To Be Awakened to All Things

Our confusion

How strange! Everyone has it! Everyone has it within himself/herself… that capacity for understanding, that capacity for awakening, and the capacity for loving. And yet, they have let themselves sink in the ocean of suffering…

Buddha’s profound discovery was not just that all beings have the same wisdom and compassion as the fully awakened one but that we do not realize it.

That is, by compulsively splitting the world into categories – us and them, real and ideal – we alienate ourselves from the awakened life. And because this splitting is so common, we assume that it is self-evident reality rather than questioning it.

Studying the self

Dogen Zenji, the founder of the Japanese Soto school, wrote in the 13th century:

To study the Way is to study the self.
To study the self is to forget the self.
To forget the self is to be awakened to the myriad things.
To be awakened to the myriad things is to free one’s body and mind  and those of others.
No trace of enlightenment remains, and this traceless enlightenment continues  forever.

When Dogen Zenji writes about studying the self, he does not mean intellectual study. Dogen is telling us to learn the awakened Way by personal practice.

Perhaps an even better word would be practice. To practice the Buddha Way is to practice oneself, or just live life. This seemingly repetitive process is nothing but one’s own life. … the implication of practice is doing over and over and over and over. In a way that is what we do in zazen. Of course, our zazen is not just learning something over and over; rather, as Dogen Zenji says, it is realization itself. Taizan Maezumi Roshi

And how do we do this? There is no better way than zazen.

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My life! Your life! The Buddhadharma, the One Body, is completely my life, completely your life. Shakyamuni Buddha himself found this out. That is why he said: “How wonderful! I and everyone in the universe is enlightened.” Not just I, but everyone. That is what I means; I means everyone. But knowing this is not enough. That is why the words learn or study are not quite sufficient. They do not convey this sense of over and over and over. In other words, minute after minute, how do we live our life as the One Body, or the One Body as our life? No more, no less. Taizan Maezumi Roshi

To  become intimate with something by doing it over and over and over. Taizan Maezumi Roshi

Before enlightenment chop wood and carry water.
After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.   
Wu Li

What do you practice?

To be awakened to all things

To forget the self is to be awakened to all things.

Note: While some people translate this third line as “to be enlightened by all things,” Dogen Zenji's thought becomes more immediate when you practice it until it becomes your own. Then you are "getting it" from the inside.

To practice, Dogen Zenji tells us, is to be awakened. So is this why we do zazen, to become enlightened?

This is the traceless enlightenment Dogen Zenji refers to above.

In other words, do not separate practice and realization. We do not practice for the sake of realization; realization is already here. Each of us has some realization, one person more, one person less. When you do zazen day after day, time after time, moment after moment, you are manifesting yourself as that realization. Repeat what you know by merging your life into what you know, or what you have studied, and do this over and over and over again. Taizan Maezumi Roshi