Monday, May 19, 2008

As-it-is mind is Buddha

On the inside of my Rakusu is the following line 'As-it-is mind is Buddha'. This is a variant of the the more familiar 'ordinary mind is Buddha' - a paradox that seems to sum up the Soto Zen approach very well.

In most forms of Buddhism, enlightenment tends to be regarded as something very remote and exotic. It is represented as a sort of perfect, almost divine, human being - supremely dignified, always kind, immune to suffering and any sort of vice. Well, life isn't much like that for most of us, so we wonder how we can get there from the mess where we are now. Such images, inspiring as they might seem, can make us feel even more imperfect. If we strive to acquire Buddhahood, this could encourage a dualistic perspective between self and other, between here and there, this and that. And such duality makes it more difficult. This duality is itself samsara, while non-duality is nirvana.

Mahayana Buddhism incorporates the concept of Buddha Nature - that is, that we are already Buddhas. It is easy to misunderstand this as teaching that we are carrying some sort of metaphysical entity 'inside' us, which is or becomes a Buddha, but that isn't what it really means.

Instead we just enter fully into the present moment and this very life we are living now. Deeply entering into the present moment, we find that it is not a point or a thin slice of life, but an ocean which we can go into more and more deeply. It includes all of our thoughts and feelings about ourselves and about the world. Excluding nothing, we realise that our entire sense of the past and the future are included as memories and anticipations. They exist now. Doing this we realise that we were deluded when we thought we could ever genuinely escape from the present moment.

Lo, I am with you always means when you look for God,
God is in the look of your eyes,
in the thought of looking, nearer to you than your self,
or things that have happened to you
There's no need to go outside.
- Rumi

A monk asked Baso, “Why do you teach that Mind is Buddha?”
Baso replied, “To stop a baby's crying.”
The monk asked, “ What is it like when the baby stops crying?”
Baso answered, “No Mind, no Buddha.”

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