Return yourself to yourself
Discover the meaning that is already seeded within you
Good Evening everyone. At the end of this day of meditation you may be experiencing a sense of what it is to “return yourself to yourself.” Whatever preoccupations you came through the door with may be fading, and moment-by-moment awareness may be emerging as foreground. There are several references in Zen that express these aspects of self as Guest and Host. So, for a moment imagine having a guest in your home that moves in and refuses to leave. This is symbolic of all our attachments. They are tenacious and stubborn, however, when we return to the Host, then all of our guests are no problem and we can serve them. This reminds me of the spirit of the Gate of Sweet Nectar. In this chant, all beings are invited to a Meal with NO exception, and the Host is free and available to serve them, be with them, hang out, laugh, cry, feed, embrace or do whatever is needed. Actually, the Host and Guests become One. In returning “yourself to yourself”, one stops losing oneself to fixed ideas and opinions, and one can, as the Bible says, “be in the world but not of it.”
Case 30 of the Mumonkan, “Mind is Buddha” points to this: Taibai once asked Baso, “What is Buddha?” Baso answered “Mind is Buddha.”
I like to use the word Mind for Self. If you get a mental image of a historical Buddha, then you are robbing yourself of the wonderful opportunity to see your life as Buddha’s life; to see Buddha’s life as YOUR life. Dogen Zenji speaks of zazen as the magnificent Buddha Mudra. Again, if you hear this, and mentally see the historical Buddha, you are missing your life! As you sit on your cushion or chair now, please mentally say your name and add “Mudra”. YOU are the Buddha Mudra having been given this body; this life.
One Zen Master wrote a poem as his answer to “Mind is Buddha”. I love the first two lines:
In winter I long for warmth
In rain I look for a fine day.
Mind is the warmth of a blanket, and evening walks or being able to complete one’s work outdoors under a clear sky. It is walking with your family to another country for food and shelter. There is no complaint in these two lines about the cold or the rain. So your life and my life are this Mind, and the Mind of compassion may arise spontaneously from this kind of intimacy with longing. One can understand the hardship and confusion of others as so many of us feel in today’s world conflict. Dogen says that once you have found your Treasure House (Mind), then you will know how to use it.
Please savor, relish and use the rest of this retreat; the rest of your life! Discover that which is already seeded within you. The plowing and planting is already done. Savor this life. Joseph Campbell spoke of ”following your bliss.” I used to feel a pressure to find my personal bliss, but Zen practice has shown me that walking, breathing, chopping vegetables with a friend, feeling the air on my skin, picking up a piece of discarded trash, and countless actions are all expressions of the bliss of my life as Sally Sonen. Yes, I miss it over and over again, but it is unceasingly present and available to me as it is to you.
It just takes heart to return the self to the self. It is said that in the Kentucky Derby, the winning horse effectively runs out of oxygen after the first half mile, and do you know what he goes the rest of the way on to win the race?
Heart! Your heart, your life! This very life just as it is. What a gift to be here, together. Thank you.