There was a devastating earthquake in the news yesterday — great human suffering. So much sadness in this world… war and violence, poverty, hunger, disease.
Yet, in our Shikantaza Zazen, we are to instructed to sit with life without thinking “good” or “bad,” dropping all resistance and judgments about how things are, not wishing that our self or the world ’should be’ or ‘had better be’ some other way than just as we find them.
We drop all thoughts of “good” and “bad,” “right” vs. “wrong,” “just” and “unjust,” “happy” and “sad,” we experience a world that just is-what-it-is. It goes-the-way-it-goes, even if that way is not the way we personally might desire. And we go with its flow, abandoning resistance to the direction taken. Letting aside both “cruel” and “gentle,“ “ugly” and “kind,”we no longer resist, do not judge, and embrace it all … even the most terrible.
In doing so, the hard borders between our self and this life-world soften or fully tumble away… and there is just oneness-beyond-one with all conditions.
But need we stop there? In that wholeness and tranquility, are we not left uncaring, blind, emotionless, apathetic, cold-hearted, passive to the pain of others?
NOT AT ALL!
For ours can be a path of acceptance without acceptance, inner stillness and outward action combined, allowing and tolerant yet resisting what needs to be resisted, judging what must be judged in life (while also dropping all judgments) – all at once, as if precisely blending views of life seen from different angles. It is much the same in the case of a man or woman who, facing an illness, perhaps some cancer, accepts the condition fully — yet fights the good fight for a cure. We need not feel anger within at the natural state which is the disease, we can accept within that all life is impermanent and that death and sickness are just the reality… but still we might search for the healing medicine, struggling without for health and life. We can know that within and without are not two.
Our Zen practice teaches us that we can live by seemingly contradictory viewpoints at once, uniting all, without conflict. We might say that this world, our life, is much like living in an imperfect house, in need of work, with perhaps a leaky roof, dust and spiders, and broken windows. In “Just Sitting,” we simply sit to drop all resistance to the house we have been living in all along, to realize that there is nowhere to “go” in life, to cease all efforts to add to or take away from the structure, to let go of the ego’s insisting on how things “should be” in order for the house to be “good” … we ARE that house, at Peace in our True Home! Then we find, in dropping that resistance, that the house we have always been in is “perfectly what it is,” and we can be joyful right where we are. HOWEVER, we can be content with that house even as, hand in hand, there is still much serious repair work to do (an acceptance-without-acceptance of the leaky windows, spiders and creaky doors). There is nothing to prevent our fixing those, even as we accept their existence! We can accept and not accept simultaneously, repair what needs to be repaired.
Thus, in our “Just Sitting” Shikantaza, we completely accept, embrace and allow the universe, and all in it, just as it is. We drop all thoughts of likes and dislikes, dreams and regrets and need for change, hopes and fears. But simultaneously, hand in hand without the slightest deviation (on another mental “track,” we might say), we live our lives as human beings, and living life requires choices, goals, likes and dislikes, dreams and hopes for change.
War, fire, flood, death and disease, humanity and nature’s most horrible turns can all be observed dispassionately and from an unshakable inner peace, fully accepted… all while we choose to resist what we can, to extend comfort and compassion as we can, to make the world and our selves better when and where we can.
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