8. To you who are sobbing because somebody’s put one over on you

At some point you’ve got to slap yourself in the face and seriously ask yourself: is your personal gain or loss really worth this overwhelming joy and suffering?
**
Sooner or later everyone starts thinking of nothing besides themselves.
You say, “That was good!” But what was good? It was only good for you personally, that’s all.
**
Why is it that we humans are so wiped out?
It is the constant effort to gain a little advantage that wipes us out.
**
Illusion means being unstable. Illusion means being controlled by the situation.
**
A person with big desires is easily fooled. Even the greatest conman can’t profit from a person with no desires.
**
Buddhism means no self, nothing to gain. You must be one with the universe and all living beings.
**
Non-self means not turning your back on people.
**
All beings are mistaken: we see as happiness that which leads to unhappiness, and weep over an unhappiness which isn’t unhappiness at all.
We all know the child whose tears suddenly turn into laughter when you give him a cookie. What we living beings call happiness isn’t much more than that.
**
We often say, “I saw it with my own eyes, heard it with my own ears!” We act as if this was the firmest foundation there is, but these eyes and ears are not to be trusted at all. Everyone is deceived by their eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind.
Everyone talks about happiness and unhappiness, yet what you hold to be happiness and unhappiness is only a thought, in reality there is actually nothing at all.
**
Don’t let yourself be misled by personal gain and loss.
**
All beings are wandering around, having entirely lost their composure. The buddha-dharma means displaying a composed posture.
**
It’s clear that in the human world there are also exceptional situations. It’s just that humans’ weakness is making an exceptionally big deal out of an exceptional situation. They make a bigger fuss than is really necessary.
**
There are some who cheat on the preparatory exam, so they have to cheat on the real exam as well, otherwise they won’t pass. They go so far with their stupidity that I almost owe them my respect. But actually if you think about it, you find the same sort of stupidity everywhere in this world.
**
It’s difficult to drink in moderation. That’s because it’s the wine itself that drinks the wine. It’s exactly the same with the illusions in the world.
**
Take a hundred thousand possibilities, line them up and compare them: they all lead down a dead end. This way leads down a dead-end, that way leads down a dead end. Whatever direction you go in, you are stuck.
Now simply throw out everything that would lead down a dead-end. What’s left?
A man of great leisure, beyond learning and doing. [Shōdōka]

33. To you who are out of your mind trying so hard to attain peace of mind

The buddha-dharma is immeasurable and unlimited. How could it ever have been made to fit into your categories.
**
No matter what you are grasping for, it’s limited.
**
In any case, only things for ordinary people can be grasped. Grasping for money, clinging to health, being attached to position and title, grasping for satori – everything you grasp only becomes the property of an ordinary person.
Letting go of ordinary people’s property – that’s what it means to be a buddha.
**
When peace of mind only means your personal satisfaction, then it’s got nothing to do with the buddha-dharma.
**
The buddha-dharma teaches limitlessness. That which is measureless has to be accepted without complaint.
**
The buddha-dharma is of limitless breadth. But when you try to hold it still, you’ve lost it.
We’re not talking here about dried cod. Living fish have no fixed form.
**
When you try to grasp the buddha-dharma, you only end up constipated.
You mustn’t limit it either. The buddha-dharma is beyond all limits.
**
It’s said, “Praise the Buddha who transcends all things!” So don’t look around as if you’re hung up on something.
**
The expression “easy practice” [Footnote: Igyō, an expression from Nagarajuna used by Pure Land Buddhism] doesn’t mean that it’s easy for someone who’s still on this side. “The strength of the other” [Footnote: Tariki, also a Pure Land term] refers to that which goes beyond you as an individual.
**
“Only a buddha and a buddha can penetrate it completely.” [Lotus Sutra] A person who isn’t a buddha himself can’t accept the buddha-dharma.
**
You lack peace of mind because you’re running after an idea of total peace of mind. That’s backwards.
Be attentive to your mind in each moment, no matter how unpeaceful it might seem to be. Great peace of mind is realized only in the practice within this unpeaceful mind. It arises out of the interplay between peaceful and unpeaceful mind.
**
A peace of mind that is totally at peace would be nothing more than something ready made. Real peace of mind only exists within unpeaceful mind.
**
When dissatisfaction is finally accepted as dissatisfaction, peace of mind reigns.
It’s the mind of a person who had been deaf to criticism when he finally listens to others talking about his mistakes.
It’s the mind of a person who, naked and begging for his life, suddenly dies peacefully.
It’s the mind of a person who has suddenly lost the beggar who had been pulling at his sleeve, relentlessly following him around everywhere,.
It’s the mind after the flood in which the make-up of piety has washed away.
**
There isn’t any world in which everything’s right. And still everyone is wandering around in search of it. But what good does it do to wander around endlessly or to cry yourself to sleep in desperation?
That’s backwards. It’s a matter of sitting immovably in the world and not wandering around.
**
Peace of mind means not running after anything.
**
Words like “arriving” or “satori” shouldn’t refer to intellectual understanding. They mean being unmoved, no matter what happens. In life and in death.
Many believe peace of mind means freeing themselves from suffering in order to always be happy. That’s mistaken. However great our suffering may be, the answer isn’t to thrash around with your hands and feet. It’s to stay calm.
If you want to observe the state of a person who doesn’t have any peace of mind, look at a mouse in a trap. It thrashes around with all of its might, a man sees it and throws it to the cat for food, and the cat eats it with pleasure. This is how you can understand that thrashing around with your hands and feet is a waste of energy.
Instead, sit peacefully in zazen.
**
How could a human being ever have peace of mind? The real question is what you’re doing with this human life. What you’re doing with this stinking sack of flesh, that’s the issue.
**
In the buddha-dharma, the ordinary person and buddha aren’t two different creatures.
Peace of mind isn’t about sitting there like a bump on a log.
**
The buddha-dharma is realized through practice, it’s put into effect by the body. That means that zazen is all about the correct tension and placement of muscles and ligaments.
Practice means to practice an approach to life with zazen as the measure.
Wherever this practice is found, peace of mind is fully actualized. The practice is our comportment in every aspect of our lives.
Only when you pull on the cord in the deep autumn fog with all of your heart
does the bell sound in the rice paddy on the mountain.

**
You call Buddha’s name and want to go to paradise as well – what a waste of effort!
Calling Buddha’s name is already going to paradise. It isn’t necessary to produce superfluous thoughts on top of that. You don’t have to call out Buddha’s name and in addition make an effort to get into nirvana (Nirvana?!).
Tokuhon writes “namu amida butsu [I take refuge in Amithaba Buddha] – simply saying it is enough.”
**
What’s essential is simply to do what we do – whether we attain peace of mind or not. This goes for reciting “namu amida butsu” as well.

11. To you who wants to strengthen your hara with zazen

“Through zazen you strengthen your hara” [Footnote: A center of energy in the lower abdomen].
Knowing that this hara isn’t worth a damn is real hara and real zazen.
**
Some people want to strengthen their hara with zazen so that they will be able to scare the bill-collector away with a roar. But they don’t need zazen for that, they just have to drink sake like real men.
**
There are books around like “Zen and the Art of Cultivating Your Hara”. This hara culture is just about making yourself numb.
**
Some try to become thick-skinned through zazen.
**
Developing real hara means putting aside your personal attitudes.
**
If it’s even the slightest bit personalized, it isn’t pure, unadulterated zazen.
We’ve got to practice genuine, pure zazen, without mixing it with gymnastics or satori or anything. When we bring in our personal ideas – even only a little bit – it’s no longer the buddha-dharma.
**
In a word, Buddhism is non-self [muga]. Non-self means that “I” am not a separate subject. When “I” am not a separate subject, then I fill the entire universe. That I fill the entire universe is what’s meant by “all things manifest the truth”.
**
In true dharma there’s nothing to gain.
In false dharma there’s something to gain.
**
If you practice zazen when you are overwhelmed by feelings of pleasure, anger, sorrow and contentment, these feelings will haunt your zazen like a terrible ghost.
**
Don’t bring anything with you into zazen: not the buddha-dharma, not firearms – and especially not your wife! [Footnote: This is a word-play in Japanese: the buddha-dharma is buppō, firearms is teppō, and wife is nyōbō.] **
The way of buddha means that there is nothing to seek, nothing to find [mushogu-mushotoku]. If there’s something to find, no matter how much we practice, it’s got nothing to do with the buddha-dharma. If there’s nothing to find [mushotoku], that’s the buddha-dharma.
**
Whatever it is you’re trying to grasp, even if you get it, sooner or later you’ll lose it again.
True wealth is not grasping for anything. It’s shining our light inwards and reflecting upon ourselves. When we take a step back, we see that there’s nothing to grasp, nothing to run after and nothing to run away from. The form of reality doesn’t arise and doesn’t pass, it’s neither pure nor impure, it neither increases nor decreases.
**
A monk, Yakuzan, is practicing zazen and his teacher, Master Sekitō, asks him, “What are you doing there?”
– I’m not doing anything at all.
– If you’re not doing anything at all, does that mean that you’re just passing the time?
– If I were passing the time, than I’d be doing something, but I’m not even doing that.
– You say you’re doing nothing. What is it that you’re not doing?
– Even a thousand wise men couldn’t name it.
Nothing is as still and noble as this zazen that even a thousand wise men couldn’t name, the zazen which Yakuzan practiced and Master Sekitō praised.
These days there are some masters who you can sit with for a week, and for a nice sum of money you’re guaranteed a kenshō experience. It’s obvious that anything like that has nothing to do with Yakuzan’s zazen which even a thousand wise men couldn’t name. Sitting and practicing that which even a thousand wise men couldn’t call by name means simply sitting, shikantaza.
**
These days there’s a lot of talk about zazen. The question is simply: what are they trying to do with their zazen? Some toil away to cultivate their hara, to become stronger personalities, to get satori and so on and so forth. The little monks even call koan training a “guessing game”.
All this is nothing more than buddha-dharma from the point of view of ordinary people. But the buddha-dharma isn’t a dharma for ordinary people. We’ve got to observe the buddha-dharma with the eyes of the buddha-dharma. That’s why it is so rare that zazen itself truly practices zazen.
**
Some people want to use zazen to become better people. Zazen for them is nothing more than make-up.
**
This isn’t an educational institution here! What we are trying to do is to become a blank slate. Here there’s nothing to gain. Here’s a place where you have to let go of all illusion and wisdom.
**
The buddha-dharma isn’t about making average people into special people.
**
Zazen takes place when you stop elbowing the others to get ahead.
**
You go swimming every morning in cold water? So what: a goldfish does that all the time.
You’ve quit smoking? Yeah, so…? A cat doesn’t smoke either.
However proud you are of how well you run after this and run away from that, it’s nothing more than wandering around in the world of impermanence.
**
You can’t talk anyone into doing zazen – and you can’t talk them out of it either!
[footnote: a literal translation would be : “Zazen does not elevate you, and it doesn’t lower you either!” And yet another reading would be: “Zazen doesn’t praise you, and it doesn’t scold you either.”] **
True religion is seeing the world as it is, free of all fabrications.
**
Everything is good as it is. We don’t need to fool around with it.
**
Everyone believes they have to add something to their zazen or nembutsu.
We don’t need to add anything.
**
However unusual and mystical your experiences may be, they won’t last your whole life long. Sooner or later they’ll fade away.
**
Ordinary people really go for miracles and magic. They love hocus-pocus.
**
Ordinary people by nature don’t like practice, they only want satori. They want to earn money without working. That’s why they form lines at lottery windows. And they don’t want the true dharma, but they swarm towards the new sects that promise heaven on earth.
**
You get stuck on satori, you get stuck on money, you get stuck on position and name, you get stuck on sex. Not getting stuck is what’s meant by the buddha-dharma.
**
Zazen is a mature posture, a mature attitude, not a childish one.