Wherever Dharma is being manifested it is always this state of awareness here with each one of us. There are no barriers except for what we erect in our thinking minds. You can’t overcome thoughts by trying to suppress thoughts, but that’s what we often do when we begin. We don’t know what else to do when we sit down, even though the teacher tries to make it very clear: just do your practice.
We’re going back to Dogen’s words to carry us along a little further. This talk is taken from “Awakening in the Marketplace” which is found in Dogen’s Extensive Record.
Where is the marketplace? That’s where you are right now. That means it’s at your work, at your home, out on the street, driving your car, sitting in the Zen Center—the marketplace is wherever you are. Dogen says to awaken there.
In this floating life, fame and profit exist only for a moment. The floating life is the ephemeral world. At the same time, it’s Buddha Mind, if you realize that the only thing that keeps you separate from Buddha Mind is what you’re doing in your head. Wake up! If you’re thrashing about in your head, you will cause the world around you to be in chaos. If you’re trying to intellectually grasp what I’m talking about, you miss it. We can only practice, and it’s through our practice that realization comes. With realization comes manifestation, and then you are a living Buddha. A Buddha or a bodhisattva is a person who lives continuously in samadhi wherever they are.
Why should we wait long kalpas for the causes and conditions for nirvana? You don’t have to wait for anything. I struggled with that. I told myself I wasn’t good enough and that I had to make a special effort. You do have to make a special effort: the effort of no effort. Don’t misunderstand that. The great Bankei said, “Live in this unborn mind.” Where is this unborn mind? Right here! This now. Not caught in the material form, but not pushing it away. Not caught in the judgmental picking and choosing mind, but working with it in its purity: as it is. If you work with things as they are—not as you think they should be—you’re always ok.
Therefore, sages who have attained the way and verified the result of practice quickly abandon fame for the mountains and wild lands. Wise ones who have reached the other shore and entered the ultimate rank rapidly take themselves to forest and streams. Don’t we yearn for that kind of freedom? To go back into the deep mountains, to a place far from worldly concerns? Are we unlucky to be in the city with its flashing lights, crowds, traffic, helicopters and sirens? Dogen is chiding us, in part, for yearning to be elsewhere.
Doesn’t this seem better for fully grasping the matter of mind and objects? Because of this, they erase the traces of the way within their lifetimes. We are constantly running around looking for the perfect situation, the perfect place, where we can settle down and practice. See if this doesn’t sound familiar: “If I only had the time. If only the stock market had gone the other way I would have had the money. If only the Hazy Moon wasn’t in that crappy place with gunshots and terrible parking.” But to Dogen, there is no “if only.”
The true person beyond study does not postpone abandonment of worldly pursuits. However, I do not yearn for mountains and forests, and do not depart from the neighborhoods of people. Lotus flowers blossom within the red furnace; above the blue sky there is a white elm. How many of you put off practice? How many of you don’t show up because you’ve got something more important to do? And as for the red furnace, where is it? You’re the red furnace! This bloody body. These bloody emotions. This bloody disliking and grasping. That’s where the lotus of purity blooms. What is that lotus? Wake up! Don’t understand it. Experience it. Are you here now? Here in the flames: can you handle it? Can you take care of this? Sure! There is a secret way out: the secret is to stay here.
There are actually no clouds in the sky and no mist in the mountains, so the moon advancing toward suchness is high and clear. He’s talking about the illusory body of appearances, which are like clouds that obscure the sky. We sit in samadhi to see through the illusion that obscures reality. Modern physics, quantum physics, is pointing to this now. In the quantum world there is no separation. In the particle world, the material world, we rise up—but where does the particle come from? Where do you come from? You come from this great dharmakaya: this now, this great mind.
“The moon advancing toward suchness” means as it is. If I don’t impose my intellectual understanding, trying to force things into the way I want, it is the way it is. And as-it-is is empty and impermanent. Sit in samadhi, and wonderful things can occur. It will not fail you. Trapped in the six senses, you are confined to a narrow band of illusory existence. The particle rises up into the quantum plane and then it collapses. Where is that particle? It can never be lost, according to the physicists. Are you a particle? Absolutely. Hundreds of billions and trillions of particles, probably more than that. They tell you it can’t be lost, and they can’t track it. The finest technology can’t explore that realm. But you can.
There may be bamboo fences and flowery hedges, but the wind that follows conditions does not obstruct the echoes of the Dharma. This illusory world is no obstacle! Your life is no obstacle! This amazing Dharma flows effortlessly. You are it! “Well, what do you mean?” Wake up! Are you here? Is this outside of that aware mind? No! This is it! And it flows effortlessly, without hindrance. They’ll talk sometimes about the moon reflecting in the water. It means this world does not impede the enlightened state. The enlightened state does not impede this world. And that’s you.
Why should I necessarily stay in lofty halls and great temples and be bound up in the snares and nets of right and wrong? Here we are, in a lofty hall, practicing Buddha Dharma. But Dogen cautions us not to get caught up in dogma, in adherence to form, trapped in the material world. And that’s probably where 99 percent of the practice of Buddha Dharma is today. If this is where you find yourself practicing, then do it. But don’t get rigidly caught in a knowing attitude—insisting that there is only one way to practice. It’s true that there is only one way: the way of no-self.
For this reason, it is better to play within the streets and marketplaces and go beyond the threshold of names and forms. Play on the streets where you live! And if you’re in samadhi, non-distracted awareness, you go beyond the threshold of names and forms. You’re not constantly looking out here judging what you see as good or bad or right or wrong. It is as it is: suchness. And that doesn’t impede anything. Continuously wake up wherever you are.
Who would cherish this stinking skin bag and consider it precious? Who would consider it desirable to reject these trivial and complicated dwellings? Neither grasping nor pushing away. Now, wake up! Wake up!
Furthermore, the transformative presence of Shakyamuni Buddha in the world for 80 years is as unreal as the moon in the water. The helpful methods for 28 generations after his death are empty like reflections in a mirror. This amazing Dharma, this template, isn’t unreal, it’s here! We can work with it! But you can’t grasp it. You can’t hold it. The Shakyamuni, see, he’s an image. He’s a shadow, as unreal as the moon in water. Don’t worship images from the past. Maezumi Roshi—where is he? A shadow. A reflection. But, oh! Aren’t we grateful that he continues to turn the wheel?
Those who teach people and expound sutras fall into the pitfall of human clinging and ego attachment. Those who try to make something intellectually out of the are just posturing. If you think this form, with the robes and incense, is the Way, you’re missing it. This temple is our practice touchstone. We come here when we are hurt, and we are taken care of.
When you seek Buddha outside mind, Buddha changes into a demon. Do not carry the concept of “Buddha” in your head or he’s become a ghost, a demon! Then you don’t see the living Buddha. Buddha means awake. Buddha Dharma means awake mind. This is the awake mind. You are it. You will find it nowhere else. If you don’t wake up, there will never be a Buddha in the center of your mandala.
Similarly if you’re delighted with pleasures, pleasures will transform into pain. Pure lands and corrupted, unclean lands are both merely coming and going within a dream. Don’t attach to this material world—and we do—we get stuck here. But you can’t hold it. Show me the moment you came up these stairs for morning service. You can’t. This is the illusory dream-world. If you reject it, you’re wrong. If you’re pulled into it, you’re wrong. That’s what the great Hongzhi says, “Don’t be trapped in the emptiness of inside or caught in the movement on the outside.” There is no inside and no outside! If you stay in samadhi, then this perception of separation drops and you enter into the world of oneness.
Merely coming and going—a dream within a dream—how could they be yearned for by awakened ones? Let it be, as it is. And then work from there. The next time you sit down to practice and you think, “Well, this is a shitty sitting,” or “That was a good one,” understand that you’re putting another head on top of your head. If you stop doing that, like the Ummon said, “Every day is a good day.” And he meant it.
Good and bad karma are the order and disorder among drunks, not practiced by sober people. How pitiful are those who dislike delusion with their delusions as if cleaning mud with more mud. You’re trying to get rid of your delusions with your deluded mind! That’s picking up mud and rubbing it on mud to make it nice and clean. Don’t try to rid yourself of delusion with your knowing, discriminating, egocentric consciousness. Do your practice. Dogen says at one point in the Shobogenzo, “Do your practice. And practice means enlightenment.” If you can truly stay in samadhi, you’re enlightened. If you can truly do nothing but count the breath—no separation—not you counting, but just the counting of the breath, you’ll be enlightened. You’ll see through the illusion.
How foolish are those who seek Buddha while already embracing Buddha, just like searching for water in the middle of water. We should know that truth and falsehood depend on completeness or incompleteness of realization. It all depends on your practice, see? So if you think you’re the victim of bad karma, you’re in your head. It is as it is. Wake up and take care of it.
Who can transcend discriminating mind and rest in the realm of the Buddhas? Don’t place a heavy load on your shoulders. A light step does not injure the legs. Don’t you see that the morning marketplace and the battlefield are the original place of awakening for complete penetration of freedom? Who’s there between your ears, behind your eyes? Empty it out, empty it out. No one but you can do it. Don’t you see?
Why aren’t taverns and houses of prostitution the classrooms of naturally real Tatagathas? Show me something that is outside of the Way and I’ll listen to your silly arguments. But you won’t find it. And anything that you contrive is putting another head on top of your head.
Without question, at the place of discussion, silence and walking meditation, the adornments of the lotus treasure naturally follow. At the very place you practice, the treasure naturally follows, you don’t have to worry about it. Non-distracted awareness wherever you are. Then watch how you allow the trivia of the egocentric mind to pull you away.
While waking up, sleeping, advancing, or halting, the fulfillment of complete, perfect enlightenment never ceases. Open your eyes. Stay awake. Pull your mind back onto the path. It opens up in front of you.
This is already an unconventional model, but how is it opposed to the style of home leavers? I only regret that I have few companions in this practice.
A talk given at the Hazy Moon Zen Center on Oct. 11, 2008.