Zen Buddhist Practice 002. Awakening
Lesson №002 on Zen practice methods.
Brief English text of the talk (without exercises at the beginning) see below.
Zen Buddhist Practice, lesson 002. Awakening
At the previous lesson we discussed how to clean up in our mind some free space for the practice. But usually that free space keeps being free not for long. Habitual concerns or reactions arise, which bring the mind back into cluttered state, with weak awareness.
In those loaded and weakly aware states we lose a lot of time, experiencing something that Buddhism calls dukkha – suffering, dissatisfaction, disharmony.
Buddhist practice offers healing from disharmony, from dissatisfaction, from suffering. But you might say, it's not possible: liberation from suffering is a lie or self-deception. We live in real world, and various conditions can happen.
Indeed, it's not always possible to avoid pain. Pain can happen, conditions can bring it. But suffering is something that spins on top of pain, created by extra processes of the mind. It's possible to be experiencing pain but not losing harmonious, wholesome overall feeling.
Here is the essence of the Buddhist path: not hoping for complete disappearance of unpleasant sensations, not trying to wall from them or to hide. But to accept the pleasant and the unpleasant without grasping, without excessive agitations or exaggerations. Then pain would be just a small signal, natural signal of self-regulation. For example, fire burns a hand. It's a signal for withdrawing the hand – that's it. When we sensitively perceive and answer to signals, then we don't remain in unwholesome states. Painful signals don't grow and don't remain. Imagine that a hand of a person lies in fire, and he suffers: «Oh, it's painful, oh, how I'm suffering!» The man suffers more and more, he could reason about unavoidable nature of suffering, instead of just withdrawing the hand. This example seems silly, it couldn't happen, but actually it happens like that with human suffering in ordinary life. Instead of answering the signal, correcting situation and walking further, people keep suffering. Some people dream of getting rid of any pain at all, forever. Some spiritual teachers promise that practice would transfer you to another world, where pains don't exist at all.
In his youth the Buddha studied under hermits who taught to not depend on body's signals. Buddha learned to live on one grain of rice per day. Though the hunger was very painful, he learned to not depend on hunger. But his body was dying from starvation. Thus Buddha realized that that way had no sense. Buddha accepted the body and the environment: when you sense something pleasant – you accept that «pleasant» phenomenon; when you sense something unpleasant – you accept that «unpleasant» phenomenon. Not trying to hide somewhere, to run away; not losing harmony. And then all those pleasant and unpleasant things don't grow and don't [overwhelmingly] embrace you, don't enslave you.
That is the true path of liberation from suffering. The pleasant and the unpleasant are just small signals, particularities which naturally come and go. Without ill reacting they pose no problems.
But we have habits to be embraced by pleasant things, to cling to them, so after that releasing is painful. And we have habits to battle against unpleasant things, so that a little signal can grow to the scale of universal catastrophe.
Thus the real problem is not in what conditions happen to be. The problem is how the processes of our mind go. Do we cling and get enslaved – or we remain free and in harmony.
So, that is the real question: how to remain in harmony and contentment? Whatever conditions happen?
A simple answer – realize your emptiness. In fact, there are no hooks which could really hook us. It's like space: anything could go through space – storms, tornadoes, but the space itself doesn't become stormy and doesn't get carried away.
Only we ourselves manifest some hooks, we identify ourselves with something, and then something start to hook us.
There was an interesting story of Huineng. He awakened without any Buddhist practices and meditations. He just gathered wood in forests, sold it and thus made living. Once he heard a monk reading «Diamond Sutra» in a house:
– Abiding nowhere, give rise to the mind.
(Or, as I prefer to translate it, "let the mind appear", or "let the mind manifest").
Huineng heard it: «abiding nowhere». But I am here; how possible is to be nowhere? «Let the mind manifest».
What does actually manifest here?
Could you realize that here is no «you»?
What does manifest here?
«Mind» in Chinese is the same word as «heart».
Let the heart manifest.
All this what is being perceived now – is it the heart?
If you imagine all this in frozen state, then this is a collection of objects.
The heart is one of the items, it's in the chest.
But in the flux there are no frozen objects.
No abode anywhere.
No item «heart», no item «me», no «mind».
What manifests – that manifests.
This is that. Let it manifest.
And then there are no hooks, nobody to suffer. Nobody to be not free.
Try to realize, to memorize and to apply this phrase. «Abiding nowhere, let the mind manifest».
It means «manifesting is that, what is manifesting».
Pain from fire manifests. Withdrawing of hand manifests.
There is no lack of freedom.
There is no need to liberate.
You are abiding nowhere; manifests what manifests.