We should simply sit. Simply stay in your own place, in your own condition just as it is. Forgetting self conscious feelings, we do not have to think “I am meditating”. Our practice should be without effort, without strain, without attempts to control or force and without trying to become “peaceful”. If we find that we are disturbing ourselves in any of these ways, we stop meditating and simply rest or relax for a while. Then we resume our meditation. If we have “interesting experiences” either during or after meditation, we should avoid making anything special of them. To spend time thinking about experiences is simply a distraction and an attempt to become unnatural. These experiences are simply signs of practice and should be regarded as transient events. We should not attempt to re-experience them because to do so only serves to distort the natural spontaneity of mind.
“We often tend to understand meditation—in Zen especially—as getting rid of thoughts. We think that if we can just get rid of thought, then we can see the world as it is, clearly, without any interference from conceptuality. We view thinking as something negative that has to be eliminated in order to realize the emptiness of the mind. But this reflects the delusion of duality, rather than the solution to duality. As Dogen put it, the point isn’t to get rid of thought, but to liberate thought. Form is emptiness, yet emptiness is also form, and our emptiness always takes form. We don’t realize our emptiness apart from form, we realize it in form, as non-attached form. One of the very powerful and creative ways that our emptiness takes form is as thought. The point isn’t to have some pure mind, untainted by thought, like a blue, completely empty sky with no clouds. After a while that gets a little boring! Rather, one should be able to engage or play with the thought processes that arise in a creative, non-attached, nondualistic way. To put it in another way, the idea isn’t to get rid of all language, it’s to be free within language, so that one is non-attached to any particular kind of conceptual system, realizing that there are many possible ways of thinking and expressing oneself. The freedom from conceptualizing that we seek does not happen when we wipe away all thoughts; instead, it happens when we’re not clinging to, or stuck in, any particular thought system. The kind of transformation we seek in our spiritual practices is a mind that’s flexible, supple. Not a mind that clings to the empty blue sky. It’s a mind that’s able to dance with thoughts, to adapt itself according to the situation, the needs of the situation. It’s not an empty mind which can’t think. It’s an ability to talk with the kind of vocabulary or engage in the way that’s going to be most helpful in that situation.
I’m reminded of something that the Buddha says in the Pali Canon. One of his students asks him, “Whenever somebody asks a question, you know the answer. You have this ability to answer anything. It’s amazing. How are you able to keep all this information in your mind?” The Buddha answers to the effect that, well, it’s not that way at all. My mind is empty. According to the situation, the proper thoughts, the proper response arises naturally and spontaneously. It’s the freedom to engage rather than to just empty the mind that needs to be emphasized.”
—from Dr. David R. Loy, the Besl Family Chair of Ethics/Religion & Society at Xavier University in Cincinnati, OH, authorized teacher in the Sanbo Kyodan lineage of Zen Buddhism, and prolific Buddhist author. Dr. Loy is also the co-author with Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi and Dr. John Stanley of the Buddhist Climate Declaration.
—Courtesy of the Rev. Danny Fisher
“Just as the ocean has a gradual shelf, a gradual slope, a gradual inclination, with a sudden drop-off only after a long stretch, in the same way this Doctrine and Discipline (dhamma-vinaya) has a gradual training, a gradual performance, a gradual progression, with a penetration to gnosis only after a long stretch.”
When wisdom has been completely and thoroughly achieved, then it has to relate with something. It has to relate with its own radiation, its own light. When light begins to shine, it reflects on things. That is how we know whether it is bright or dim. Therefore, when light is very brilliant, when it reflects on things properly and fully, we know that there is some kind of communication taking place. That communication is expressed by the intensity of that wisdom light shining through. That communication is traditionally known as buddha-activity or compassion.
Compassion is not so much feeling sorry for somebody, feeling that you are in a better place and somebody is in a worse place. Compassion is not having any hesitation to reflect your light on things. That reflection is an automatic and natural process, an organic process. Since light has no hesitation, no inhibition about reflecting on things, it does not discriminate whether to reflect on a pile of shit or on a pile of rock or on a pile of diamonds. It reflects on everything it faces. That nondiscriminating reflection is precisely the nature of the relationship between student and teacher. When the student is facing in the right direction, then the guru’s light is reflected on him. And when he is unreceptive, when he is full of dark corners, the teacher’s light is not fully reflected on him. That light does not particularly try to fight its way into dark corners.