Sunday, February 6, 2011

Do You Have A Contractor's License?

Undertaking building projects without the appropriate knowledge can get you in trouble.

To talk of our being alive implies at the same time that there is also a world of phenomena in which we live. We usually assume that the world existed long before we were born and that our birth is our entrance onto the stage of an existing world. At the same time, we often assume that our death means our departure from this world, and that after our death this world continues to exist. Within this way of thinking a fabrication is taking shape which is not the actualization of reality itself. The actuality of the world that I live in and experience is not merely a conglomeration of ideas or abstractions.

How To Cook Your Life
Kōshō Uchiyama

For as long as i can remember the driving question in my life has been how to see/experience/understand/live this "actualization of reality itself." What is reality? How can it include the Dalai Lama and Daido Loori in one hand and suicide bombers and terrorists in the other? How can it include compassionate love in one hand and blind prejudice and hatred in the other? How can it include a delicious gourmet meal in one hand and a loud fart and then a sprint to the toilet in the other?

Too many people, i think, approach Zen with the thought that all of the "bad stuff" will be explained away if they simply sit on their zafu long enough and listen to enough dharma talks. As Uchiyama points out, though, "Within this way of thinking a fabrication is taking shape which is not the actualization of reality itself."

Zen is about looking for those "fabrications" and weeding them out as we find them. If that's not the focus of your practice, then i'd agree that you might be a Buddhist, but not a follower of the Buddha. As i have quoted Basho before,

Do not search for the masters of old
Search for what they sought.

Fact is, i don't really call myself a Buddhist. I'm a follower of the Buddha, yes, but a Buddhist? Not really. Only those that know me very, very well would even know about Buddhism in my life because i never talk about it. I look at life in very simple terms. It's not something i know, it's something i try to be, something i try to actualize. For me, life isn't about collecting knowledge, rituals, and practices, but about continually looking, day after day after day, for mental baggage that isn't needed and trying to throw it away.

Yes, i admit to running out to the trash bin and pulling much of the junk back out in order to secret it away once again, but that's OK because i know that i'll eventually be able to throw it away again some day. The process is continual and perpetual — i don't work on a schedule. I don't judge, compare, rank, rate, or evaluate. I just keep practicing. Some days i may come across as an asshole, others i may come across as a nice guy. My job is to see why and work to get better.

The key here is that to get better you don't work to improve. You don't better yourself by improving, by adding to who you are; you get better through the process of elimination, by getting rid of what's of no use, hindrances, bad habits, pattens, and thoughts. As all of these slowly disappear, you notice improvement. You don't make it your aim, but it happens.

Until then, keep actively looking for those fabrications you are constructing without even realizing it. Find them, tear them down, and vow to never replace them.

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