Friday, October 21, 2011

MAN-AN - On Zen practice by Lay People

Man-An Eishu was a prominent Soto Master of the early Edo period. He was a good friend of Samurai and Zen Master Suzuki Shosan, and tried to raise the Soto Zen of that period to a higher level. He rebuilt the Temple of Kosho-ji in Uji. Together with other Masters of this period, he was convinced that a general reform of Zen was necessary, but he lacked the influence to carry it out. (He possibly pissed off a few important heads of powerful Monasteries, favorites of the Tokugawa shogunate ...). Man-An never had on Soto Zen the influence that Master Hakuin had on Rinzai Zen.

This post is a passage from  "An elementary talk on Zen", from "Minding Mind - a course in basic meditation" , a collection of texts translated  by Thomas Cleary.

This first part is about the practice of Zen by Lay people (us...) Man-An was not always tender for some of his fellow Zen Masters...





         If you want to quickly attain mastery of all truths and be independent in all events, there is nothing better than concentration in activity. That is why it is said that students of mysticism working on the Way should sit in the midst of the material world.


The Third Patriarch of Zen said, "If you want to head for the Way of Unity, do not be averse to the objects of the six senses. " * This does not mean that you should indulge in the objects of the six senses, it means that you should keep right mindfulness continuous, neither grasping nor rejecting the objects of the six senses in the course of every day life, like a duck going into the water without its feathers getting wet.

If, in contrast, you despise the objects of the six senses and try to avoid them, you fall into escapist tendencies and never fulfill the Way of Buddhahood. If you clearly see the essence, then the objects of the six senses are themselves meditation, sensual desires are themselves the Way of Unity, and all things are manifestations of Reality. Entering into the great Zen stability undivided by movement and stillness, body and mind are both freed and eased.

As for people whose tout to cultivate spiritual practice is with aversion to the objects and desires of the senses, even if their minds and thoughts are empty and still and their contemplative visualization is perfectly clear, still when they leave quietude and get into active situations, they are like fish out of water, like monkeys out of the trees.

Even people who go deep into mountain forests; cut off relations with the world for ever, and eat from the fruits of the trees as ascetics can not easily attain pure singleness of, concentration. Needless to say, it is even more difficult for those who are mendicants in name only, or shallow householders, who are so busy making a living.

In truth, unless you have definite certitude of overwhelming faith, or are filled with overwhelming doubt or wonder, or are inspired with overwhelming commitment, or are overtaken by overwhelming death, it is hard to attain concentration that is pure and undivided in principle and fact, inaction and stillness.

If you are wholeheartedly careful of how you spend your time, aware of the evanescence of life, concentrating singlemindedly on Zen work even in the midst of objects of desire, if you proceed right straight ahead, the iron walls will open up. You will experience the immense joy of walking over the Polar Mountain and become the Master with in the objects of sense. you will be like a lotus blooming in fire, becoming all the more colorful and more fragrant in contact with the energy of fire.

Do not say that it is harder for lay people living in the world of senses and desires to sit and meditate, or that it is hard, to concentrate with so many worldly duties, or that one with an official or professional career can not practice Zen, or that the poor and the sickly do not have the power to work on the Way. These excuses are all due to impotence of faith and superficiality of the thought of enlightenment.

If you observe that the matter of life and death is serious, and that the world is really impermanent, the will for enlightenment will grow, the thieving heart of egoism, selfishness, pride, and covetousness will gradually die out, and you will come to work on the Way by sitting meditation in which principle and fact are one.

Suppose you were to lose your only child in a crowd or drop an invaluable gem: do you think you would let the child or the, jewel go at that, just because of the bustle and the mob? Would you not look for them even if you had a lot of work to do or were poor or sickly? Even if you had to plunge into an immense crowd of people and had to continue searching into the night, you would not be easy in mind until you had found and retrieved your child or your jewel.

To have been born human and heard true teaching is a very rare opportunity, so to neglect meditation because of your career is to treat the life of wisdom of the body of truths of the Buddhas less seriously than worldly chattels. But if you search for wisdom singlemindedly like someone who has lost a child or dropped a gem, one day you will undoubtedly encounter it, whereupon you will light up with joy.

People in all walks of life have all sorts of things to attend to, how could they have the leisure to sit silently all day in quiet contemplation? Here there are Zen teachers who have not managed to cultivate this sitting meditation concentration , they teach deliberate seclusion and quietude, avoiding population centers, stating that intensive meditation concentration can not be attained in the midst of professional work, business, and labor, thus causing students to apply their minds mistakenly.

People who listen to this kind of talk consequently think of Zen as something that is hard to do and hard to practice, so they give up the inspiration to cultivate Zen, abandon the source and try to escape, time and again becoming like lowly migrant workers. This is truly lamentable. even if they have a deep aspiration due to some cause in the past, they get to where they neglect their jobs and lose their social virtues for the sake of the Way.

As an ancient said, if people today were as eager for enlightenment as they are to embrace their lovers, then no matter how busy their professional lives might be and no matter how luxurious their dwellings maybe, they would not fail to attain continuous concentration leading to appearance of the great Wonder.

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