The Shit Paper
...Standing facing the toilet bowl, click the fingers three times. When clicking the fingers, make a fist with the left hand and hold it against the left hip. Then put the hem of your skirt and the edges of your clothes in order, face the entrance, position your feet on either side of the rim of the toilet bowl, squat down, and shit.
(Shôbôgenzô Senjô)

last month * * * next month

Why good people make us puke

Sawaki Roshi says, "There is an evil thing called doing good".

What he tries to say, I think, is not that doing good is in itself bad, but rather that when we do good, and think that we are doing good, we destroy the goodness of the deed. We might do good to show off in front of others, or we might do good because it makes us feel good ourselves, or we might do good because we think that doing good makes us better than the rest of the world, or we just do good to be closer to Buddha or God. But that means that we are not really doing good.

For some reason, it seems that we almost never JUST do good. It is never natural. We hope for some reward, some applause, someone to praise us when we do good, and if no one does, we have to congratulate ourselves for our goodness. It is the same with the boy scouts as with the Lions or Rotary Club, and the same with Christian and Buddhist communities.

Maybe this is why Shinran, a central figure in Japanese Buddhism who lived around the same time as Dogen, said: "If even a good person will be saved, how much more certain is the salvation of a bad person!"

This is a theme that also occurs in the bible: It is more difficult for the good (or "righteous") person to be saved, as the good think that they are so good they do not need do be saved in the first placed. They think their own religious practice is in itself good enough to save themselves. That way they cling to their egos, they do not repent, they are not able to let themselves go, they do not give up to the force of life that is greater than themselves.
The bad person, on the other hand, is bad, and when he knows that he is, he has no ego to be attached to. For him it is easy to let go, "forget both body and mind and throw himself into the house of Buddha", as Dogen Zenji says in Shôbôgenzô Shôji.

Does that mean that we should rather be bad than good?
The answer is, of course: No!
We should not TRY at all to be this way or the other. If we TRY to be bad, we are no different from the person that TRIES to be good. We are not ourselves, we are just faking something, hoping for some reward. Many of us who try to be bad on purpose do so because they think being bad makes them look cool... In fact they are just as boring as the morons who try to be good. Why can't we just become real and live true to ourselves, right here, right now?

Zen and the intellect

Zen and the intellect - what relation? I am an Australian guy who has just begun living in a Zen temple, Antaiji. I have read many books about Buddhism, particularly Zen, but this is my first temple experience. I became attracted to Zen when I studied Buddhism as a philosophy subject at university. In those days, I was a staunch rationalist, trusting logic and reason to solve all my life's problems. As a child I always enjoyed mathematics and chess, and later the rationalist philosophy of Descartes and Plato, content to theorise about life in my world of 'yes/no', 'black/white', 'right/wrong'. But even then, the inconsistency between theory and practice always bothered me.

I still tend to rely too much on empty theories and conceptions removed from reality, but I gradually changed, however we humans are truly creatures of habit. There were some major events in my life which helped speed up this change. The first was when my best friend broke up with his girlfriend, and she later dated another guy. Everyone became angry and lots of friendships were broken. We both realised in the end that powerful emotions like love and jealousy can control our actions more than reason, and that a human being is not a machine. Another event was my first experience of deep silence. While reading books can be inspirational, the inspiration usually soon fades away. It is experience that counts. For me, it was good to read about silence or 'mushin', but absolutely wonderful to feel it. Experiences are always more real.

Recently I completed my first sesshin (4 days, 12 hours per day) and learnt a lot about pain, the intellect and silence. Sitting in the half-lotus position for long periods of time can be painful, but when the intellect stops and there is silence, it doesn't seem so bad. When the intellect dwells on the pain, it feels much worse.

I don't have all the answers yet. In fact, I'm a long way away. But I'm beginning to understand the value of silence and intuition and all the other special parts of us humans, and the limitations of the intellect.

My third time at Antaiji

This is my third time at Antaiji. This time, before coming here, I was one month and a half wandering from one temple to another. But I left quickly them. I was deeply unsatisfied with a practice that almost remained in sutra chanting, rituals and behaviors. Of course, Zen is not only zazen, but well at least it is the basis. Instead of helping our practice, I felt that practices were an obstacle. The day I arrived at Antaiji I was quickly relieved. I felt as at home. When sometimes think about the perfect place to practice, Antaiji comes to my head. Things are simple and direct. Antaiji is in an isolated place, but you never feel alone.

Sometimes I think myself why is so difficult to exist places such Antaiji. Why people don't like such places. Obviously, there are some people. But, in the zen community practice, a lot of people seems to have fear of it. It is very important to keep Antaiji as its original state. To continue as a very special place. Of course, places exists thanks to the people's practice. But, sometimes it is not easy to build them.

At the end, after some days at Antaiji we realize that the right practice it's not difficult. Unfortunately, we need some kind of isolation, silence and nature to help to create an appropiate environment for our practice, well more exactly I would say to deep our practice. At least for a monk, it's necessary for him to experience once in his life a place as Antaiji. I have said unfortunately, because most of the people don't live in such places as Antaiji. In fact, we must practice wherever we are. But, truly it's not the same. When we are in the rush hour of a metropolis taking the underground and coming back to home after a stressing journey, who can really stands as firm as a rock and be completely at peace?

Ten years ago I began to practice, and in a way I feel as in the first day I crossed my legs to sit and face the wall. Even more, I feel as my practice would be retreating and myself going to be full of defects. But us, as a human beings, we want to improve and be better. And our practice is nurtured by this feeling of lacking something and being incomplete. I feel that our practice is pushed by this force, this "force life" as Uchiyama usually used to say. And as long as we will be alive, we will be carried by this life force. Because, who can give up zazen after being submerged in the silence of zazen, even if it was only one more the peace of Antaiji.