Master Dôgen wrote:
The Buddhas and Patriarchs sweated blood.
How could we get out of making efforts?
We who have strayed so far away from the normal condition, how could be come back to the normal condition without making any efforts? The patriarchs were people like us, but they tore themselves away from the claws of the three poisons through an honest, accurate and continuous practice.
This continuous, honest, responsible practice is easy when we are free, liberated from the three poisons. See how much energy birds spend when they are looking after their young ones: from morning to evening they exercise total activity. This is because they are in the normal condition. They give all their time, all their life to bring up their young; when the young birds fly away, the parents get no thanks.
Master Dôgen wrote a chapter called Maku mozo: doing no harm. He explained that at the beginning, we have to make great efforts, give ourselves a lecture, make commitments, respect our commitments… make continuous efforts until the day when, as he says, no more harm is done, without effort: this is the normal condition. The activity becomes total, without negligence, without casualness, without greed, without aversion.
As a conclusion, Master Dôgen wrote:
Don’t hope for an easy practice.
However, like when you remove the shell of a walnut:
it’s difficult, but the pleasure is all the greater.
Don’t hope for an easy practice – at least at the beginning. At the beginning, that is to say, as long as we are not back to the normal condition.
It’s not through the extent of our knowledge that we free ourselves. It’s not either through a harsh discipline. It’s by controlling the mind, that is to say by unifying body and mind, by doing things with all our heart, in all the situations that fall to us, those heaven sends us.
Taiun JP Faure, September 2022