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Just Looking

June 13, 2012

by Stephen Damon

On Monday, during our discussion of Mind Weeds, someone asked about attachments.  She asked if Suzuki Roshi was telling us to get rid of our attachments.  It was a basic question that all of us face continually in our practice.  I suggested that it is not so much a matter of getting rid of our attachments.  Instead, it is a matter of seeing our attachments.  When we look at what is going inside of us, things change.  Just looking changes what we are looking at. I think that is Buddhist version of the observer effect of Quantum Physics.

In Soto Zen, we are told that our practice is to just sit, which is the meaning of the Japanese, shikantaza. But since we need to take our practice into the midst of our daily life, it might be more accurate to call our practice, to just look.  You can do this on your cushion, on the bus to work, or in the midst of an argument with your spouse.  The Tibetans say that you can even do this in your sleep.

And when we just look we realize how subtle and constant grasping and rejecting actually are. Every moment we attach to one thought over another, one memory instead of another.  When we speak, we choose one word over another.  Sometimes this choice is very conscious and sometimes it occurs without our noticing it, but it is always going on.  We are always picking and choosing. On the deepest level we see that we choose to live and not to die.  Every moment we grasp life and reject death.  But if we practice just looking, on our cushions and in our lives, we see that things begin to change.  We begin to let go of our grasping and rejecting as we begin to settle into the state of just looking.

And, if you go deeply into this state you lose all sense of separation.  You don’t experience yourself looking at something else. You see that things are without the boundaries that you thought they had, which means that they are inherently both ungraspable and unrejectable.  You see that there is nothing, really nothing, to hold onto or get rid of.  You see that there is no you than can hold onto or get rid of.  This is the fundamental teaching of emptiness.  And so we return to Dogen’s teaching that To study the Buddha Way is to study the self.  To study the self is to forget the self.  To forget the self is to be enlightened by myriad things.



From → Zen Buddhism

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