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A Large Meadow

May 15, 2012

by Stephen Damon

Last night, our sangha discussed chapter 3, Control, in Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind in which Suzuki Roshi discusses several essential elements of our practice, which I’d like to discuss during the next few days.  This morning, I’d like to talk about his analogy  of zazen as watching a sheep or cow graze in a large meadow.  He tells us that the only way to control our sheep or cow is to let him wander around in the great field of awareness of Zazen, freely. He says:  If you want to obtain perfect calmness in your zazen, you should not be bothered by the various images you find in your mind.  Let them come, and let them go.  Then they will be under control. 

He goes on to say that doing this is the secret of our Zen practice.  He says that while this may sound very easy, it is, in fact, very difficult.  Zazen is the most simple of all meditation practices.  There are no special mantras to memorize and no visualizations of Buddhas and bodhisattvas to master. We don’t try to get rid of our thoughts and daydreams.  We don’t try to do anything. Suzuki says, If you try to calm your mind you will be unable to sit, and if you try not to be disturbed, your effort will not be the right effort. Anyone who has tried to stop feeling angry or sad or tense by trying to change knows that it is nearly impossible to change by just thinking .  Something else is required. 

We need to find a new relationship to what is going on inside of us.  Instead of trying to change, instead of thinking about ourselves, we need to just see what is going on. This seeing changes everything.  We need to take our seat and face what is going on in the large, spacious meadow of our Great Mind.  Most important we must never forget that we are not the cows or sheep or birds that live in the great meadow—we are that great meadow.

The Japanese character for “great” should not be understood as comparatively bigger than something else; that would limit its scope. If your mind is related to something outside itself, it is small mind.  Instead we should understand “great” as that which contains all things; it is the “mind that exhausts all of the world in the ten directions.”

We make contact with this mind when we let go of our thoughts, and return to the simple awareness of ourselves. Even as we watch our cow or sheep graze in the field we must have a panoramic view of the self that contains all things.  When we let our cow be however it wants to be, when we let go of our thoughts and discriminations, when we stop thinking in terms of big and small, right and wrong, good and evil, heaven and hell, and so on, we are left with the fundamental interconnectedness of all things—we are left with our true self or great mind.  We are left in an open, spacious meadow.



From → Zen Buddhism

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