Commentary by Gendo
What does it means to practice Zen? After sitting in a peaceful Zendo, you and I have to return to a world where people do not understand, to a family that is loud and busy, to a driveway still surrounded by snow.
How do we figure out the connection between practice and everyday life? If we don’t do that, meditation is small and idealistic.
These days, everyone is into mindfulness meditation. In hospitals they say it is good for your health, in business they say a mindful worker is a better worker.
All that may be true, but mindfulness meditation with some goal in mind is not true mindfulness. Mindfulness is fullness of mind and mind includes everything: it includes the peaceful zendo and the dirty snow, kind people and nasty people, good days and bad days, healthy people and sick ones. Sitting quietly may be useful training, but the practice is everything we do. An old teacher said, " if you are going to cultivate immovability, when you see people simply do not see people's right and wrong, good and bad, faults and problems; then you own essential nature is unmoved."
My Zen teacher used to say: “You have to swallow God and the Devil!” He also said, “Everybody wants to go to heaven. But you can’t stay in heaven. There are no toilets in heaven.” In other words, don’t get stuck on perfection. Don’t just transfer your greed to some spiritual ideal.
In the Hearts Sutra, we chant, “Form is emptiness, emptiness is form”. Buddhism teaches that there are two truths: absolute truth and the relative truth of everyday life. Both are true. Watch out! Neither one can be fixated.
Meditation practice is about seeing things truly. Our Western culture came up with science in order to know the truth In India the truth problem was seen as an inside job: how do we know the world as a matter of conscious awareness? What gets in the way of our happiness, what causes confusion?
Both science and Buddhism conclude that to see clearly you must be detached. You have to set aside personal preferences. In science they call it “being an objective observer.” If you test drugs and are paid by the drug company, no one will trust your results.
In Buddhism we say “take an attitude of neither indifference nor attachment towards all things.” In order to ski down a steep hill successfully, you have to see things clearly. You have know what it means to do that well. But you also need to know what it means to crash. If you get too excited about success, you will underestimate danger. The middle way, wisdom or equanimity, holds both success and failure.
So when you sit in meditation or what we call zazen, sit without preferences. No preferences! Sit with no preferences and know the fullness of your own mind.