Today we feature the first of three excerpts from Okumura Roshi’s new, soon-to-be published book, The Mountains and Waters Sutra: A Practitioner’s Guide to Dogen’s Sansuikyo, edited by Shodo Spring (Wisdom Publications).
Sesshin has a different reality from ordinary life. Of course day-to-day things influence what’s going on in our minds. If someone recently triggered my anger, thoughts come up about that person while I’m sitting. I might try to figure out why the person said or did such a thing. Anger also may arise. Anger is a kind of energy; it comes back no matter how many times I try to let go. When I am sitting facing the wall, the person and the incident are already gone, yet the person is also still sitting within me. The instant that brought up my anger is gone, yet still seems to be there. While sitting, I may try to figure out what kind of person this is and why he or she did this or that.
When I continue this way in zazen, moment by moment for fourteen hours a day, I get tired. Somehow my mind calms down. Eventually I realize that the reason this person did this or that is gone, while the anger is still there as energy. When I sit with this energy it goes deeper and deeper. This is no longer the anger caused by the particular action or particular person. Instead, I find that this anger is my self. And still I sit and try to let go of whatever comes up, to just keep sitting. Sometimes, not always, I experience that the anger disappears.
I have found that anger is not really caused by a particular person’s action. The anger is inside me. That person’s action or speech simply opens the lid of my consciousness. Actually feelings and thoughts always come from our own consciousness. They come up in zazen; when we let go, we can let go, and that’s okay. Zazen is a unique and precious practice. In the zendo we can let go of everything. This is really liberation—not only from our daily lives but also from the karmic consciousness created by our twisted karma. In zazen we are determined not to take action based on the thoughts coming and going; therefore we don’t create new karma. This is what it means that in zazen we are liberated from our karma.
Reprinted by arrangement with Wisdom Publications, Inc., wisdompubs.org.
Commentary by Shōhaku Okumura Roshi.
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