Tag Archives: Zen

“Buddism is Not What You Think” by Steve Hagen

14 Jan

Shunryu Suzuki wrote in his first book, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind:

I have discovered that it is necessary, absolutely necessary, to believe in nothing. That is, we have to believe in something which has no form and no color – something which exists before all forms and colors appear. This is a very important point.

Huang Po:

The foolish reject what they see, not what they think; the wise reject what they think, not what they see.

Put trust in immediate, direct experience, not concepts, models, beliefs, explanations, justifications. Before all these things take forms.

You don’t get it from a teacher, from an institution, from a book, or from a belief system of any sort.

In fact, you don’t need to get it from anything. You already have it. You are inseperable from it. You only need to just see.

Do not desire “enlightenment” or desire to reject enlightenment.
Do you really think that there is something you can put in your mind, or take out of it, that’s going to satisfy the deep ache of the heart? “I want to be awake… I want enlightenment… I want understanding… I want freedom and peace of mind… I want… I want… I want…” It’s like an itch in your mind, yet you’re left with no hand to scratch it with.

Do you really think that there’s something “out there” – enlightenement, Nirvana, some special insight – that’s ever going to satisfy? Momentarily you may be satisfied, but as long as you hold yourself apart, there’s always something you have to get or get away from – we make enlightenment into just another urge, another itch we try to scratch.

What you are truly after neither has form nor is without form.

It cannot be grasped or attained or obtained or conceptualized or even described.

We can realize that our life can’t be seprated from Reality – from the life of the world as a Whole, from the lives of others. In other words, there’s nothing to get.

In practical terms, it means we can notice – and root out by simply noticing – the grasping of our own minds as we live from day to day. We can realize, right up front, that this very restless, itching mind that asks, “What am I getting out of this?” and “What’s best for me?” is already the pain and the confusion we wish to free ourselves from.

The Buddha said:

Be a light unto yourself; betake yourselves to no external refuge.

Why? Because there is no such refuge. Nor is any needed. The thing you want to reach for to sustain you and help you is merely a construct of your own imagination. Ultimately, it will only hinder you, perpetuating your feeling of vulnerability.

It’s better to instead to just look at the situation you’re in and see immediately and directly what’s going on. If you do this honestly and earnestly, you’ll see that you’re already sustained, complete, and whole and that everything you’ll ever truly need is at hand.

Why not live as though you realize that this is true – as though you realize that there is no seperation, no distinction, between you and Reality?

If you do, there will no longer be any mystery to existence. Mystery only comes about when we wall ourselves off, divide the world into this and that, distinguish ourselves from everything else.

Reality is not a thought. Reality is not what you think. Reality is not what you can think. Reality is what is immediately experienced.

The Buddha said, “What I call liberation, the world calls resignation,” some people view Buddism as giving in to or giving up something – as if these teachings recommend that we lie down like a doormat rather than stand up and face Reality. People suffering from this form of delusion may say, “All those forces are out there are immense. Stop trying to fight them. Just surrender yourself totally; then you’ll experience enlightenment or freedom.”

But this is not at all what the Buddha spoke of as liberation. In fact, this very thinking is bondage itself. It’s still our ordinary, self-oriented state of mind.

The reason the Buddha’s message sounds like resignation to us is because we still presume a self “here” and something else “out there.” But the Buddha pointed out that there isn’t any world “out there” apart from you. That is, true separation between you and other things simply cannot be found.

This is liberation. It’s the very opposite of resignation; it’s the dissolution of the desire to get everything you want or to do whatever you please.

What the awakened see is Reality – Truth – before anything is made of it. What they have to say regarding this seeing is called Dharma – with a capital D.

Dharma can’t be solidified or conceptualized. It can’t be captured in a particular phrase or word; it can’t be laid out in a theory, a diagram, or a book.

Any teaching that points to Truth must ultimately erase itself. And in erasing itself, such teaching – Dharma – is ncessarily self-referential. Like someone writing ona chalkboard with the right hand while the left hand follows, erasing what has been written. As a result, it may appear paradoxical or contradictory. Yet it is not.

Unlike ordinary teaching, which presents itself as enduring and useful, Dharma teachings are offered with the understanding that they will pass away – that they have only provisional, temporary use. The Buddha, for example, likened his teaching to a raft used to cross a river. Once it has served its purpose – once the river has been crossed – it’s best to leave the raft behind or it will become an unnecessary burden.

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