On The Way: The Daily Zen Journal

March 13, 2021

Joyously Alive

Yuanwu (1063-1135)

The essential requirement in studying Zen is concentrated focus. You don’t engage in any forced actions; you just keep to the Fundamental. Right where you stand, you must pass through to freedom. You must see the original face and walk through the scenery of the fundamental ground.

You do not change your ordinary actions, yet outside and inside are One Suchness. You act according to the natural flow and do not set up anything as particularly special—you are no different from an ordinary person.

This is called being a Wayfarer who is free and at peace, beyond learning, free from contrived actions. Being in this stage, you do not reveal any traces of mind—there is no road for the gods to offer you flowers, and no way for demons and outsiders to spy on you. This at last is simple unadorned reality.

Keep on nurturing this for a long time, and worldly phenomena and the buddhadharma fuse into one whole, merging without boundaries. Power functions ready-made, so what is so different about penetrating through birth and death to freedom?

The only worry is that your initial realization will not be accurate and true. If there is anything in your breast, then you’re hung up and blocked. If you want to reach accord quickly, you must dissolve everything as soon as it happens, like a snowflake placed on a red-hot stove. Then you will naturally open through and become peaceful and still and attain great liberation.

Step back yourself and examine this. You have associated with a teacher for quite a while already, so ask yourself if your practice is reaching the right outcome or not. If it is coming down in the right place, then what are you still in doubt about?

From now on, do not give rise to a single thought, and accept true reality with your whole body. If you are real in one place, then how could it be any different in a thousand or ten thousand places?

The ancestral teachers just wanted people to see their true nature. All the enlightened ones came forth to enable people to awaken to mind. Once you arrive at the reality of mind and its true nature, and it is pure and unified and unmixed with deluded perceptions, then the four elements that make up your physical body, and the five clusters of form, sensation, conception, evaluative synthesis, and consciousness, and the six sense faculties and the six sense objects, and all the myriad forms of being together comprise the place where you relinquish your body and life.

When you are at peace and washed clean, it is like the sun shining everywhere, like the infinite expanse of space. How can you confine yourself to your limited body and mind and keep yourself from being joyously alive?

People of olden times would spend ten or twenty years studying just to penetrate through. And after they penetrated through, they knew how to live.

Are people these days lacking anything to keep them from proceeding along the same path? Just don’t give rise to any feelings of wanting or needing anything, or engender any clingings or attachments. Then, according to your power as you encounter situations, you will not fail to penetrate through.

All that’s important is concentrated focus, purity, and stillness. Even when you are engaged in doing things, this is not something external. Take hold of them and return them to your true self—this is what wondrous function is. The eighty thousand sensory afflictions are immediately transformed into eighty thousand means of transcendence, and there is no more need to make a special point of studying with teachers.

In your daily activities you deliver countless numbers of sentient beings and accomplish countless enlightening works and pass through countless gates of the Dharma. It all flows out from within your own breast—how could there be any other?

As the saying goes, “From atop a hundred-foot-high pole, you must take a step forward—then the universe in all its multiplicity reveals the whole body of reality.”

Yuanwu (1067-1135)


Joyously alive…the title alone causes us to stop and feel what that is like. There is a simplicity in the uncomplicated present before all the thoughts and feelings arise that is more akin to a natural state of just being-in-the-present. That place between thoughts where there can be equanimity despite the whirling energies around and inside us. Or that pause before “picking and choosing” arises.

This at last is simple unadorned reality.

There is a kind of grace when this experience of being appears. However, we walk through a complicated landscape and are constantly pulled in a multitude of directions. Being conscientious practitioners, we feel the burdens many shoulder just to live day in, day out. And we have felt all the gamut of emotion and demands the world places on us. It is all a part of this All we are immersed in.

Keep on nurturing this for a long time, and worldly phenomena and the buddhadharma fuse into one whole, merging without boundaries.

So, while we are most fortunate to be able to hear the teachings, to meet with a few Wayfarers who are trying to walk a path of harmony, and in some cases, to meet with a trustworthy teacher, we realize that the six perfections show us the how to walk a path even in modern circumstances.

Or like the Bodhisattva Kannon, “hearer of cries,” we help where we can, right where we are. Compassion and dana demonstrate that, yes, we are all part of one whole, and those of us who can live a life of practice will do so for the good of all, not just ourselves.

If you want to reach accord quickly, you must dissolve everything as soon as it happens, like a snowflake placed on a red-hot stove.

Yuanwu provides a clear roadmap of the Way, every day we need to continue our journey despite the sometimes-overwhelming challenges.

Making peace with Infinity,

Elana, Scribe for Daily Zen

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