Saturday, February 4, 2012

Shobogenzo Ch20 (I) Kokyo - The Eternal Mirror

I'm starting this one with a joke...

How many buddhas does it take to change a lightbulb?

Here's at least one possible answer:

All the buddhas in the three times and ten directions aren't enough. That's why the void is typically thought of as dark.

 ...And some Zen masters might consider it a good lesson to just keep shooting out the lights.

 ...I also could've said all the buddhas in the three times and ten directions are too contented with things as they are.

Typically that's not how life works though. And I don't think life worked that way for Śākymuni Buddha or Dogen either. When we're not on the zafu we're confronted by the ten thousand things and we react to them with aversion and attachment depending on some yet to be discovered and published mathematical function of our dharma and karma.

Our reactions as we encounter the ten thousand things are the eternal mirror and are a reflection of self. Our minds react to the ten thousand things because we think of ourselves as separate from them. As long as mind defines itself in terms of self and separation, our mind reacts rather than responds creating unnecessary psychological suffering and stress for ourselves and those around us.

It's obvious that we can't always change the aspects of reality that we're unhappy with. But most of us spend a lot of energy worrying about and getting stressed out by the big things we'd like to change. A lot of us react by substituting consumer placebos to help us feel better about ourselves. And a lot of us procrastinate on the smaller things that can make reality a nicer place to be. Things like changing a lightbulb.

Luckily it's usually pretty straightforward to change a lightbulb. Admittedly training our minds to allow us to change lightbulbs without a fuss might be more difficult.

An extra offering in the spirit of Zen tradition:

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