The bankruptcy of self-power

If we practice with this self-power, with our own personal determination or idea or understanding and personal effort, then sooner or later we reach a dead end. To me it is important to face the dead end of self-power. Otherwise we cannot go beyond self-power.


In the beginning, our zazen practice is based on “I want to study dharma” or “I want to be a better person” or “I want a more wholesome way of life.” Without this motivation, we cannot practice and yet, sooner or later, we find that motivation is itself a problem. It is separation: “I think I can do it; I can find the truth.” But if we practice with that attitude we find that we cannot do it. Our determination cannot do it. But by being supported by a larger and deeper power, there is no separation between self and other power.

If your device does not display the embedded player, or if buffering takes too long, please visit:

This talk continues Shohaku Okumura Roshi’s commentary on the modern classic Opening The Hand of Thought written by his teacher Kosho Uchiyama Roshi. (Section 4, p.66). Okumura Roshi continues the theme of his previous post in this series, offering a description and examples of “self-power” and “other power” in both Pure Land Buddhism and Zen.

It was originally given at Sanshinji in Bloomington, IN on November 28, 2010.

Copyright 2015 Sanshin Zen Community

One thought on “The bankruptcy of self-power

  1. Pingback: Battlefield medicine | Dial M for Musicology

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.