Life is not two

There’s a well worn story about a Zen Master by the name of Banzan, who was walking past a butcher’s shop. I guess in those days they were in markets and fairly open. He overheard a customer talking to the butcher. “Can I have your best piece of meat?” the customer asked. “But all my pieces of meat are the best. You won’t find any piece of meat in my shop that is not the best,” replied the butcher. At which Banzan was enlightened.

I guess you could just leave it at that. To the awakened Self, no experience is better than any other experience. All experiences are impermanent and transitory. But I think that there’s more to it than that. The distinction that we make between this and that reveals our cleft minds. Making this good and that bad shows a whole part of our minds that we are not accepting, whether it is our angry neighbour, or a long lost love. All these things show where we haven’t accepted the universe the way it is. And the reality is, it is just like this just now.

In creating a sense of self, we have separated ourselves from the universe. And the universe has become divided in our own minds. Without beginning or end the universe rolls on ever changing, but eternally just present here and now. Causeless and containing cause and effect, because these are just paradigms. And in our sense of self we got lost in cause and effect as we seek to hold on to some experiences and deny others, yet all of them impermanent.

Life is not two. And neither is our mind. All experiences are contained within our mind. Not separate from experience, not imprisoned by experience. Hence Bodhidharma’s “You ask. That’s your mind. I answer. That’s my mind.” Wherever you look there’s your mind.

The Essence of Zen by Sekkei Harada is well worth the read. I found it accidentally in Borders the other day. Supposedly for beginners – and which of us is not that – it challenges the mind to wake up to the present moment. It emphasises practice with some wonderful references to Dogen. Afterall seeking after anything, especially enlightenment is well, unenlightened. Sitting is just sitting. Sekkei Harada emphasises that the mind doesn’t go through a process of being healed. Our essence of mind is already whole.

If you are thinking of practicing in order to look for the Way, you will only get farther and farther away from it. It is as if, while walking the Way and being right in the middle of it, you start looking around for it, wondering where it is.

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