We’re all doing koan practice. Whether we’re dealing with health issues, relationships, family or work, we’re all working on the koans of our lives. One of Roshi Bernie’s favorite koans is What’s the Deal Here? All of us are working on that koan, trying to penetrate the essence of our lives as deeply as we can.
We say that the seeker is the very thing that is being seeked. The One is looking for the One. Dogen’s verse on the Precept of Not Being Stingy says:
One phrase, one verse–that is the ten thousand things and one hundred grasses;
one dharma, one realization–that is all Buddhas and Ancestral Teachers.
Therefore, from the beginning, nothing has been withheld.
In the world of one dharma, one realization, the one who’s ill, the one who’s tired, the one who practices, the one who works, the one who’s at the beach, the one who pollutes and the one who hunts and kills–they are all equal. In that world–the world of the Buddha–there’s no difference.
And there’s the world of the ten thousand things and one hundred grasses, the world of the Bodhisattva. Roshi Genki Kahn uses the following words as parts of the vows undertaken by his priests: I will open the Gate of Enlightenment, stand just outside that threshold hearing the cries of existence, and usher all creation through before entering. This is a beautiful description of the way of the Bodhisattva who chooses to remain outside, in the world of the ten thousand things.
And what is the Bodhisattva ushering all creation to? What gate is this? We are helping everyone realize that our life as it is, is the enlightened way. That our judgments of wrong, bad, unpleasant or unfair are simply that–judgments. They have nothing to do with the way things are. As Einstein said, Behind anything that can be experienced there is something that our minds cannot grasp.
Many things happen in the world of the one hundred grasses. A drought occurs. The grass dries; animals starve. The land becomes desert. Mothers run out of milk and babies die. The way of the Bodhisattva, of standing outside the threshold and bearing witness to the way of the world, can lead us to despair. Life begins to feel meaningless.
But what is meaning? Meaning is something that gives coherence to the chaos of life. Our search for meaning is what brings us into the zendo, and it’s that very search for meaning that keeps us floundering and faltering. When we ask the question–What’s the meaning of it all?— the only answer we can give comes out of our idea of coherence and chaos. If we live our life always looking for the meaning behind it then we’re saying that life as it is is simply not good enough to be lived, we need to have our story around it. We’re like a small kernel of corn hiding in its husk, making up beautiful theories, articulating noble feelings, looking for meaning–all within a cornhusk.
When we’re the one dharma, one realization, we are the brown grass and the green, the merciful rains and the merciless sun, we’re everything. A mother doesn’t ask what’s the meaning of her baby. It’s part of her. I don’t ask the meaning of my arm or my leg, it’s all me. I only ask the meaning of something that I perceive as Other. When I experience the world as all one dharma, nothing is Other and the search for meaning ends.