Quotes from Suzuki Roshi, Zen Mind, Beginners Mind, page 27
“To live in the realm of Buddha nature means to die as a small being, moment after moment”
This quote seems to support what we have been studying in Dogen’s Being-time. Our small being attaches to the appearance of life, to linear progressive time, to our stories and the naming of our identities. Through the eyes of our small self, life is filled with dissatisfaction and fear of our personal annihilation — our death. A true understanding of time is to see impermanence; Time as impermanence. Everything is appearing and disappearing and changing from moment to moment. To see “being” in reality is to see that a moment is born and dies in 1/62nd of a finger snap. Our small self’s perceptions are born and die 6,400,099,090 times in a day. “Superspeed,” Katagiri Roshi called it. To understand this is to live in the realm of Buddha-nature.
From Suzuki Roshi, page 28:
“When we lose our balance we die, but at the same time we also develop ourselves, we grow. Whatever we see is changing, losing its balance. The reason everything looks beautiful is because it is out of balance, but its background is always in perfect harmony.”
Oh, how we struggle to keep our balance and to stay centered. I said for years that spirituality meant being grounded. What a shock when I first heard Pema Chodron say, that Buddhist practice was about being comfortable with groundlessness. Suzuki Roshi calls this losing our balance in constant change. How do we live with that? Through the practice of letting go in all our various circumstances and trusting the total dynamic working of life, we come to find a new practice of surfing the groundlessness and change of our stories. Not attaching to anything and flowing with Time. Learning to BE in the flow of change. Being-time.
What is the background of perfect harmony? As Katagiri-Roshi repeatedly said, if we see our lives from the universal perspective, we see that everything is working in peace and harmony. Everything is pumping away using cause and effect, pumping in total dynamic working, Zenki . There is no solid “I” that is the center of the universe. There is just functioning.
“This is how everything exists in the realm of Buddha-nature, losing its balance against a background of perfect harmony. So if you see things without realizing the background of Buddha-nature, everything appears to be in the form of suffering. But if you understand the background of existence, you realize that suffering itself is how we live, and how we extend our life. So in Zen sometimes we emphasize the imbalance or disorder of life.” Pg. 28
This is very strange. On the surface, if you enter a zendo, you feel that Zen emphasizes order and perfection. The room is completely orderly and neat. The behavior is choreographed and perfect. What could Suzuki Roshi possibly mean that Zen emphasizes the imbalance or disorder of life? This is why it takes so long to actually understand Zen. Our first understanding of Zen is often completely upside down.
As I’m getting ready to go into Rohatsu sesshin, the question arises, “Why do we do this crazy, sometimes uncomfortable, long ceremony of sitting and highly choreographed living?” Because of this quiet, settling-the-mind ritual, we can often taste the universe perspective of peace and harmony regardless of our own personal circumstances. We can digest the suffering of the ups and downs of our individualized life. We can let go of our strongly held beliefs and attachments through quiet, settled being. We can begin to see Suzuki Roshi’s statement “ to die as a small being, moment to moment”.
“So if you see things without realizing the background of Buddha-nature, everything appears to be in the form of suffering. But if you understand the background of existence, you realize that suffering itself is how we live, and how we extend our life.”
Somehow, through the experience of a settled being, Zen practice can help us reorient ourselves to our life and its stories and the concomitant suffering. We become more able to handle the suffering of existence as practice itself. We learn to surf the waves in joy, hard work, letting go and freedom.