on October the second, Tuesday, the year 2001
by Shodo Harada Roshi.
On September 11, simultaneously, terrorist attacks on Washington and New York City were reported to the entire world, making people tremble with great fear; today we greet the third Tuesday since that day. During this time, in all countries people have been insecure in their hearts, facing economic and political situations that are continually uncertain. With each day, especially for the American people, the insecurity grows stronger.
In addition to the buildings that were destroyed in New York City, the number of those who have been reported dead or missing has risen into the six thousands. Without a possibility of there being any clear number, the digging continues. Countless volu nteers come from everywhere to help with the digging and clearing up, and we also hear news of the deep sympathy and deep pain of everyone joining together in this effort. Today's insecurity throughout the world and also the distrust within swirls and wh irlpools. How should we see this? How should we think about it? What can we believe in? We have received many questions and messages asking about this.
This world should be a joyful place, and we want to be this joy. This is our continuing vow. But the Buddha said clearly that the world is a place of suffering. Hearing this, we think that Buddhism is dark, that it doesn't go with our wish and our way of seeing, and people often dislike Buddhism for this reason. Yet to think that life is only a happy and pleasurable thing is also indulgent. This kind of horrendous event and catastrophe comes, and our mind is confused; we panic and we lose track of the ground under our feet.
When there is a calamity like this, even if it doesn't touch us directly, we are not seeing life correctly if we think we are alive only for having a good time. We will pass through life superficially and without depth, and at the end we all have to ac cept death. Even if we live a long life healthily, finally the problem of suffering comes up. The Buddha said to know that life is suffering, and these words seem so cold and severe, but they are the words of someone who, up until the age of 29, had been through all kinds of scholastic and life experiences. From front to back he had experienced life, and yet within that he still asked, What is the true joy of being human? He sought the deepest truth and joy of being human. Shaka Buddha saw that even if we go to the very limits of our brain's potential we do not resolve the problem of human suffering. Understanding this, Gautama Shaka, Siddhartha, then realized that most important and determined vow of his life.
The pain of being alive, and the pain of those who know sickness and the solitude and isolation of being old, is written about by people of old: "Will I go first, will another person die first?" We hear about the deep sadness of the one who has to go f irst.
In either case we have to walk that path of dying. We leave our beloved spouses and children: we either live when they have to die, or we die while they are still living. This is how things work. We also have to encounter people with whom we don't get along--we have the ongoing karmic affiliation of meeting with these people. When we end up having to live with people we deeply dislike, our state of mind can become very complex.
Then there is the suffering of working as hard as we possibly can yet being unable to attain what we want the most, and what we work for wholeheartedly. This is the way it is when we live according to our body's wishes, according to our desires and ins tincts. If we count them there truly are eight pains and four sufferings (the expression in Japanese for being miserable is "eight pains and four sufferings"). There is not even a single day when we can go beyond every one of the challenges and sufferings in our life. Buddha teaches this with certainty.
And why does this endless suffering keep arising? What is the source of that suffering? The Buddha was not only teaching that there is suffering but also the reason for this continual suffering. We suffer because we gather and hold on to things. In our mother's uterus we receive a physical body, and this is the beginning of gathering. We are born, and from then on with our eyes and ears and nose and mouth and body we gather and collect. On top of that, we gather possessions, we gather money and knowled ge, we gather family and relatives. We are greedy and want to collect more and more. When we receive more, we are happy, and when we lose it, we are sad, always mixing happiness and sadness. We are sometimes happy, sometimes sad, sometimes in misery. If w e summarize the whole thing, there is rarely a day without suffering, and we could add it all up in that one word, suffering. If we don't live life in a superficial way, if we choose to see it as it actually is, this becomes clear. If we see the tr uth as it really, deeply is, and don't deny the truth of how things are, then this is how it looks.
Why do people collect things? Why do we collect? We collect because we are blindly and unawakenedly greedy. We are blindly greedy, and the root source of that greed is ego. That collected ego must be let go of, or we have no way to stop our greed, and we cannot be relieved of this kind of suffering. If we do not let go of our gathered ego, and let go of it completely, we cannot be liberated from this. This is the ultimate realization of the Buddha, the awakening to the serenity of cutting away everythi ng. This is the serenity of nirvana that goes beyond birth and death. This is within our mind. We are drowned in our ego and pushed and pulled around by it, and this is why we are more and more miserable, why the suffering deepens.
If we let go of this, we know naturally the quiet clear mind with which we are already endowed and we can see it clearly. To put it another way, will we live embracing that naturally quiet mind, or will we live in the fever of the egoistic mind, always in a hurry? This is decided by whether or not a person sees wisely and can live in accordance with this wisdom. This is how the Buddha taught us. People really pray for peace, we all pray for peace in our country and in the world and that all people may know peace, but since we can't let go of that ego, we still conflict. The Buddha taught us that if we let go of that ego our original nature is already quiet and comfortable and we can spontaneously be that state of mind with which we were born. To realiz e that is the goal of our being born and being alive. He taught that from his own experience.
That quiet serene mind we have from birth, why did we forget it? How can we awaken to it again? How can we cut that mind of greed and ego? For this the Buddha gave us the Eightfold Path of how to live in that clear way: Right View, Right Resolve, Right Speech, Right Conduct, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right MIndfulness, Right Concentration.
But while these are called an eightfold path, they are all coming from one truly clear mind. A truly clear mind is one of no extraneous thinking, one that is not not attached to, or caught on, even one single thought. Sometimes it is described as not t hinking about anything at all, but in fact it is to have thoughts but not be moved around by them, not follow them around. That is the point. It doesn't mean to not see and not hear, or to close down our eyes and ears; that is not the right way to live. W e need to see clearly the pain and misery in the world, and see the anger correctly. But neither should we become confused and deluded by these things and make the anger, resentment, and confusion even greater. If we pile insecurity upon insecurity the ac tuality gets all the more confusing.
The Buddha's meaning of clear pure mind is to see correctly and not be confused and pulled along, to not be mistaken in our clear view of things, to see what is the source and what is really happening, and to not lose our sharp clear perception and sta te of mind.
That September 11th attack was on the sixth day of osesshin. When we heard the news there were full taut people training there who could see, beyond explanation, the best state of mind to be with in this time. Thanks to this, since then as well, people have been able to see clearly and be in this time with a clear state of mind. They could see the necessary way to live at a time like this, being within the pain and misery, but without confusion and without taking the focus off what is going on. I heard this from many people.
Ever since this tragedy we are all hearing the same media reports and information and falling into the same hole. Within this we are very likely to become weak in our exhalation. What this means is that when we are in fear, we depend on our inhalation. Because we usually do our inhalation naturally, it is easily affected by circumstances. The exhalation is done with more conscious intention. Our inner attention is working more with the exhalation, we put our awareness more deeply into the exhalation, a nd as the exhalation is deeper we become more stable and balanced. When we receive a shock, we immediately get very tense. When we get tense our exhalation gets incomplete.
Especially at a time like this, from many different directions we have to take more responsibility than usual, and we are even more liable to get tense. All the more so if we get tense and short in our exhalation our bright clear wisdom has a hard time working at its best. Our horizons become narrowed and we ignore things which we could see if we were calm. The Buddha said to not repay hate with hate, that love is the only cure. These very words seem so obvious, and nothing special. We give birth to mo re hatred; in one thought after the next that hatred increases. This is something we all have experienced. If we don't bring forth the courage to cut this ring of hate, there will never be a resolution.
The Buddha also said that to not conflict is the teaching of Buddhism, to not hate is the teaching of Buddhism, and to not resent is the teaching of Buddhism. This is not the sect of Buddhism but the clear correct way of being of an awakened person, th e teaching of an awakened person's way of life. For each of us to be awakened and live in a clear state of mind without hating and insulting and despising each other: this is the way to build a path of peace, and it has to be a true, deep vow of all of us.
The Buddha himself saw his own country defeated and destroyed by the neighboring country, Shaie. But the Buddha vowed for the peace of ALL humankind and did not respond to this attack with further conflict, knowing that would not resolve the problem. F or eighty years without resting for even one day the Buddha worked at this vow.
The Buddha awakened people's true wisdom, and this is the mysterious way of the non-two. While you and I are two individuals, we are connected in a way that is beyond being two, our mind is connected in this way. I am living at one with this world, lov ing it, and it receives me; there are various positions, but there are not two separate worlds. We help and support each other, and this one world is born. Likes and dislikes are relative, but if we don't get caught on superficial differences, we can know our human essence, our true nature. We can see it clearly, and then ugly and pretty, win and lose, these human emotions of dualism can be forgotten, and we can see all people equally with a huge abundant mind. This is the way of awakened people of true w isdom. To live and experience that is what Zen is teaching.
As the Buddha also said,
This is a very subtle emotional place, This is about the place of human dualism that makes us excited, and people get excited in this way to the point that they will even lose their lives over a conflict. Going beyond any wisdom, people give their live s to the conflict and fight violently from that state of mind, becoming insulting, blind, and ignorant. "The moon at the top of the sky, even if the wind blows, it doesn't move at all." We have these words to guide us. If we are complimented that is fine, or if we are insulted, that is fine too; if we succeed, that is fine, and if we fail, that is fine too. It is fine to suffer and fine to be sad, fine to live, fine to die, fine to win, fine to lose, not caught on anything at all. This is the ultimate sta te of mind of Zen.
To be able to live in this adult state of mind, that which sages and saints teach us as the highest quality way of living, is most important. Even if we cannot do that yet, we still need to leave a world that our children and their children can travel in safely. That is still our responsibility. Even one day sooner we need to return our world to where it is not necessary to be overcome by terrorists and have to live in a guarded way, always suspicious, with all of our defenses always up. That is our re sponsibility.
|copyright 2001, Shodo Harada Roshi, all rights reserved|