Sunday, 7 April 2019


306. 'To study the Buddha Way,' says Dogen, 'is to study the self.' Does this mean that Zen has no interest in anything beyond the self? Helpfully, if we follow Dogen, we soon learn that 'to study the self is to forget the self ' and in this self-forgetting, we are open to 'the ten thousand things'. But how can focusing on the self, attending to the self, possibly lead us to forget the self? The Zen response to our question is to invite us to practise zazen. Once we adopt the prescribed meditation posture on our cushions and start to focus on our breath and body awareness, we soon notice that we are not self-sufficient entities. For starters, we realize how dependent we are on our environment, especially on the air that embraces us. Moreover, in practising zazen with our eyes half open, we find that we are but one aspect of a very large picture. Sights and sounds break in upon us. And so the self is both lost and confirmed within a vast web of interconnections. Zen talks of mountains and rivers and the great wide earth, the sun and the moon and the stars, thus putting the stress on the natural world and our position within this world. But we can go further and realize that we also belong and function within a human society with its various institutions. Now, how do we stand, as Zen practitioners, in relation to these institutions?  

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