Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Everyday Mind

One of the descriptions of "everyday mind" that i particularly like comes from that famous spiritual classic "Canon PowerShot A720IS Camera User Guide." In it, near the beginning, you find this description:

Shooting Still Images
1. Press the power button
2. Select a shooting mode
3. Aim the camera at the subject
4. Press the shutter button lightly to set the focus
5. Without changing anything else, press the shutter button all the way to shoot

Make the decision to begin, to participate.
Select the appropriate behavior for your location.
Choose an appropriate subject and focus your attention on it.
Focus. Lightly. Don't force this, simply allow your focus to be where it belongs.

Yada, yada, yada,... i.e, based on your aspirations, based on your intention to participate in the process, complete all of the requisite preparations. Then,

Without changing anything else, press the button to carry out the intended action.

That's the key — without changing anything. Your preparations are complete, you've done all that needs doing; stop analyzing, stop thinking about it, stop wondering if everything is right, if anything can be better... Without changing anything, simply press the button and begin.

This should sound like:
1. Walk over to your zafu
2. Select shamatha, vipashana, shikantaza, chanting, or whatever you intend to do
3. Focus your mind
4. Adjust your legs and rock back and forth a few times to settle in
5. Without changing anything else, begin to sit.

I'm telling you, those people at Canon are marvelous Buddhist practitioners.

Just by looking at the words, "everyday mind" seems to mean that mind we use every day, day in, day out, all day long as we go about living our lives. It's that mind we use to set up the shot. It's the mind we use as we mentally swear at the alarm clock when it goes off in the morning, the mind we use as we choose what color socks to wear today, the mind we use as we plan our day, the mind we use as we perform our jobs, as we think about where to go for lunch, what to cook for dinner, when we decide to stop for gas on the way home because the gas station will be busy tomorrow morning, as we read our kids a bed time story... and on and on.

While that planning, discriminating, thinking, evaluating mind is the one we use throughout our days, every day, it is not "everyday mind" as Dōgen uses the word. In fact, it is just the opposite. Dōgen's version is the "without changing anything else..." mind.

In Shinjin Gakudō, Dōgen tells us what he means.

This mind is not concerned with the past or future worlds — it is continually working now, in the present, and concerns itself only with each new moment. "Everyday mind" is its own accomplishment, self-contained and self-fulfilling. Ancient times are cut off and past, present, and future exist together in each moment. Keep your mind in the present. If we always think about the past, our entire vision will revert to the past and it will be distorted.

He goes on to say:

"Everyday mind" opens its gates for each moment of existence — life and death, coming and going enter freely. Do not think of heaven and earth as this world or the next; know that they co-exist eternally in each passing moment. ... The entire content and meaning of heaven and earth and its relationship to the mind reduces itself to one eternal moment.

All our activity is rooted in the eternal nature of "everyday mind." Most of the time we forget this but Buddhas are always aware of this fact. If we have hosshin—the resolve to attain supreme enlightenment—surely we will enter the Way of Buddha. This desire for enlightenment must be self-governing; it cannot come from others. Enlightenment is the natural activity of "everyday mind."

Everyday mind is that mind you were born with, before you covered it over with beliefs, ideologies, values, biases, education, facts, knowledge, preferences, doubts, hopes, fears, religions, fantasies, heros, gods, life, death, sickness, health, favorites, comfort, discomfort, nirvana, samsara, enlightenment, delusion. Everyday mind is that mind that exists only in THIS moment, right here, right now, moment after moment new and different, forever the same yet always different, lasting one moment, yet eternal, with no beginning and no end.

We need our discriminating, thinking, evaluating minds to function in society. They are important tools that we need to always keep on hand and always keep sharp. Yet we need to remember that old adage "Give a man a hammer and everything will look like a nail." Use that mind when it is important, when it is appropriate and needed. When it isn't, especially when on your zafu, put that tool away and live life with your everyday mind. Then, as you come to realize that meditation is NOT just that time spent on your cushion, that it should should include your entire day with all that entails, then learn how to live the majority of your day in everyday mind.

Besides the Canon User Manual, of course, possibly one of the best descriptions of everyday mind is the "Touching The Present Moment" chapter of Dainin Katagiri's spectacular book Each Moment Is The Universe. Just as a teaser, i'll offer that in it he says:

Right now, right here is a great opportunity. That is the moment you are you, as you really are, prior to the germination of thinking. For this you must be in time; you must be at the moment where you cannot think about a previous moment or a following moment. How can you do this? Just pat your ideas on the head and pass by. To pat their head means to just practice continually, just become empty and flexible. Then this emptiness makes your life alive in the universe and you are ready to act.

So the next time an unnecessary thought pops up in your head, the next time you see yourself making an unrequired judgement, the next time you feel anger start to raise it's head, ... pat that thought on the head as you would the pestering kid tugging on your pat leg as you're talking to a friend, look at it lovingly, smile widely, and let it pass by without another thought.

This is to Live.

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