Master Nangaku – this story took place in China – saw his disciple Baso practice zazen with deep conviction. So he said to him: ‘But what are you actually trying to do?’ The disciple answered: ‘I’m trying to become a Buddha’. So Master Nangaku took a tile and started to rub it. The disciple Baso asked: ‘But what are you doing polishing this tile?’ Nangaku said: ‘I’m trying to make it into a mirror’. The disciple said: ‘But you won’t be able to make this tile into a mirror, even by polishing it!’ Master Nangaku then replied: ‘And you think you can reach the state of Buddha by practicing zazen?’
This story is very famous. It draws the attention on a very important aspect of the practice.
The idea of reaching a goal underlies all our actions. We always act to obtain something.
Master Nangaku tries to make his disciple understand that the practice is not a way to become Buddha, because fundamentally, we are Buddha. One doesn’t need to make Buddha. There is no goal to reach. The practice itself is the goal. Because we are Buddha, we practice Buddha.
Because we are life, we practice life. We practice life as it is. We abstain from incessantly adding comments. We refrain from staying fixed on anything. We let life flow freely, without interfering, without resisting to it.
Master Deshimaru used to say: ‘To practice zazen is to practice the normal condition of the mind.’
In the world of zazen, the world of awakening, practice and realization are one and the same thing. In the same way as any form is accompanied by its shadow – the shadow occurs at the same time as the form. When we practice letting go, when we free our mind so that it doesn’t stay fixed on anything, we are totally liberated, this is the normal condition.
When we sit upright, when our mind is not preoccupied by anything, when our breathing comes and goes freely, when we don’t try to catch anything, or to avoid anything, when we let all the forms that come to the mind appear and disappear by themselves, this is the normal condition, this is what is called the state of Buddha. This standpoint deeply transforms our life.
Pay attention to the posture of the head that must remain above the shoulders, keep your eyelids down, but half-open, relax the tensions in the eyeballs – doing all this is polishing the posture. It is the act of polishing that in itself is the mirror. To be fully there, with an open awareness, without defilement, without limits, this is the mirror.
To attain a state of wide awareness, awareness that nothing can darken, that sees everything without stopping on anything, this is the normal condition of the mind. No form sticks on the mirror, no form remains fixed on the mirror, forms only appear and disappear.
Our fear, our greed, our anger prevent forms to glide on the mirror. When we are free from the three poisons, stupidity, greed and aversion, everything glides along and everything passes for ever. This is the normal condition, the state of Buddha, without fabrication. As it is, it is Buddha. As we are deep inside, we are Buddha.
So don’t look for anything, just be what you really are. Just sit, sit totally, at the exclusion of anything else.
In all activities of daily life, keep the same practice. When you walk, just walk totally. When you eat, just eat totally, fully there with what you are doing.
And so, you can enjoy pure existence, without comments, without decorations, without aim, without expectations.
Taiun JP Faure, November 2021