In Daily Life

“The Great Way”

At the SeaIt’s perhaps the greatest single-sentence summary of Buddhist practice: “The Great Way is not difficult, it only avoids picking and choosing.” If we transcend all preferences, distinctions, and opinions, the true nature is revealed and “everything becomes clear and undisguised.” So easy—yet of course it overturns every conventional principle by which we so often lead our lives.

The following ties in with the implications of the Two Truths in our daily lives.

The Great Way is not difficult;

It only avoids picking and choosing.

When love and hate are both absent,

Everything becomes clear and undisguised.

Make the smallest distinction, however,

And heaven and earth are set infinitely apart.

If you wish to see the truth,

Then hold no opinions for or against anything.

To set up what you like against what you dislike

Is a disease of the mind.

When the deep meaning of things is not understood,

The mind’s essential peace is disturbed to no avail.

The Way is perfect like vast space,

Where nothing is lacking and nothing is in excess.

Indeed, it is due to our choosing to accept or reject

That we do not see the true nature of things.

Live neither in the entanglements of outer things

Nor in inner feelings of emptiness.

Be serene in the oneness of things

And such erroneous views will disappear by themselves.

To deny the reality of things

Is to miss their reality;

To assert the emptiness of things

Is to miss their reality.

The more you talk and think about it,

The further astray you wander from the truth.

Stop talking and thinking

And there is nothing that you will not be able to know.

This passage is from The Faith Mind Sutra: Verses on the Unfailing Source of Life by Master Sengcan (J. Sozan). It deals with faith in mind, faith in how the mind really functions. Later in the sutra, Master Sengcan says:

One thing, all things,

Move among and intermingle without distinction.

To live in this realization,

Is to be without anxiety about non-perfection;

To live in this faith is the road to nonduality,

Because the nondual is one with a trusting mind.

One thing, all things, move among and intermingle without distinction: It refers to the metaphor of the Diamond Net of Indra. Everything throughout space and time is interconnected, and at each connection—at each point—is a diamond that reflects every other diamond, so that in this vast net, each diamond contains every other diamond. This is one thing, all things, moving among and intermingling without distinction. The diamond net is “the unfailing source of life.” Indeed, it is life itself, your life itself. We separate ourselves from this unfailing source of life with our mind, our thoughts, our ideas. But the only way you can separate yourself is mentally, because one thing, all things, move among and intermingle is the way it is, whether we realize it or not. Regardless of whether we live our lives according to this understanding or not, the fact remains that it is the way things are. With our minds we separate ourselves and immediately create all the dualities of life. On one side we create pain, greed, anger—fundamental ignorance. We also create the other side—joy, compassion, wisdom, and enlightenment.

When love and hate are both absent, everything becomes clear and undisguised: When duality is absent, everything becomes clear. But we shouldn’t cling to this “clarity” either. The other side of clarity is confusion; both are diseases of the mind. All of the dualities are mutually arising; they are all co-dependent. You can’t have one without the other: good and bad, heads and tails, heaven and earth. That is why it is said, Make the smallest distinction . . . and heaven and earth are set infinitely apart. They are not set apart until we separate them in our minds. Civilization itself is founded on the dualistic use of the mind. The Buddha went beyond dualism, beyond the distinction between this and that, to show that there is no self, that what we call the “self” is a creation of our own consciousness, which separates us from everything else.

Picking and choosing, coming and going, love and hate, inside and outside, having and not having, accepting and rejecting, asserting and denying, form and emptiness, right and wrong—they all begin with making the smallest distinction. They all begin with the idea of a separate self, a boundary between the self and the rest of reality, an inside and an outside . . .

Source: Excerpted and adapted from Finding the Still Point: A Beginner’s Guide to Zen Meditation, by John Daido Loori. © 2007. Also published in The Best Buddhist Writing 2008. http://shambhalasun.com/news/?p=6331