Category: Zen Living Written by Soh Views: 1062
Sent these excerpts to someone who just asked me about anatta. Some quotes I gathered in 2007 in an old forum. It would take me more than 3+ years after that to truly realize it directly.
Excerpts from 'Everyday Zen' by Zen Master Charlotte Joko Beck:
"Who is there?" asks God.
"It is I."
"Go away," God says...
"Who is there?" asks God.
"It is Thou."
"Enter," replies God...................
I have been asked, "Isn't observing a dualistic practice? Because when we are observing, something is observing something else." But in fact it's not dualistic. The observer is empty. Instead of a separate observer, we should say there is just observing. There is no one that hears, there is just hearing. There is no one that sees, there is just seeing. But we don't quite grasp that. If we practice hard enough, however, we learn that not only is the observer empty, but that which is observed is also empty. At this point the observer (or witness) collapses. This is the final stage of practice, we don't need to worry about it. Why does the observer finally collapse? When nothing sees nothing, what do we have? Just the wonder of life. There is no one who is separated from anything. There is just life living itself: hearing, touching, seeing, smelling, thinking. That is the state of love or compassion: not "It is I," but "It is Thou."
And to substitute one conditioning for another is to miss the point of practice. The point is not that a positive emotion is better than a negative one, but that all thoughts and emotions are impermanent, changing, or (in Buddhist terms) empty. They have no reality whatsoever. Our only freedom is in knowing, from years of observation and experiencing, that all personally centered thoughts and emotions (and the actions born of them) are empty. They are empty; but if they are not seen as empty they can be harmful. When we realize this we can abandon them. When we do, very naturally we enter the space of wonder.
This space of wonder - entering into heaven - opens when we are no longer caught up in ourselves: when no longer "It is I," but "It is Thou." I am all things when there is no barrier. This is the life of compassion, and none of us lives such a life all the time. In the eye-gazing practice, in which we meditate while facing another person, when we can put aside our personal emotions and thoughts and truly look into another’s eyes, we see the space of no-self. We see the wonder, and we see that this person is ourselves. This is marvelously healing, particularly for people in relationships who aren’t getting along. We see for a second what another person is: they are no-self, as we are no-self, and we are both the wonder.
What does it mean to shatter our usual way of seeing our life? My ordinary experience of life is centered around myself. After all, I am experiencing these ongoing impressions - I can't have your experience of your life. I always have my own. And what inevitably happens is that I come to believe that there is an "I" central to my life, since the experiences of my life seem to be centered around "I". "I" see, "I" hear, "I" feel, "I" think, "I" have this opinion. We rarely question this "I." Now in the enlightened state there is no "I"; there is simply life itself, a pulsation of timeless energy whose very nature includes -or is - everything.
To talk on the razor's edge is to do that; we have once again to be what we basically are, which is seeing, touching, hearing, smelling; we have to experience whatever our life is, right this second. If we're upset we have to experience being upset. If we're frightened, we have to experience being frightened. If we're jealous we have to experience being jealous. And such experiencing is physical; it has nothing to do with the thoughts going on about the upset.
It's not that "I" hear the birds, it's just hearing the birds. Let yourself be seeing, hearing, thinking. That is what sitting is. It is the false "I" that interrupts the wonder with the constant desire to think about "I." And all the while the wonder is occurring, the birds sing, the cars go by, the body sensations continue, the heart beating - life is a second-by-second miracle, but dreaming our I-dreams we miss it. So let's just sit with what may seem like confusion. Just feel it, be it, appreciate it. Then we may more often see through the false dream which obscures our life. And then, what is there?
Since we can only live our lives through our minds and bodies, there is no one who is not a psychological being. We have thoughts, we have hopes, we can be hurt, we can be upset. But the real solution must come from a dimension which is radically different from the psychological one. The practice of nonattachment, the growth of no-self, is the key to understanding. Finally we realize that there is no path, no way, no solution; because from the beginning our nature is the path, right here and right now. Because there is no path our practice is to follow this no-path endlessly - and for no reward. Because no-self is everything it needs no reward: from the no-beginning it is itself complete fulfillment."
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