Thursday, March 23, 2017

Not Limited

by  Elihu Genmyo Smith

We are not limited by fear nor hindered by fear, not limited by reactions to conditions, to circumstances.

Yes, in life we encounter fear. Despite fears about specific circumstances, fears about the possible arising of various conditions, we are not limited or hindered by fear, not limited by reactions to conditions or circumstances - unless we believe the fears, solidify the fears in our reactions to the moment. When we believe fears as reality, as the truth of life, when we solidify fears in our reactions, this is holding and believing confusions, anger and greed - creating suffering and harming, creating hindrances in this boundless universe.

Look closely when fear arises for you. When and how do you notice fear? When do you feel trapped by fear? And what have you found yourself doing as a result? What is your skillful practice in the midst of anger, hatred and greed? What is your skillful practice in the midst of fear? Please reflect on this.

We are not other than conditions, even fear conditions – and we are not the beliefs about circumstances, beliefs about arising conditions; we are not limited by conditions or circumstances - despite our believing otherwise.

For the well-being of all, for our peace, and the peace of all beings, it would be good to inquire, how can we not be trapped by arising fear?

How can we not be trapped by reactive habits that arise? How can we not be trapped by our beliefs and attachment to conditions which are always changing? Or alternatively, how can we be willingly trapped when trapped?

Life calls us to experiencing; even experiencing fear when this arises. There is no need to go looking for circumstances which arouse fear, conditions that we will fear; no need to go looking for fear. Fear arises in the process of life – though at times we may not notice this. We may not notice fear but only notice the reactive habits to fear – at some point we may notice anger, greed and confusion that we are caught in, or the various sequella that we build on this. Have you unmindfully been caught up in reactive habits of anger and greed in the virtual realms, picking up and attaching to hatred in the virtual social media? Do you notice this? Do you indulge in this? 

These are our opportunities. In noticing believing and holding to fear-reactive habits, in experiencing habitually acting out with suffering harming, our practice opportunity is experiencing this moment we truly are, and responding skillfully, appropriately, as who we are. Who are you?

This moment experiencing is “bigger” than fears and reactive habits. We may have a foreboding, a belief and even a fear, that if we experience this - experience this moment life that we fear, experience this that we imagine or believe is terrible - if we experience this, we will be overcome by fear, overcome by “something”, and we will not survive.

In a way this is true - experiencing fearing, being present as fearing and as reactive habits, we, as we believe our self to be, will not “survive.” Having experienced fear, over and over experiencing fear reactive habits when this arises, we will not “survive”, will not be the way that we have been. Our life is transformed, revealed, in experiencing.

But this is not what we fear and expect. We may expect that we will be overwhelmed in a terrible or dangerous way - so that we will “have” irreparable harm from fear, or from circumstances and reactions that we fear.

Of course, a physically, mentally or emotionally dangerous circumstance needs to be dealt with appropriately. But that “dangerous” circumstance is often, at worst, only a small piece of fear; and indeed, the fear often prevents us from dealing with circumstances, even evaluating the feared conditions and circumstances in the best way.

All things, all conditions are this life we are [we can say are this one] ; this, this experiencing, is all things; this is each thing, this right now – which is our response-moment life, this moment practice opportunity.

Though there are many circumstances and conditions, many everyday encounters, that “can’t be helped”, sometimes we take this phrase or belief “can’t be helped” as negative, as resignation of an inevitable powerlessness or even a sense of hopelessness. As if “can’t be helped” is a problem. And this assumption about the “can’t be helped” moment is the believing thoughts entanglement that hinders life experiencing, hinders being who we are, hinders responding as we are.

It is important to clarify and see clearly that being responsible is awakening what “can’t be helped”, revealing “can’t be helped”, being “can’t be helped”. This is (and requires) experiencing this universe moment - beyond the seeming limits of reactive habits, beyond fearing – being present, being zazening, allowing our universe to manifest in skillful and appropriate responses, in compassionate wisdom. What would this be? Please look closely at your life.

Part Two

Are we conditioned by conditions? Are we conditions? Are we other than conditions?

Conditions are our life, our opportunity of responding and manifesting this life we are, this Bodhisattva living of prajna paramita – sometimes seemingly “as opposed to” harmful delusions, harmful habit reactions – despite the seeming impossibility, to us, of doing this.

This is helping the “can’t be helped”, the “can’t be helped” manifesting; as we say in the Four Great Vows, “Beings are numberless, I vow to save them; Delusions are inexhaustible, I vow to put an end to them.”

Of course these vows are themselves “can’t be helped” – the seeming impossibility of saving numberless, of putting an end to inexhaustible, and so forth for the other vows. And this is fine.

The impossibility of Vows is only a problem in the realm of possible-versus-impossible of saving numberless (notice the fundamental assumption that they are not saved and need saving; and the belief that vowing “unaccomplishable saving” because of the “numberless” is a hindrance to the vow, as if being “impossible” is a hindrance). Similarly, impossibility is only a problem in the realm of possible-versus-impossible of ending inexhaustible (as if being “impossible” is a problem or takes away from the vowing to “exhaust the inexhaustible”; as if delusions “have” beginning and ending).

We may believe that form cannot be empty if we hold to either-or form - nevertheless form is exactly emptiness, and form is exactly form; similarly we may believe that either-or emptiness means emptiness cannot be form - nevertheless emptiness is exactly form, emptiness exactly emptiness. As with the either-or conditionality of saving numberless, of ending inexhaustible and of the Four Great Vows, it is the unexamined beliefs that make for difficulties.

Please remember the Heart Sutra stating,

“all dharmas are forms of emptiness…. thus the bodhisattva lives prajna paramita, with no hindrance in the mind, no hindrance, therefore no fear, far beyond deluded thoughts, this is nirvana.

If we believe form, believe sensation, and miss emptiness, then we miss our life. Form then becomes a source of suffering, sensation becomes a source of suffering, the five skhanda become fixed, separate - and this believing, even believing “emptiness”, thus blind us, blind reactive habits into harming and suffering.

Without “belief” hindrance, our fear is no-fear; even this experiencing fear is seeing clearly, is the living prajna paramita Bodhisattva life.

Master Yuanwu’s (Engo’s) comments in Biyan Lu (Blue Cliff Record) case 25, “Whenever you practice and clarify, there aren't so many things to be concerned with. (Concerns arise) because outside you perceive that mountains and rivers and the great earth exist; within you perceive that seeing, hearing, feeling, and knowing exist; above you see that there are various Buddhas that can be sought; and below you see that there are sentient beings who can be saved. You must simply spit them all out at once: afterwards, whether walking, standing, sitting, or lying down, twenty-four hours a day, you fuse everything into one.

Then, though you're on the tip of a hair, it's as broad as the universe; though you dwell in a boiling cauldron or in furnace embers, it's like being in the land of peace and happiness; though you dwell amidst gems and jewels in profusion, it's like being in a thatched hut. For this kind of thing, if you are a competent adept, you get to reality naturally, without wasting any effort.”

The fourth practice principles is “being just this moment, compassion’s way.”

So, as my teacher Maezumi Roshi used to say, “please, take good care of your life.”

© 2017 Elihu Genmyo Smith