by Ven. Jinmyo Renge sensei
Dainen-ji, March 3rd, 1998
Right here, right now, everything arises all around you. But nothing that arises and falls is about you. Although all around you, everything is shining and bright and rich, it cannot be measured from you to it. You and everything and everyone, including this person speaking, are just arising naturally and effortlessly as this richness beyond measure.
When we look out at everything from our ideas about who we think we are and what we think the world is, everything becomes measured from the perspective of the sense of a self that is doing the measuring. But this self is itself measured against its ideas of how it measures up against its ideas of what it should be and what the world should be. Me, you; us, them; 1, 2; good bad—everything becomes a matter of opposing things. Even body and mind become viewed as if they were matter and spirit locked in mutual conflict. But mind and body, self and other are really just ways that we have of speaking of some of the details of this richness.
When we take this sense of struggle that follows along with self-image seriously, as if it really means something, then we get into such a mess that it seems we can't find our way out. Up, down, front, back, what to do next, what we should do , can do, are capable of doing, all become incredibly complex problems.
We feel inadequate. Everything is too big, too hard, too insignificant, too difficult.
Why should we brush our teeth? Forget it. Who cares. Too much trouble. But when we meet someone we think, "Omigod. If I smile I'll look like a geek!"
If we take care of what is around us, what actually presents itself as the measureless richness, the Treasury of Reality, we only do so because of what someone else thinks of us.
Or, really, what WE think someone else thinks of us and what we think about that.
We measure ourselves against our image of how we think everyone else is. We think, "Oh, they have it all together. They know what's what. Look at them. They're happy and purposeful and sane. And here I am afraid to smile because I was too busy with feeling stupid to brush my teeth."
But let me tell you. From my experience of what I have seen about myself and all of you (without naming names other than mine), we ALL tend to feel like that.
Which of course means that everyone's image of themselves measured against everyone else is all the same old stuff. Just images, pictures, stories, without substance.
Of course it all seems to be solid. Self-image is a contraction of attention, a knot of Knowing that pretends to be a knower, so solidity is a major preoccupation of self-image.
But everything is just open, just rising and falling.
This rising and falling, Zen Master Anzan Hoshin reminds us, does not come FROM anywhere or go TO anywhere. It just rises and falls and there is no "it". We are just dancing in freefall.
When we sit up STRAIGHT in zazen, we can feel the falling, the coming and going of how we are.
We might want to say, "NO! STOP! How am I doing?!! Am I doing this RIGHT!?!"
But it doesn't matter.
We just don't know.
Our image of how we are, of how we measure up to our idea of how we should be is just more stuff. I recently spoke with someone who wanted to know how long it would take to become Ino or Godo. What could I say? The person wanted to know how many years this or that took. Trying to find my way in the morass of these opinions and viewpoints I could only talk about the importance of this moment. Perhaps this doesn't measure up to what Bodhidharma, Dogen zenji or Zen Master Anzan Hoshin would say. But I know that it is true.
Let us all start from right here, right now. From where we are. And uncover who we are. Measureless, radiant. And awake.