These talks were spoken originally to a tape recorder in open countryside. They were prepared for a Zen group that wished to hear them when I was not personally available. Later it became a habit and I have recorded a number of such meditations.
There comes a moment in Zen training, a moment both shocking and surprising, when one realises intuitively that there is no path at all.
Ho! What then is Zen practice?
Practice is the realisation that there is no path at all, yet one keeps on going, going on, going on beyond, always becoming being.
Listening to a talk on Buddhism on the radio I heard speaker after speaker extolling in his or her own way, the advantages and benefits of Buddhism. Here, it would seem, is a club well worth belonging to! The beginner joins the Buddhists, she finds a new identity, becomes a newly enrolled member. There is a certain relief in belonging.
In a lonely world, clubs have a certain value. Whether it be in a city, a small town or in the countryside there are many reasons for starting a club. Most of all we want some sort of togetherness, some feeling of travelling to a destination that offers some security, some way out of the morass in which our society is stuck, some way beyond the alienation, heartlessness, criminality and carelessness. Some explanation to make it all feel safer.
So we have clubs, lists of members, buy a building, set up a programme, invite speakers, cajole the reluctant, persuade the unbelievers, reject those who come once and never again. We appoint a secretary, president officials and obedentiaries, find ourselves spiritual advisers. Something like a lay monastery gets set up in our midst and we start worrying about membership, payment of subscriptions, the next speaker. Soon some of us begin to wonder whether the spiritual adviser in the town along the way might not be better for us than the one we've got. After all what's s/he doing for us? A year has gone by and I haven't changed! A hint of divisiveness creeps into the air. Democracy and muddle might be better, more modern, than faith and authority: yet which is right for the times? Do we even know enough to judge?
However benevolent we think we are, all clubs are exclusive. Social psychology tells us that even minimalist groups discover adversaries. If you split an encounter group for half an hour you can easily generate factions. Belonging to one's club, one has a distinctive path, a distinctive teacher. Certainly we have a better practice than those along the way who only sit, pray, talk, sing mantras, have intellectual interests, follow a guru, dance all night or sleep with one another - and so on. Otherwise why join this group rather than the other. Anyway I am investing in it. It had better be good.
Krishnamurti told us repeatedly that creating institutions is divisive. Amongst Western Buddhists this remains subtly, even dishonestly, so. We find it hard to get out of our culturally determined emphasis on competition and individualism. Yet even Western Buddhists don't usually throw stones at one another, at least not very accurately. Dharma gossip is the secret vehicle for dissent, disappointment, frustration irritation, thinking oneself important or merely put in one's place. And the more I am a proven party member the more addicted I become and the more divisive are my biased thoughts. Even Krishnamurti could not stop his followers following. What would he have done if he had?
There are dangers here; following the way of the club you may miss the Buddha's message entirely. As he lay dying he said "All component things pass away. Work out your own salvation with diligence." He did not say "Set up churches!" He did not say "Wear robes, dog collars, create ranks and files, make yourself distinctive. Let it be known who is the wise and who is the unwise". He did not say "Argue your case with the Muslims, the Christians, the Marxists." He simply said "All component things pass away. Go work out your salvation with diligence. Find out for yourself!"
The creation of an outer path is easy. Creating our clubs, we need to examine what is happening to us in the heart. What is the quality of our relationships when we meet. Is it beneficial for us all? Do we pass our merit, if any, on to others? Do we share? Do we give as well as take? Do we focus on the faults and peculiarities of our teachers or do we sometimes manage to catch glimpses of what it is they are trying to convey to us. However irritating or adorable, a teacher who has received transmission may well have something to tell us that goes beyond words. Can we catch the hidden meaning?
We, who so naturally form clubs, need to understand our motivation for doing so. We need to know not what we can get but what we can give. Do we persist in participation when we join or do we just have a look around and then run off somewhere else where the tea is stronger or the teacher more sexy? What is our level of understanding in all this? Clubs are only as good as the self awareness of the members.
It is always good to look at what is happening in the heart, to place it there in zazen and wait until one can see it truly. Don't be in a rush.
One evening in 1986 I was standing on the mountain path above the little monastery of Bo-Lam on Lantao Island in Hong Kong. I was looking at the full moon rising over the forested mountains and the distant ocean. As I watched, a monk came down the path returning from his work constructing stone by stone and rock by rock an extension to the mountain track. Smiling I pointed to the moon. He looked at me and gently shook his head. Extending his hand in the air, he seemed to grasp the moon out of the sky and in one movement placed it in his heart. He smiled. I bowed. As he walked on, he shrugged his shoulders.
If one looks to external things, there is only the path of following. Taking the moon and placing it in the heart is the same as taking the atmosphere of a room or temple into oneself, discovering the uniqueness of the presence of the moment. Breathing in the air, the sound and feel, the ambience of the place becomes one with an inner being, the quiet space where there are no judgements.
When the spirit of place simply hangs in the air about you and you go deeply into it, you will find there is no need to move. There is nothing particular to know. There is no need for elaboration. It is as it is. Even if there is something to be done in due course; in that moment of reflection, when the thing is in the heart, there is nothing to be done. Just see it as it is. Maybe you will see it as you have never seen it before. Now it is Soho, now it is SOHO, yet now it is Soho once more. Was it Soho that changed? Can the flag blow the wind?
Out of moments of tranquillity comes all that you need. When the opposites arise, Dogen tells us, the Buddha mind is lost. When you try to create Buddhism on a path that is outside the heart then the Buddha mind gets lost too. Be wary of officious Buddhists or those with opinions. Look more closely. Salvation with diligence is an inner matter which only gradually takes on external expression. This happens naturally without artifice. There is nothing you can do about this. If you become clear, others will notice it. There is nothing for you to proclaim. Take the opposites and place them in the heart, let the molten moon dissolve in the blood stream. The evening air comes naturally in on the breath. There is no path and you will never know an end to it.
Homage to the Buddhas of All Worlds.
Homage to the Bodhisattvas of All Worlds.
Homage to the Scriptures of Great Wisdom.