sometimes vacillating.

When you are not attached to anything,
all things are as they are.

Likewise, we practice scales on the piano confident that, with persistence, we shall in due course play music. Similarly, we can relax splashing around in the shallow end if confident that one day we shall find ourselves floating. In meditation such attitudes will be more readily engendered if we realise that a striving acquisitiveness is precisely what we wish to let go in the first place.

Instead of a blinkered purposiveness to ”batter down the Dharma gates”, the relaxed, nondualistic state of mind frees us to open to the deeper mysteries of experience. For while it is true that our everyday mental constructs enable us to impart order and definition to the cosmic chaos of sense experience, we forget that the world as we have defined it at the same time defines us. The puppet master becomes a puppet of the toys he has created. A relaxed experience of our authentic, Buddha nature the better enables us to detach from what are only our mental creations.

At home in our Buddha nature, but doubtless no less aware of our still persistent delusiveness, we open in ready compassion to the misfortunes and stupidities of others. We are the more aware that however deeply we may open to wisdom we never transcend our everyday humanity for something “higher”. Thus, Dogen in his opening passage about enlightenment and delusion in the Genjokoan, adds the moving remark “Yet in attachment blossoms fall, and in aversion weeds spread.” In his writing the compassionate suchness that embraces all contrasts, all dualities shines forth again and again. In the same essay there is this wonderful declaration of Zen humanism (which also provides an excellent definition of suchness), rendered as follows by some inspired translator:

Every creature covers the ground it stands on, no more nor no less, it never fall short of its completeness.

Finally, here are two of Dogen’s poems, as translated by Steven Heine in his “Zen Poetry of Dogen” (Tuttle, 1997:

The true person is not anyone in particular;
But, like the deep blue colour of the limitless sky, is everyone, everywhere in the world.
The unspoilt colours of a late summer night, the wind howling through the lofty pines –
The feel of autumn approaching: The swaying bamboos keep resonating,
And shedding tears of dew at dawn; Only those who exert themselves fully will attain the Way.
But even if you abandon all for the ancient path of meditation you can never forget the meaning of sadness.

Read more from Ken here.

Read some more Zen teachings from Dogen.

Categories: Buddhism, Chan / Seon / Zen

Tags: , , ,

2 replies

  1. Dogen says it all

  2. I love this post, very deep and inspiring. :)


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