Rohatsu


December 6, 2013

“I, the broad earth, and all conscious beings are enlightened and effortlessly manifest the Great Way together.”

“All beings contain within themselves the seeds of Enlightenment and yet we drown in the ocean of birth and death for so many thousands of lifetimes!”

This month  Zen Buddhists, will celebrate the time of the Buddha’s awakening. Traditionally we celebrate this on the eighth day of the twelfth month. This is litereally the meaning of the word “rohatsu”. The words of the Awakened One are shared with us as essential information about ourselves. The Buddha’s awakening was not his personal insight. It was a truth and reality  belonging to all of us.  Through readings of the Buddha’s words, the teachings of centuries of masters, the study of koans, zazen, and daily life we repeatedly come face to face with the Buddha’s enlightenment.

Though we might not realize it, this awakening is not  hidden from us. Nothing is ever hidden from us.  As Doen Zenji says to us in his teaching, Instructions to the Cook, “The dragon’s jewel is found in every wave”. It is found  in every breath. As  long as we are breathing, we have direct and intimate access to ourselves and our own experience of life. I do not know what happens when we are no longer breathing. Right now, while we are alive,it is up to us to decide whether or not we open the gateless gate and discover who we are.

Zen is a single-minded look at a vast life moving ceaselessly in accord with cause and effect. It is a simple thing to simply look ourselves in the eye, but for most of us it is not easy.  We have a fixed and false view of ourselves as apart from the universe. This view is so deeply engrained that it is automatically assumed to be so. In order to relinquish that view, we must notice first that it is there. We must begin to notice that we act with the assumption that  keeping ourselves  safe, comfortable, and well-regarded is a most important thing. We tend to act as if  our lives have little affect on anyone else unless we intend them  to. In other words, we act as if we are not One.

If we are not One, the Buddha’s words are not true. Only he awakened under that Bodhi tree. If we are not One, this Zen practice is not possible. But many can tell you that it is possible, that the Buddha’s and the great masters did not lie to us. Ehipassiko! Sit in zazen and find out for yourself. See what true knowledge of yourself reveals to you.

Begin without a fixed idea of what awakening is. Sit in this Not Knowing. Hold a wordless question. In wonder and curiosity, bear witness to yourself with each breath.  Breathe this Not Knowing and remain open to all that arises. Have no fixed idea or want. Just be present and d not take your thoughts seriously. Let them go like so many leaves in the wind.

Do this regularly whether on the cushion or off it. Rest in Not Knowing and Bearing Witness with clear and open mind. Allow your actions to flow from this. When you practice in this way, you disappear, but do not be afraid. Others will see  you, receive your actions, and benefit from your disappearance. So will you as you manifest the Way with the Buddha, the broad earth, and all beings.