The Total Personality

“Practice with our total personality,” Katagiri Roshi repeatedly said. What does that mean? How can we live our lives coming from oneness, which includes both our historic self and our universal self? They work together, mysteriously, simultaneously and constantly. Commonly we think, either/or. Either I am deluded (most of, if not all, the time) or I’m enlightened. But this kind of thinking is exactly what Dogen Zenji fought against. We are both deluded and enlightened all the time. They work together in every circumstance. How could it be otherwise?

We very naturally receive the dynamism of our karmic life with all our stories and all the movements of life. We very naturally, simultaneously, receive the whole universe- it’s stillness and it’s eternal time. These things arise together, always and forever.

Uchiyama Roshi writes:

Right acceptance (which Uchiyama Roshi suggests as a translation for Samadhi ) is to receive yourself and simultaneously the whole universe. We have to receive the whole universe and use it. You are you, but you are not you, you are the whole universe. That is why we are beautiful. We have to accept all aspects of human life whatever they are: visible or invisible, we should accept all beings. This is called freedom.

Mindfulness practice is to live our lives with this understanding, moment to moment. As we are dealing with the stories of our life, we see each conflict or activity through the eyes of a vast universal perspective. Then these abstract stories of what is happening, change into the alive acts that are required right here, right now.

Katagiri Roshi wrote:

Maintain a pure sense of practice. Just throw your ideas away and wholeheartedly devote yourself to what is arising right now. Do zazen wholeheartedly with careful attention. This means to arrange your daily life, make your rooms clean and quiet, wear neat clothes, make your mind calm and then, sit. It seems that we try to clean our lives with mud, cleaning general activity with general activity. This doesn’t work, it makes more mud and more confusion. So, we have to sink to the bottom of the ocean and experience pure practice, even if only once.

We don’t need to or can we escape our karmic lives. The wisdom of no escape. (Anila Pema Chodron)  We need a deeper investigation of Right View. Practice is to see our lives from the view of the pure energy of life itself. With this Right View, we cease to “improve” life by working from our own point of view and individual desire system. Our view becomes larger and not centralized around an “I”. Our practice becomes taking care of each being (sentient or insentient) including ourselves, that presents itself on our path. By taking care of the present from a pure life perspective, we plant the seeds for our outcomes in the future. 

At the end of Katagiri Roshi’s life, he often said, “Just live”. He called jijuyu zanmai (translated as  receive and use oneness) the simplicity of life. If we can live as our total personality then we can find freedom, ease and straightforwardness with the circumstances of our life. We can see our life from a universal telescope and treat it, in truth, as the one precious life that we receive. Receiving and using our life for the benefit of all, becomes “just as it is” and is not obstructed by our emotional reactivity and our desires. This simplicity is letting go and trusting the universe with our lives AND still being responsible and taking care of our actions.

I’d like to end with Okumura’s quote that I used in my last blog. I can’t hear it enough:

We are in the Way from beginningless beginning, and yet we are deluded human beings to the endless end. So our practice, our vow is endless. If we practice in that way, then each activity, each practice moment by moment, is the perfect manifestation of the buddha way.

— Okumura Roshi