– By: Rev. Leon, 3/1/2017
There is a sort of technical Japanese Buddhist phrase Shoho Jisso (諸法実相) which could be translated as something like “the true form of all things, as they are, expresses the Truth” and it is related to the term Nehan Jakujo (涅槃寂静) which could be translated as “within the Awakening of the Buddha, lies complete Tranquility”.
Each one of us, just as we are, even without knowing it, reflects the Tranquility of the Buddha. This is true no matter what: no matter whether we are a Buddhist or not; no matter whether we are good or evil (although, the more we are in harmony with this Tranquility, in a kind of organic way, the more we will tend to the good, which is the promoting of non-suffering); no matter whether we are aware of it or not. This Tranquility is always present even though we may not be able to see or recognize it. It is constantly present and there are clues or breadcrumbs leading to it sprinkled all throughout our lives: whenever we are moved by compassion, wherever growth or transformation appear, wherever love shows its face but also wherever suffering shows itself and, maybe most importantly, whenever impermanence appears, this Tranquil Mind beckons to us. It is constantly calling out to us.
We have a choice in each moment of our lives: will I turn within and listen for that calling; will I answer it? Sometimes this calling and answering is momentous and large, sometimes it is small and mundane, but it seems that it almost never shouts at us; there are almost never flashing lights and sirens or big signs. But it is there: the Tranquil Mind of the Buddha is in us and is quietly calling to us.
(It might be useful to point out that sometimes, when the consequence of our actions, or just the consequence of living in a very big and impersonal world, come to fruition, it can feel like we are being shouted at or pounded upon – and sometimes this is literally true – but this is slightly different from the calling I am talking about, even though that calling is present here as well.)
For me, it is the purpose of my life to listen for and follow that calling, that appearance of the Truth, and to live out that calling and answering. Although I suppose it is true that I have always done my best to follow that calling, (and it seems to me that on some level it is true that all beings are doing their best to follow it, no matter how confused we might be or how misguided we are in what we think this means), it is also true that at a certain point I made (we can all make) the deliberate decision to actively pursue this calling.
I made the decision to actively take up the project of training myself to see and hear the clues leading to the Truth at the heart of things, and to honestly look at and transform all the ways that I cover up the appearance of these clues.
You might think that this decision took the form of my becoming a monk, but really I made this decision well before I became a monk and I know that, should I stop being a monk, I will continue to try my best to follow this intention.
Having the spiritual purpose of finding, exploring and living from the Truth does not require any particular form.
Following this life of seeking the Truth and trying to live from it, did lead me to making a formal commitment to practicing and keeping the precepts, somehow this commitment has helped to deepen and make my intention more substantial and concrete.
And following this life has helped me to uncover my personal need and wish to become a monk. Being a monk is now my way of expressing this life, but of the many people I know, and know of, who are attempting to live out this intention or this kind of intention, most are not monastics.
In our tradition, we practice the listening for this question and answer in the activity of zazen. We ask and answer this question in the simple moment by moment awareness of mindfulness informed by the question “what is good to do now?” and in trusting ourselves to see what needs doing and to do it. We ask and answer this question in trusting ourselves to recognize (or learn to recognize) when we are clinging to some form of selfishness which gets in the way of doing what needs doing, and to work toward transforming that selfishness.
In speaking about this, it seems all dramatic and highfalutin, but really in practice it is down to earth and ordinary, a bit like finding, with our own feet, the concrete sidewalk on a foggy day, or finding the stair rail in a shadowy stairway. I wake up in the morning and feel like rolling over and going back to sleep: “what is good to do?” It is a normal day, I am healthy and there are things I need to do, I know from experience that I want to avoid laziness and indolence, so I kindly let go of the impulse to sleep in and I get up. Or, I’ve been up all night vomiting or whatever and I recognize that the illness isn’t over so I go back to sleep.
With this intention to find and listen to the Truth to the best of our ability, to practice the letting go of meditation, to ask the question “what is good to do, right now?” we invite the Tranquil Mind of the Buddha to become a part of our lives right here and now.