by Derek Ayre
It is often thought that enlightenment rids the mind of imperfection, but this is not strictly true. Enlightenment needs to be thought of as the beginning of true personal growth - the beginning of a process of perfection and it does this by making all personality flaws more evident as they arise. It is at this point that a true Zen life really begins through the discipline of zazen - a necessary discipline to purify the mind and spirit. Zazen is a greatest "teacher" of all, greater than any book, piece of writing, or "authority" past or present and zazen alone can lead to greater self confidence and self esteem.
So how come these words are being written and read if zazen is all that is needed for spiritual growth? Let's look at an analogy...
If your back yard is very muddy, dirty water would suffice to help wash the mud away. The words written here should be regarded as that dirty water: they will wash away much of the mud that obscured the mind. But only practice (zazen) is the absolute pure, clear water that will purify the mind and allow the spirit (Buddha nature) to shine through into conscious awareness. And it does not matter what words are used as long as they have the power to inspire you to make your main aim in life to be the practice of zazen. So do not turn to me, or anyone else you come across, into an authority on Zen because there isn't any. There is only the way and the way is zazen, the practice of which can be taught in minutes. One simply need to sit erect and focus on the breath as if it it entering and leaving the lower abdomen, below the navel, to the exclusion of all other thought. Keep the eyes slightly open and gazing on a spot on the floor about 2/3 feet away - that's zazen.
A Zen teacher will appear when the time is right and that could be right now. It doesn't have to be a person you've known for any length of time longer than it would take to glance at him or her. You could be walking down the street and see drunk or drug addict totally unconscious, lying in the gutter. There is something to learn from this "teacher". A lesson in humility perhaps - you have an opportunity to help him, or you may have an opportunity to learn about the effects of alcohol or drugs. If you like to drink or experiment with drug for instance and he speaks to you about his experience, you may learn that he too started his habit in great moderation, but got taken over by the addictive power of it all. Of course whether such lessons would be appropriate or not would depend on your circumstances. A good exercise would be to look at some unpleasant circumstances you have experienced in your life and see if there was anything you learned from them - this may prove my point, or not!
Of course once a lesson is learned the Zen teacher is no longer needed for that particular lesson and you need to move on. That is what is meant, in my opinion by "when you find the Buddha, kill him". But remember, don't believe a word I say, look at it and move on, for I am no teacher, I'm just sharing my insights with you. And don't forget that there are some teachers that you may need to hang around for decades.
Zen is the paradox of all paradoxes! There may be one teacher who will say one thing and another who will say the complete opposite and both teachings would be valid. The teachings would not be contradictions so much as paradoxical truths. This would produce the mental struggle that would build the spiritual muscle strong enough to be able to see beyond all sense and reason.
Questions? I encourage you to or visit My Zen Blog
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