True Zen

Kusen by Robert Livingston Roshi

When people approach Zen practice, they don't know what Zen practice truly is.

People come, think they can sit and do meditation and somehow arrive at a state where they can escape their problems and troubles, escape the complications of the world. They are going to become concentrated, wiser, happier, healthier. Most everyone has something that impels them to seek a way, a way to end suffering, a way to salvation, happiness -some even want to live forever. So people sit on their zafus, come to the dojo when it's convenient, and after zazen go home, go back to daily life.

But true Zen is not to follow your own desires, not to follow your own dreams, your ego mind, not to follow your thoughts, nor all the influences we're bombarded with in modern civilization. True Zen practice is to follow the cosmic order-not just to follow your thinking, not to follow your ambition, not to look for status or wealth, power, position, or career.

When we follow our own brain, our own ambition and desires, we are following the way of suffering and pain. People do that in their lives and suffer. Then they come to Zen and maybe for an hour or so a day, they sit on their zafu and try to follow the cosmic order, follow the way of Zen.

Our practice has been here for countless years, countless lives. If you think you're going to improve the practice, change it, if you think you know a better way, this is the ego speaking, the ego-self.

Mushotoku, this is the way of true Zen. Follow the cosmic order, this is what mushotoku is. It is not following your own personal wishes, not following your own agenda (some goal, object or something to gain). Nor is it running away from something you fear or want to lose. When we follow the bodhisattva way, we harmonize with our surroundings. We don't have fixed ideas in our mind about what's good, what's bad, what's godly, what's evil. Forgetting ourselves, we respond to the situation we're in each moment.

When we live in the here and now with no fixed agenda, no doctrines, no old ideas, when we live here and now responding to what's necessary, in front of us, then we can follow the cosmic order.

You must practice. In zazen, the repetition of this practice is essential.

To follow the cosmic order with one's will power is a contradiction. But the contradiction is only in the mind: it may be difficult to follow the cosmic order with the brain and the will power, but we must try. However without zazen, without a deep practice, without a sangha for support, without a teacher, this is very difficult if not impossible. But with the help of zazen practice and the sangha, naturally and unconsciously our practice will help us follow the cosmic order.

This may seem like a very strange attitude for many people: "Living a selfless life, that's good for saints, special people. But for me, oh, I'm not a saint. I cannot just be selfless in this world! What's going to happen to me? What about my future? What about my old age? Retirement? How am I going to live?"

This is the mind. Always the brain is thinking, calculating, protecting, augmenting, always attaching, looking for something. Instead of looking right in front of us, we look everywhere else. Instead of living right here and now, we want to plan for some mythical future.

But when we practice, truly concentrate on our practice in zazen, we can forget ourselves. We can forget our ego, our desires, our fixed ideas of how to live, how to act, how to be, forget all these phenomenal ideas, thoughts and attachments, and follow the cosmic order, help the other.

"Why should I always help the other? Why can't I be helped?"

Try it. Help yourself. And then come back to practice.

That's why you're here in the first place. You've been helping yourself, not understanding the dharma, not understanding what life is, not understanding how to follow the cosmic order. But if we repeat the practice, make the effort over and over again, each day, each moment, bit by bit our lives can blossom, become deep and broad, limitless.

With mushotoku mind, the mind of no profit, no goal, this mushotoku world and cosmos will not exclude you. And then when you forget yourself, you are recognized by all existences, and all things come to you. It is not what we have in our brains, not what we have in our dreams or our imagination, but the wondrous gifts of actual, here-and-now life come to us. Without desire, wonderful fruits appear.

The fruit appears. It looks delicious. You eat it. The pleasure is true and deep. And the next moment we go on.

Moment by moment, instant by instant, here and now, we flow with the cosmic order and pick the fruits that appear, that nourish us, that give us pleasure. Then we let them go and go on. Always new fresh life, new fresh worlds appear, spontaneously, naturally. We pluck the fruit, enjoy it and go on with no regret. We can live our lives with enthusiasm and strength.

Each one must observe their own karma, their own life, their own mind. What are you looking for? What do you want? This is where you will find your mistakes, your bonnos, your suffering.

Give up your fixed ideas and follow the cosmic order. Come to true Zen, true life. Don't run away and don't run after. Here and now is where we find our satori, our liberation, our strength.


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