Be a white ox in the open field.

We often see our lives as full of impediments or hindrances. When we look at our life in a linear way and with a progression of development, what we most notice is what gets in the way of that development. We worry about these blocks, we fight all of our obstacles and wish for them to go away. 

What we are not seeing when we fight with our obstacles, is the boundless vastness of life itself that appears in each moment. In the strictest sense, there are no impediments. I remember Daido Loori’s booming voice announcing during sesshin, “Be the barrier, be the barrier.”

Suzuki Roshi has written,

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 also how we can embrace our lives just as they are. … The true purpose is to see things as they are, to observe things as they are, and to let everything go as it goes. This is to put everything under control in its widest sense. Zen practice is to open up our small mind and find the mind that is everything.”

How can we feel this flow in our lives? How can our pure awareness of the source in everything make us more relaxed and able to see our life more stablely and clearly?

From “Cultivating the Empty Field, The silent Illumination of Zen Master Hongzhi,” translated by Taigen Dan Leighton:

“Vast and far-reaching without boundary, secluded and pure, manifesting light, this spirit is without obstruction…. Subtle but preserved, illumined and vast, also it cannot be spoken of as being or nonbeing, or discussed with images or calculations. Right in here the central pivot turns, the gateway opens. You accord and respond without laboring and accomplish without hindrance. Everywhere turn around freely, not following conditions, not falling into classifications. Facing everything, let go and attain stability. Stay with that just as that. Stay with this just as this. That and this are mixed together with no discriminations as to their places. ….. This is how truly to leave home, how home-leaving must be enacted.”

Face everything, let go and attain stability.

We have to step out of our sense that we can control what is arising or what is going to happen next. This is stepping out of leading our lives from our desire system of like and dislike. When we acknowledge that we are not in control, our deeper spirituality is born. This is the “don’t know mind” of Zen. This is beginning to see the “bothness” of life. We are both the flow and the hindrance. Humility is the acceptance of being human and learning to live with and take joy in the reality of Bothness.

Now we can find peace and harmony with our own imperfections and those of others and begin to live with spiritual security.

Hongzhi continues:

“Settled, without a grasping mind, the matter of oneness may be accomplished. Only do not let yourself interfere with things, and certainly nothing will interfere with you. Body and mind are one suchness; outside this body there is nothing else. The same substance and the same function, one nature and one form, all faculties and all object-dusts are instantly transcendent. So it is said, the sage is without self and yet nothing is not himself. Whatever appears is instantly understood, and you know how to gather it up or how to let it go. Be a white ox in the open field. Whatever happens, nothing can drive him away.”