The Smile of Composure

The third ancestor, Sencan’s famous quote from “Affirming Faith in Mind :

The Great Way is without difficulty;
Just avoid picking and choosing.
Just don’t love and hate
And you’ll be lucid and clear.

This famous quote is very fundamental to our practice. So important, that Joshu had five or more koans, just on this quote itself.

What does “just avoid picking and choosing” mean? In our daily life, every moment we choose something. Should I eat now or later? What to eat? Do I write this sentence next or another? Just as each moment we are making a choice, turning right or left at the intersection, so in each moment, we are dissatisfied with the results. We ordinary humans, usually or I could say, always, want more. This is Buddha’s admonition in the First Noble Truth that human life creates suffering or dissatisfaction and that suffering is caused by the Second Noble Truth, our picking and choosing based on personal desires and our personal cravings. What would be good for Me? What would be bad for Me?

In Hee-jin Kim’s translation of the Fukanzazengi:

“When “for” or “against” are differentiated, even unconsciously, we are doomed to lose the buddha-mind”

From the Soto-shu translation:

If the least like or dislike arises, the mind is lost in confusion.

The great question is – how do we make all the decisions of ordinary life without losing the perspective of the Buddha-mind? This requires a great deal of practice, strength and concentration. Always choosing the universal perspective and the “long-view” as Katagiri Roshi used to say, guides our moment-to-moment choices and our everyday practice of transformation from small mind to big mind. What is the basis of operation in our life?

Also in the Fukanzazengi, is the words, jikige no joto, w hich Kim translates as understand clearly the here and now as it is. Our practice is to receive the here and now with lucidity and clarity, as it is. This is called “ just arising”. Since there are 6,400,099,180 moments in a day (says Dogen), we have myriad chances to catch the “just arising”. It is a fleeting experience of life itself, which is so fast and impermanent that it automatically avoids picking and choosing, loving and hating. It just is what it is and we experience it. Lucid and clear are beyond evaluation of like and dislike. To be able to do this is a deep, rare and dear spiritual life.

This ability has been called in Buddhist literature equanimity or composure and is represented by a smile. Ken Ford lecturing on the Lankavatara Sutra, reinforced for me the importance of the smile of composure. This sutra works with breaking through all our infinite projections and mental constructions that create our world into the liberation of just arising without evaluation. Both Katagiri roshi and Dogen Zenji stress that “Zazen is composure” or “composure for the way things are is Zazen.” With this type of unconditional composure, automatically, we smile at life. This is the smile of Ananda, Mahakasyapa, and of Thich Nhat Hanh.