Saturday, December 18, 2010

Refuse The Reward

Dave, my friend, where have you been? I haven't seen you in a couple of days.

Sorry, i've been busy around the house, and, to tell you the truth, mulling over what you've been telling me.

Well you're back, that's the good news. So, are you going to answer the question i asked you last time? You ignored it on Thursday.

What question? You didn't ask me anything.

Sure i did. Even had a question mark after it, and as far as i know everybody recognizes that as the sign of a question.


Hey, don't worry about it for now. Just think about it later. So where did we leave off? You've accepted the aspiration to develop bōdaishin, committed to using the henro trail to break off your love affair with yourself and to become a bodhisattva in order to help all sentient beings, and committed to walk the entire trail or die trying. Sound about right?

Sounds like what you've said, but i'm not sure it sounds like what i can do.

Ha, ha, ... don't worry, nobody is expecting perfection. If you were already perfect, you might not even need to walk the trail — although you probably still would, but for other reasons. Becoming a henro takes time and that's what walking the trail gives you. Time to think, time to experience, and time to simply Be, unbothered, with few hassles, and in a protective and supportive environment.

We spend countless hours of our lives making up unbelievably incredible stories of what life is, what life should be, what OUR life should be like, and on and on, and then getting angry when it doesn't turn out the way we said it should be, the way we planned it. We get furious at the audacity of life to ignore our stories, the stories that aren't just important to us, but essential,. We get furious at life's willingness to play out differently than we thought it should.

The purpose of walking the henro trail is to put ourselves in an environment that allows us to give up that relentless focus on ourselves. To put ourselves for an extended period of time in a state where we let go of our usual ego-centered way of thinking that cherishes ourselves above everyone and everything else.

As Kōshō Uchiyama implies in his book Opening The Hand of Thought, walking the henro trail is an opportunity for discovering the life that is connected to everybody and everything. It is an opportunity to see each and every encounter in each and every moment as what your life truly is.

To do that, you have to surrender to the trail, surrender to the henro's life, release the need to analyze everything, to categorize, and subdivide all of your experiences. You allow the trail to pull you along at its speed, with its priorities, with its daily schedule, in the direction it pulls you. You drop your goals and plans, allowing the trail to dictate your days instead of you trying to do it yourself.

As you do this, the trail will protect you. The trail will be marked and maintained. Strangers will offer assistance and advice. Lodging and food will be found. The temples will be visited. All without your need to be in control. The henro's practice is simply to surrender to the trail and accept its protection.

The aim of the first section of the trail, the Hosshin no Dōjō, was to begin this process of surrender. Letting go of your plans, your hopes, your goals. Letting go of your usual deep seated need to be in control. It was to begin the process of letting all your thoughts, your analyzing, your discriminating, ... let all of that go. The first several weeks was to slow you down, both mentally and physically, so that you would arrive at the Shugyō no Dōjō calm, quiet, and open.

As you being walking this second section, you should have given up any goals you had, given up anything you had hoped to gain by completing the walk. You know what your aspiration is, but beyond that you have no personal goals; you will simply walk, day after day, accepting the experience as it comes.

In the Shōbōgenzō Zuimonki, Dogen says this about this frame of mind:

Zen Master Daie said, “You must practice the Way with the attitude of a person owing a vast debt and being forced to return it despite being penniless. If you have this frame of mind, it is easy to attain the Way.”

In the Shinjinmei [1] , we read; “The supreme Way is not difficult, just refuse to have preferences.” Only when you cast aside the mind of discrimination will you be able to accept it immediately. To cast aside discriminating mind is to depart from ego.

Do not think that you learn the buddha-dharma for the sake of some reward for practicing the Buddha-Way. Just practice the buddha-dharma for the sake of the buddha-dharma. Even if you study a thousand sutras and ten thousand commentaries on them, or even if you have sat zazen until your cushion is worn out, it is impossible to attain the Way of the buddhas and patriarchs if this attitude is lacking. Just casting body and mind into the buddha-dharma and, (practicing) along with others without holding onto previous views, you will be in accordance with the Way immediately.

Don't assume you know anything. Don't assume you know nothing. Don't assume you are a good henro or a bad henro. Don't make any assumptions. Simply be open as you being this section. Another quote that's pertinent for this stage of the walk is from Suzuki Roshi's Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind:

The practice of Zen mind is beginner's mind. The innocence of the first inquiry—what am I?—is needed throughout Zen practice. The mind of the beginner is empty, free of the habits of the expert, ready to accept, to doubt, and open to all the possibilities. It is the kind of mind which can see things as they are, which step by step and in a flash can realize the original nature of everything.

This is going to be a tough section of the walk. Physically it's much easier than the first section, but mentally it will demand a lot of you. The key is to practice diligently with both your body and mind. To persevere no mater what, to keep the faith, the belief that the henro trail will show you what you need to see, when you need to see it, even if it's not obvious each and every day.

This is the Dōjō of Shugyō, the Dojo of Practice, of Discipline. Next time we'll talk about what that means.


Anonymous said...

The notion of the 4 dojos didn't do much for me on my this part it was proof of me living too much in my head. Working in a stressful environment, one day recently walking back from lunch I was contemplating the dojos of I walked into the office I saw a sea of cubicles, heads bobbing up and down..and then SMACK one of those post henro epiphanies...this is the we are now is where we practice. This has created a noticable shift in my way of being.


Lao Bendan said...

Yes,, we are now on the same page. Most people say that they prepare at home in order to be able to walk the henro trail. I have said many times, in truth, the henro trail is where you prepare for the "henro" you commit to as you return to your everyday life. Maybe i should start calling it the "Dojo of Everyday Life."