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One Step at a Time

From Chapter 26 ("Not Yet") of Subtle Sound: The Zen Teachings of Maurine Stuart:

Buddhism is not a set of doctrines. It has no dogma. It just teaches us about becoming buddhas. It is a way of spiritual self-development, but above all it is a way of action, first, last, and always. We must do something with this. We don't just sit around and talk about it, or sit on our cushions and gulp it all down for ourselves. We give it away; we radiate it. There are no shortcuts; there are no bypasses. There is no instant magical potion. We must go it on our own, on our two feet alone; yet we are always aware of our interrelatedness. Through each thought, each action, we can help or hinder one another. We take one step at a time, just as in kinhin. Just one step at a time. What we do will not be perfect, we know that. But, as R. H. Blyth says, "Perfection means not perfect actions in a perfect world, but appropriate actions in an imperfect one."

If we approach Zen practice with fixed ideas about what it will do for us, we just get in our own way. "Will this be good for me? Will it get me what I want? Is this what I'm here for? What if I have a wonderful enlightenment experience—will I look silly? What if I fail to have kensho and never understand anything at all? How long will it take for me to come to some realization?" All these ideas are impediments. Why worry about satori? There are people of great Zen spirit and action who have never heard the word satori in their entire lives. There are people who have had satori who behave abysmally. Forget about enlightenment. If we have it, wonderful; we let it go, without a single thought about it. If we don't have it, fine; the accumulated practice of deep samadhi—intense, concentrated sitting, with no pushing, no forcing—penetrates our entire being. This is the most important thing. The path of Zen is not about experiencing some sudden burst of something that is gone in a flash. Having some insight, some kensho, is indeed wonderful, but then we let it go, and we don't talk about it, we don't discuss the experiences we have had with others. Such experiences are just the beginning, not the end of our practice. Even reading about other people's experiences can be a problem, because one can become attached to that description and thing, "Oh, maybe it will happen to me that way." It can only happen as our experience, through our own zazen, in our own life. Then whatever it is we have experienced we give away to others, without saying a word about it. "See, I'm giving you my Zen. Isn't it wonderful?" No!

^z - 2017-08-17