(Follow this link to see the September 2021 Priory Newsletter where this was originally published.)
The next section, the Third of the four practices, is as follows (from the Red Pine translation):
Third, seeking nothing. People of this world are deluded. They’re always longing for something – always, in a word, seeking. But the wise wake up. They choose reason over custom. They fix their minds on the sublime and let their bodies change with the seasons. All phenomena are empty. They contain nothing worth desiring. Calamity forever alternates with Prosperity! To dwell in the three realms is to dwell in a burning house. To have a body is to suffer. Does anyone with a body know peace? Those who understand this detach themselves from all that exists and stop Imagining or seeking anything. The sutras say, “To seek is to suffer. To seek nothing is bliss.” When you seek nothing, you’re on the Path.
Maybe you could think that practicing the Dharma is seeking something and I suppose that it is. With Bodhidharma’s Dharma practice we are seeking to end the problem of seeking; the seeking of Bodhidharma’s Dharma practice is the seeking to end craving, thirst, tanha, as in the second noble truth. We feel that there is something missing and we long for the feeling of wholeness so we look high and low; we look in our bodily sensations; we look in the pleasures of the mind (that great feeling we get after solving a thought problem?); we look in relationships; we look all over but at best, we only find a temporary solution and we are never at rest in our hearts.
People of this world are deluded. One of our fundamental delusions is that there is something missing in us and this missing thing needs to be completed by some experience from outside of us: a better job; a better relationship; a better car; a better house, garden, neighborhood. You fill in the blank. We believe unquestioningly in this feeling (it doesn’t even occur to us to question it) so, we seek.
But the wise wake up. We begin to wake up when we begin to have a thought like “there must be something other than this constant hunger.” This is what we might call dis-illusionment; the beginning of dropping our illusions about ourselves and the world. Often this dis-illusionment follows on great suffering and can produce despair and cynicism especially if we do not see a way of coming to know that “something other.” The Buddhadharma is one of the ways to find and live from that “something other.”
One of my teachers says that it is as if we go around in our life with an empty wheelbarrow, and when we approach some experience or person or thing, we are expecting to get something to fill our barrow. But with practice, we are actually asked to empty the barrow. We are asked to let go of the things in our barrow. This teaching is so counter-intuitive to our usual way of being that it can seem frightening and incomprehensible. We can practice Buddhism for a long time before we realize that what we are being asked to do (actually asked by our own heart) is to stop seeking to fill our wheelbarrow and instead be willing give up the things in our barrow; we can practice for a long time before we realize that emptying is what the Buddhas around us are doing. The realization that practice is about letting go, which comes from sitting quietly in depths of our own question, is the beginning of waking up.