This morning I happened to see a photograph in a religious newspaper that had the caption: All buddhas throughout space and time do not have Buddha-nature. All sentient beings have Buddha-nature. At a glance, I saw it was a calligraphy of Ryokan-sama. I entirely agree with these words. The person who was explaining the caption had written: ‘These words are very paradoxical,’ and offered other comments. But for myself, I took it as, ‘Ah, that’s what I expect of Ryokan-sama. He really tells it the way it is.’ These are wonderful words and I was moved by them. I felt joyful because it was as if I had been verified by them.
In the ‘Buddha-nature’ chapter of the Shobogenzo, Dogen Zenji writes: ‘Buddha-nature arises together with realising Buddhahood. There is no Buddha-nature before Buddhahood is realised.’ Ryokan-sama understood Dogen Zenji’s words just like that and I too understood Ryokan-sama’s words in the same way.
When I forgot myself, it was exactly like that. There was nothing obtained and nothing was thrown away. Nevertheless, when working with my Dharma friends or when speaking with them and so on, there was some kind of core. It was through this core that all sorts of thoughts, dualistic distinctions, and other criticisms and so on appeared. The only thing I could think was, ‘How strange!’ It is to this extent that essentially there is nothing to throw away and nothing to obtain. There is nothing to do but accept the present as-it-is. It is all right to try hard and it’s all right to be lazy. Please be the moment ‘now’ as-it-is, not only with zazen in the zendo, but in all activities throughout the day. We are always thinking of something or thinking while doing some activity. So, without mixing in your own viewpoints and opinions, you must be the moment as-it-is, earnestly being one with it. I am convinced that there is no other way.
To endeavour in this way is practice. There are people who come and say this or that about the various methods of zazen they try, but their zazen doesn’t go as they wish it to. It isn’t a matter of, ‘Why doesn’t it go that way?’ Whether it is susokkan (counting the breaths), zuisokkan (watching the breath), or shikantaza (just sitting), the question is: How to continue with your method of zazen? — that is practice. This is your own matter regardless of whether it is sesshin [intense sitting practice] or isn’t sesshin, whether you are sitting or working. In this way, really absorb yourself in the moment now, one breath at a time. I would like you to continue to make this effort to be one with each activity.
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.
This article is taken from the Fall 2006 issue of Hosshinji Newsletter and is here reprinted with their kind-permission.