Burning the flame of your life

From Katagiri Roshi:

“Zazen is not a means to an end, it does not produce enlightenment. The zazen we do is shikan taza – just sitting. This type of zazen is to just become present in the process of zazen itself or wholehearted sitting. Enlightenment is not something you acquire after you have done zazen. Zazen is not a concept of the process. Zazen is to focus on the process itself.

All we have to do is what we are doing right now, right here. Whatever kind of experience we have through zazen is secondary. Whatever happens, all we have to do is to be constantly present right in the middle of the process of zazen. This is the beginning and also the end.”

Uchiyama Roshi translates Samadhi as right acceptance. Right Acceptance is to receive yourself and simultaneously the whole universe.

There is a great deal of difference between library understanding of Zen and zendo understanding. Daido Loori called the zendo and sesshin, a bull-shit detector. All of our concepts and ideas are stripped away. We begin to understand zazen nakedly and at its core, we are taught not to hold on to anything. Not only do we not cling but we also radically accept or radically include all things that arise. This is non-preference in Zen. We have to suspend the thought-function of the mind and activate the awareness function. Entering pure awareness or process, subject and object can drop away. In this functioning, we can receive ourselves (our historic karmic process) and the whole universal energies simultaneously.

This simultaneity is sometimes called identification. Not only subject and object identify as one functioning but the particular phenomenon and the universe identify together. Identification means that your daily life (each phenomena that arises) is exactly the same as the source of human life. Katagiri Roshi writes, “What is practice? Practice is to manifest the object of your activity as a being that exists in eternal time.”

The underlying message of Dogen-Zenji is often similar to this. He works from the basis of non-substantiation, which the Prajna Paramita sutras and Nagarjuna so explicitly demonstrated but he adds the component of practice — how do we live our ordinary lives from the perspective of the emptiness of all things? Dogen asks how we can take care of constructed reality with the understanding of negation.

Katagiri Roshi wrote,

If you want to live with spiritual security in the midst of constant change, you have to burn the flame of your life force in everything you do. If you think you have lots of time and many choices in your life, you don’t believe me when I say that you have to pay attention to every moment. When a moment comes, whatever happens, just face your life as it really is, giving away any ideas of good or bad and try your best to carry out what you have to do. You can do this; you can face your life with a calm mind and burn the flame of your life in whatever you do.