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Appreciation for Kazuaki Tanahashi

If each moment is our entire life, how dare we kill time?

If each stroke is our entire breath, how dare we correct it?

- Kaz

Enso: A unique Japanese art form cultivated by Zen masters to express completion yet imperfection in one stroke. An enso can be viewed as a passageway and an invitation to other states of consciousness.

Freedom From The Self

Dōgen famously said: To study the buddha way is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be actualized by myriad things. When actualized by myriad things, your body and mind as well as the bodies and minds of others drop away. No trace of realization remains, and this no-trace continues endlessly.

You may notice that Dōgen used the same word “self” in opposite ways. The first “self” is a self that is higher than the self – a universal self that is one with all things. The second self is an ego, a small conventional self that clings to the notion of self-identity and possessions. The basic premise of Buddhist practice, as mentioned earlier, is the realization of anātman or shūnyatā. That leads to being selfless and experiencing the flexible interconnection of all things, which is the basis of compassion and dedication in service of others. How can we be truly selfless? Dōgen recommends meditation that is “wandering at ease” in a state of being “unconstructed in stillness,” which is no other than “ultimate and unconditioned.” While he insists that studying with an authentic teacher is essential, he also writes: “Get enlightened by yourself without a self.” That is no other than “Think of not thinking,” “Leap out of sound and form,” “See colors with your ears,” and “Just let go.” The morning star represents Shākyamuni Buddha’s enlightenment under the bodhi tree. The star may have been the catalyst of his awakening. On the other hand, your insight or “your eyeball makes the morning star.” And, “Become a buddha innumerable times – one hundred, one thousand, ten thousand, millions of times.” Freedom From Division When you meditate and settle your body and mind, the difference between large and small, long and short, right and wrong, life and death becomes obscure and insignificant. We can intuit and trust that we can experience this realm in meditation and make it a base for our understanding and action. This is what Hakuin calls “passing the barrier of non-duality.” There is a great deal of value in going beyond dualistic or divided views. If you see an enemy as not different from a friend, you fight less. If you regard non-human beings as not separate from humans, you become conscious of animal rights. If you see insentient beings are equal to sentient beings, you want to protect the environment. If you take the practice of meditation not as a goal for attaining enlightenment but as “practice within realization,” the goal is already achieved at the beginning of the process. Isn’t this surprising? Dōgen says, On the great road of buddha ancestors there is always unsurpassable practice, continuous and sustained. It forms the circle of the way and is never cut off. Between aspiration, practice, enlightenment, and nirvāna, there is not a moment’s gap; continuous practice is the circle of the way. As you see, a “circle of the way” is an intriguing concept. As soon as you start the practice of meditation, your practice of each moment embodies aspiration for enlightenment, practice, enlightenment, and nirvana, which in Dōgen’s case is an experience of non-duality. Further, Dōgen says, “By the continuous practice of all buddhas and ancestors, your practice is actualized, and your great road opens up. By your continuous practice, the continuous practice of all buddhas is actualized and the great road of all buddhas opens up. Your continuous practice creates the circle of the way.” A circle can be a micro-circle, where each moment is complete in itself. Also, it can be a macro one where the practice-enlightenment of all awakened ones from different times actualizes your practice. Not only that, but your own practice actualizes the practice-enlightenment of all awakened ones in all times. This is a dimension of meditation, a dimension free of all physical and mathematical reality. This is a measure of undivided mind. In meditation, “The world is ten feet wide,” “A tuft of hair inhales the vast ocean,” “A mustard seed contains Mount Sumeru.” In undivided mind, there is no boundary between sentient and insentient beings: “The eastern mountain walks on water,” “Emptiness claps toward the left and toward the right,” “Insentient beings speak dharma,” “Ask a question to a bare pillar.” In a deeply contemplative mind, the east mountain or any mountain may not be separate from the cloud or the river stream. It may not be different from the viewer. When the viewer walks, the mountain may walk at the same time. In poetry and in Zen, the products of imagination and of reality seem to enjoy equal citizenship: “A donkey’s fins and a horse’s beak,” “When an iron tree blossoms, the world becomes fragrant,” “Put your body into a fist,” “Loving words turn heaven,” “The whole world flies through the sky.” Don’t these statements free you from ways of seeing things through the filter of opposition?

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