If We’re Already Awakened,
Why Do We Practice?

If we’re already innately buddhas, why practice so hard, for so long? The answer is practice must be done to be real. This is what separates the sheep from the goats (those who read about Buddhism). Direct personal experience shapes ones life.

All beings, the Buddha recognzed with his enlightenment, share the innate wisdom and perfection and goodness of the Buddha; but they don’t realize it. And so we practice first of all so that we can integrate this understanding— which we find we can dispense with — and grow into a personal, palpable experience of what the Buddha taught. To go beyond intellectualizing and superficial understanding, we practice as a way of manifesting the fact that we are already Buddhas.

This is the confluence of practice and realization Not as two separate things but as a unity: practice is realization, realization is practice. And we observe them both. 

Enlightenment: the goal?

Do we practice to "become enlightened?"

You may hear or read that the prupose of Zen practice is to have a consistently clear and deep enlighrenment. You may also hear that we practice to realize — that is to recognize personally — the enlightenment that has been our essence all along.

Neither of these perspectives is wrong. Nor do they contradict each other. Our task is to penetrate this seemingly dichotomy and to understand.

Enlightenment is Buddha nature. How will you know this? Practice.

The point of our practice is not to become something other than what we already are, such as a buddha or enlightened person, but to realize or become aware of the fact that we are intrinsically, originally, the Way itself, free and complete. If we practice to become something else, we simply put another head on top of our own, making ourselves ghosts. One head is enough!      Taizan Maezumi Roshi