May my mind be clear,
May I live fearlessly in the
Mind of Readiness;
May I rely on nothing but
"If you want to be a sage, you have to love the way of the sages."
This is a phrase often heard in practice, and through practice and pure intent we learn the elements of becoming a sage. It has been my sincere desire through Daily Zen and the Journal to inspire and cultivate the "mind that seeks the Way" and to help introduce these principles to those interested in Practice.
The Journal to date has focused on teachings from masters of Zen, Buddhism, and Taoism from days long ago. The principles of meditation, however, are still taught in these times as well whether through zazen practice or in the dynamic actions of a martial way. This month's selection is from an anonymous contemporary school and serves to illustrate the continuity from the past into the freshness of the present.
Gems Along The Way
In meditation we elongate a vital pause; a pause where thoughts return to their superficial place in the background and a vital, spacious energy returns to the foreground. With practice you come to this freedom of not being controlled by your thoughts. Real enjoyment comes when you forget about your own thought process for a moment; when you are not being pushed around by thought-reaction. Learning and developing this ability to pause refreshes and renews the way in which we see ourselves and the world.
Ideally meditation is spontaneous. It arises through your vital interest. This meditation has a quality of omnidirectionality. It would be possible to meditate in such a way where you are not aware of anything else; the mind becomes smaller rather than resting in its expansive state. Similarly, when you attach to a thought or opinion, your mind may become contracted. When your way is seen as "right," it may become difficult to see that there are other possibilities. Pausing and letting go of such attachment allows the rigidity of thought to soften in such a way that it does no further harm, and we are no longer cut off from the present moment.
Meditation isn't only the sitting posture. Sitting means to be mentally poised and to have the light of your mind be clear and not obstructed whether you are sitting or walking. It means to have the light of your mind turned back on itself, rather than chasing shadows and echoes. Whether sitting, standing, or moving, this is meditation. A hallmark of this meditation is to go beyond the limitation of your discriminating mind.
More and more we will experience that our mind is tranquil, yet still present and alert. Not the stillness of sleep, but the stillness of water which reflects clearly. You may discover that nothing is worth throwing that away for.
When you are having a difficult day - that is the time to practice. When you are busy - that is the time to practice. Developing the ability to practice under all circumstances is necessary to the subtle skill of meditation.
You can be your own sage. You can be your own teacher if you are a person for whom no task is worth losing the Way; when you see that no goal, no thing, nothing you are doing is really worth losing that calm center of awareness. If you become like a fly buzzing around or you become oppressed by the thoughts and feelings that naturally arise, meditation flies out the window. Where is your meditative mind when you are buzzing around? Practice is to keep returning to find it.
Meditation is becoming aware of this vital stillness and hearing within that stillness. It is naturally present before you become attached to thoughts and things; before you identify with thought-feeling-reaction. Hui-neng talked about turning your light inward. Turn the light of your consciousness inward instead of always running out after things. Practice means that everything you do, you act from Blue Sky Mind. You don't run off with your delusions when they arise. Seeing them as clouds, you begin to understand that which stays and that which goes.
This Blue Sky Mind observes all of these passing conditions and sees them all clearly, but it isn't any one of those states itself. If you are not careful, when these states arise, you either try to make them go away or you strive to make them stay. You become another cloud on the horizon fighting with the cloud in the sky. You actually believe that is who you are. You either escape or identify with each thought that arises.
Practice is based on another way. When your mind is still and infinite, there is no problem. When your mind is small and speedy and limited, there is a problem, or problems can arise. You are throwing away the big for the small.
Essentially, in the beginning you take it on faith that you are this Blue Sky Mind, this unstainable consciousness, Buddha nature. Through practice you develop the strength to not identify with the things that come up and begin to prefer the spaciousness of your unstainable consciousness. The more time you spend as Blue Sky, the less you will want to spend time as clouds. To the extent that you spend time in this birthless mind, in the mind that hasn't taken the hard form of opinion, likes, and dislikes, to that extent you can have a flexible, expansive, and open mind.
You keep returning to Blue Sky Mind and as you spend more and more time there, eventually that becomes your place of residence. At this point it feels like a true turn-around has occurred, one with entirely different quality of being.
Song of the Diamond Heart
The pine tree's voice
Is always whispering,
Yet how many pause to listen?
For when the churning mind is still,
The Diamond Heart within
Reflects even the falling dusk that
Shrouds every eye and branch,
And hears, but listens not.
Walking, then, with courage and kindness,
Never ceasing to walk in Wonder,
We follow our ancient path.
For the Way of the sword is
Like the rose we have thorns,
And like the rose, we unfold.