What are we when there is no one doing anything, no one attaining anything, no place to go? There is no place to go. The whole foundation is already here in each one of us. It is the same in all of us. There is only one foundation, which is presence, wholeness, boundless love.
Those who just throw their bodies and minds into Buddhism and practice without even thinking of gaining enlightenment can be called unstained practicers. This is what is meant by ‘not stopping where the Buddha is and walking quickly past where the Buddha is not.’
The Marrow of Zen
Dogen-zenji said, “Shoshaku jushaku.” Shaku generally means “mistake” or “wrong.” Shoshaku jushaku means to “succeed wrong with wrong,” or one continuous mistake. According to Dogen, one continuous mistake can also be Zen. A Zen master’s life could be said to be so many years of shoshaku jushaku. This means so many years of one single-minded effort.
It is said that there are four kinds of horses: excellent ones, good ones, poor ones, and bad ones. The best horse will run slow and fast, right and left, at the driver’s will, before it sees the shadow of the whip; the second best will run as well as the first one does, just before the whip reaches its skin; the third one will run when it feels pain on its body; the fourth will run after the pain penetrates to the marrow of its bones. You can imagine how difficult it is for the fourth one to learn how to run!
When you are determined to practice zazen [or bowing, or chanting, or whatever your practice is] with the great mind of Buddha, you will find the worst horse is the most valuable one. In your very imperfections you will find the basis for your firm, way-seeking mind. Those who can sit perfectly physically usually take more time to obtain the true way of Zen, the actual feeling of Zen, the marrow of Zen. But those who find great difficulties in practicing Zen will find more meaning in it. So I think that sometimes the best horse may be the worst horse, and the worst horse can be the best one.
—Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind (pp. 38-39)
This weekend I attended my first Shin Buddhism retreat with my undergraduate advisor and beloved teacher (rewind back 15 years) Mark Unno. It was amazing, and a blessing at a time of great transition. This has always been a favorite passage of Mark’s and, throughout the retreat, he interwove it with the theme of life and death, our very humanness being the vehicle of awakening to infinite light and boundless compassion. This teaching is a direct path and for me it is very powerful. So flipping grateful for the Dharma, for my teachers, and all the practitioners (including those who know they are and those who don’t). Namu Amida Butsu.
The meditative view is that it is only through the acceptance of the actuality of the present, no matter how painful or frightening or undesirable it may be that change and growth and healing can come about. New possibilities can be thought of as already contained within present-moment reality. They need only be nurtured in order to unfold and be dis-covered
If this is true, then you don’t need to try to get anywhere when you practice meditation. You only need to really be where you already are and realize it (make it real). In fact in this way of looking at things there is no place else to go, so efforts to get anywhere else are ill conceived. They are bound to lead to frustration and failure. On the other hand, you cannot fail to be where you already are. So you cannot ‘fail’ in your meditation practice if you are willing to be with things as they are.