Forgetting about enlightenment

Is the sun coming up or going down? ... ... Who cares?

From Warrior of Zen, page 35:

The samurai said, “After I practiced zazen for a while, light appeared before me. When I reported this to the Elder Mutoku, he said it was the light of the Dharma-body, and that if I exerted myself more and more, my whole body would be filled with light. I thought that I would become ordained and cultivate this practice for a sustained period.

The Master said: “You have made a great mistake. That light often appears because one’s vital energy is withering. If you treat it as something worthile, you will eventually go crazy. Haven’t you noticed a drop in your energy level?”

The samurai responded: “Yes, it has dropped quite a bit. The sound of something being ground in an earthenware mortar echoes in my chest until I can hardly bear it.”

The Master said: “Look at that! See how you’ve lost significant energy?” You still have valuable time left. Quickly discard this practice.”

Beware the “light” of “enlightenment” – it can lead you astray and leave you depleted and less “light” than before.

One of the things I really enjoy about Shosan, is that he repeatedly says to forget about enlightenment and focus on the everyday. He talks about farmers being in the perfect circumstances to practice. And he talks about merchants also being in a great position to practice. Because they/we are in the midst of the flow of life. And zen/zazen is not only something for the cushion, but something for the everyday.

“Always practice,” say the zen masters whose words I have been reading lately, in addition to Shosan. Living and Dying in Zazen shares this with us.

Shosan goes on to talk on page 36 about experiencing Kensho and dancing with gratitude, “feeling that nothing existed.” Then he discarded that, because he realized it did not suit him. And he went on with his life.

I, too, have had those kinds of experiences. Several of them changed my life completely and altered forever how I see and relate to the world. But they were only gateways to the Greater Matter — the matter of living my life to the best of my ability… the matter of maintaining equanimity and composure in the face of anything and everything.

No matter what.

I think I’ll write more about this in a moment.


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