Seeking What Is

Here’s a quotation from a poem by Hakuin called The Song of Meditation. You can Google this and find the complete poem online.


Not knowing it is near, they seek it afar. What a pity! It is like one in the water who cries out for thirst; It is like the child of a rich house who has strayed away among the poor.

This poem refers to our essential nature, which is always present. It cannot be otherwise because the “it” is just reality which includes everything. This is Buddha-nature. Buddha-nature is the simultaneous arising of everything which makes the world. When we are lost and seeking something called enlightenment, this is our true nature asking to be released from delusion or suffering. That true nature is, as Dogen said in Bussho (“Buddha-nature”), “all beings are Buddha-nature.” Since this is our true nature, how can we go looking for it outside of ourselves? Zen Master Jiju Kennett wrote a book called “Selling Water By the River: A Manual of Zen Training.” Her point was that the teachings were like selling a person what they already have. Yet, this is not the whole truth, because although we are looking for what we already are, we cannot find it without help. We are like the child who is already endowed with riches, who thinks themselves in poverty.


When this “thing” called enlightenment is attained, it is the realignment of our understanding about our place in this world. We go from thinking we are separate and fearful, to realizing that we are part of a large whole called “just this.” “Just this” is everyday life. Yet, knowing this does not necessarily mean that we will suddenly understand and actualize our situation. Morality, skillful means, wisdom, compassion, empathy and all the virtuous things we are, come from knowing our interconnected, interpenetrating state as Buddha-nature. Yet, when I tell you that, you will not necessarily  respond with those qualities. So, how do we find or realize our true nature? That’s a tough question we’d all like an answer to. Buddhism answers that we rely on the teachings, the teacher, and our spiritual community. This also takes the form of meditation (zazen), service and community. We must engage with the teachings in order to enact the teaching. We have to find a teacher and a community to work with and even then it may take  quite some time. So our effort has to be patient, yet steady. This is a very interactive process. It is also a personal process, because we are each different. It is a universal process because we are all one true nature.


I encourage you to find a teacher if you do not have one. Find a community and find a path. No matter what you decide to do, once you have found your place stick with it. Find your true home.


May you have a wonderful week, Shinshu

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