Three aspects of practice
are faith, questioning and determination.
monkeys fall out of trees. Japanese proverb
Someone said to me, “I
would like to do zazen but I can’t.” When
I asked why, he responded, "Because I keep
take failure as an obstacle to practice. That is the
shape of your practice: Trying and falling short,
recognizing that and trying again. And falling short
again. And getting back on the cushion and doing
it again and again. That is practice; that’s good practice,
not inferior or weak practice. Practice that is
consistent. Not getting discouraged and giving
up on yourself If
the breath, return to one. If you’re following
the breath, return to the breathing.
And don’t grade yourself. Just do it.
us there is only the trying. The rest
is not our business. T.S.
Realization is effort
without desire. Dogen
Right effort, one aspect of the Buddha's eightfold
noble path, highlights doing your very
best — not doing things in a slipshod way, not doing
things in a lukewarm fashion, but rather giving
yourself fully to the task at hand.
One important aspect of that is that we do not
demand perfection of ourselves – that is
to say we don’t
compare ourselves with some imaginary ideal or
with some other person who seems to be doing
we do is do is the best we can.
Effort and the precepts
In the context of the
precepts, we talk
about dirtying or violating or besmirching the precepts
rather than breaking them.
As long as we are engaged and trust in the three
treasures — the Buddha, Dharma and
Sangha — we can’t break the precepts, we can only dirty them or bend
Zen practice — practice of integrity
with any kind of spirituality— has to do with
doing your best. And it’s certainly
human and natural and even predictable that at some
point you’ll mess up ; you’ll get
tired or discouraged or distracted or hung up in some
way. That's what happens; that’s life. What
we do is life.
Faith and inquiry
Some people have an innate capacity for operating
on faith. Such people take the teachings as given,
and they say “OK I really trust this, I really
have a solid sense about this. I might not understand
it all but it feels right.” And they will start
their practice and begin to sit based on that feeling
Some people have a predisposition to inquiry — what
Hakuin Zenji called “doubt” It’s
not skepticism so much as questioning. Such
people base their practice around a driving determination
to get to the bottom of things, to really clear away
whatever cloudiness or obstructions may hamper them
from having the clearest possible realization.
These people sit as a form of intensive radical questioning
They’re both perfectly good practices and you
may recognize aspects of yourself in both.
Are you more inclined to faith, inquiry
or determination? Often we
don't recognize these qualities in ourselves.
If you have trouble seeing yourself in
these apects, reflect on times or places
in your life when faith was important.
Where do you use inquiry or questioning?
When has determination carried you through