Here and Now

Here and Now1


Tesshin continued our Shobogenzo study this week.    Again, a public domain translation the Shobogenzo is available.  The direct link to the relevant PDF is HERE 


This week, we focused on the fourth fascicle (chapter six in the online copy) entitled “Soku-shin-ze-butsu” or “Mind Here and Now is Buddha”  Briefly, we should interpret this to mean that we should not get distracted with arcane intellectual studies of Zen, but focus on the actual practice of Zen.  First and foremost, this means meditation or Zazen, where we clear the mind of distractions so as to experience ‘suchness’ with no filters or distortions.  One should understand this not as a spiritual state, but rather in day to day reality – the “here and now.”  Here Tesshin was clear, Dogen is not telling us to enter a trance state to avoid our suffering, rather he is reminding us that the only answer to suffering is right in front of you.


Tesshin next stated that one cannot understand the “Buddha way” or enlightenment through a dualistic explanation.  In other words, it is not enough to read intellectual treatises in a book.  Dogen is preaching that disciplining the mind is only a start on our path to enlightenment.  We must also practice through the body, and harmonize body practice with mind practice.  Dogen understood that there is no dualism between the body and the mind.  We must practice with our whole selves!  This is why “work practice” is so highly prized in monasteries.  Tesshin reminded us about the story of the Monk who achieved enlightenment by sweeping out the temple instead of listening to Dharma talks with the rest of the “smart” monks.  He reminded us that there is great wisdom in our day to day activities – if we actually PRACTICE them and not shuffle through them mindlessly.  There is wisdom in driving to work, paying bills, taking care of family members, even walking the dog!


Tesshin next talked about what Dogen called “Spiritual Intelligence.”  This is not the state of being an expert in spiritual matters.  In addition, it is not putting a religious “stamp” on our understanding.  Tesshin noted here that many other traditions will state that practitioners can reach “a state of grace due to the beneficence of God.”  Tesshin stated that our spiritual intelligence is independent of this external party because the perfection is already inside of you.  All that is needed is practice with your whole self (body and mind!)


So what does it mean to be HERE and NOW?  It means really being present.  It means not living in the past, and not planning in the future.  Can you be in THIS particular moment?  It is easy to say, but not easy to do.  Dogen is telling us that each moment is special in and of itself.  If you are lost in the past or the future, you never really get to experience the here and now.  Everything – heaven and earth reduces to a single moment.  


Tesshin wrapped up by reminding us about the full day retreat occurring on December 7th.


Update:  There was an interesting article in the Sunday New York Times entitled the “Zen of Weight Lifting” which really hit on Tesshin’s talk of practicing with the Body and the Mind.