Thursday, February 24, 2011

Everyday Mind Is The Way

Sometimes questions and answers arrive together. There have been interesting discussions in both the Practice Committee and Senior Staff meetings this week, touching on our priorities at City Center, where we put our energies, how we manifest practice, on the one hand in regard to work practice for residents, but also about how we present it to the people who come to the temple. Was it, for example, too much of a scary proposition to tell people that the way to practise is to make it your life, and not just something to dip into?
A phrase from the Harada Roshi book came to mind yesterday when we were talking about this: "To speak of 'Everyday Mind' is to look upon your whole life from morning until evening as the way and as your practice". And then Blanche last night started her talk by quoting from a 1966 lecture on the Genjo Koan, given by Suzuki Roshi, in the days before City Center or even Tassajara:
"What I noticed here, you know, in observing your practice, you are not completely involved in practice—our practice.  Your practice is part of [laughs] you—just a small part of your life.  One hour or two hours in 12—24 hours [laughs].  That is your practice.  So instead of practicing zazen here two hours, you think you can do something—if there is something good, better—it may be better to do something [laughs]—something else instead of practicing zazen.  This is—I think you [laughs]—still you have this kind of attitude.
But Buddhism is not—our practice is not like that.  Our practice—if we are not completely involved in our practice, that is not our practice.  It is not one hour of 24 hours.  So if you—if I scold you, you may [laughs]—you may go out.  If I give you some candy, you will stay here [laughs, laughter].  I dare say you are impossible [laughs, laughter].  You are just like child [laughs], because, you know, you lack in—you lack in your confidence to study it as a whole life study.  Actually, you cannot get out of Buddhism.  It is impossible to get out of it, but still you think you can, you know, go out from Buddhism, go out from Zen—from this zendō.  Actually, once you enter, that’s all [laughs, laughter].  Some day you’ll have to come back.  I know that [laughs].  I myself tried to get out of it many times [laughs], but I couldn’t".

8 comments:

Chris Burnham said...

I've been considering this question myself in the past week quite a bit. I had to stop going to my zen center because of a job starting last Thursday, and haven't gone back yet. Haven't even sat at home with any routine, just 20 minutes here and there. But yet I strangely feel more rooted in "practice" than I have in a while, because I feel more like regular old me instead of imitating an idea I have of myself as a "good" buddhist. I've been able to look at more in the context of zen practice, in terms of catching myself in the trips I go on and spotting when ego pushes impulsively, then when I drive around listening to dharma talks or Tibetan chant nonstop. Sometimes it's good to listen to some blues, electronic dance music, or NPR, and sometimes it's good to smoke a little grass with my friends instead of clinging to a righteous sobriety trip. Maybe I'm wrong though.

Shundo said...

It's good to allow for the possibility that you may be wrong. I think there is a subtle but substantial difference between bringing the mind of zazen to every activity, and saying, "everything is zazen, so everything I do is just fine". Staying mindful of sila, prajna and samadhi(morality, wisdom and concentration), as the Abbot is fond of saying, will help you in this regard. Smoking grass may not have the same effect.

Chris Burnham said...

I agree wholeheartedly that there is a difference between bringing the mind of zazen to everyday activity and giving oneself a carte blanche to do whatever one pleases. Being mindful of morality, wisdom, and concentration, I practice by sitting on impulses to smoke when it is not a social activity. This hasn't always been the case, but practice makes progress possible. I'm not about to try getting my friends to switch to green tea when we sit down to watch Family Guy, am I?

Shundo said...

No?

Chris Burnham said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chris Burnham said...

Correct.

sb3day said...

I don't feel like it was too much for Blanche and Mark to ask us to practice zen in everyday life, it felt like more of a gift or a helpful connection than a request. I never really understood the point of staring at a wall until that "practice" of noticing my thoughts while I was staring at a wall turned into noticing my thoughts while I was walking to work, listening to someone else's point of view, wanting to yell at someone:) I'm still working on noticing my thoughts when I'm in the heat of the moment but for me, it made it really clear that I'm actually practicing being present when it's easy in the zendo so that I can begin to have that presence when it's much harder outside the zendo.

Shundo said...

Definitely so