To live it fully and completely, not to waste it, but to give it meaning. If we don’t give our life meaning it has none. When we live just to satisfy our limited desires and wants we can’t seem to find meaning and purpose. If we always put ourself first, then we live a shallow, unproductive and unfulfilling life. When we truly appreciate who we are and what this life is, its meaning and purpose cease to be such a mystery.
The human side of our nature as human beings is full of wants, needs, emotions, feelings, sensations, hurts, pains, and suffering, as well as the ability to love and care for others, to do and to act. The being side is perfect complete and whole just as it is, there is absolutely nothing lacking, nothing in excess and nothing to do — just be.
When we look out at the world, we tend to divide everything into opposites: male and female, high and low, good and bad, right and wrong, young and old, life and death. But each of these opposing pairs are separate only as concepts that we have created. In reality they are one whole. Life and death are inseparable, two aspects of one reality. From birth comes life, suffering and pleasure and all of that — and death, which is simply a continuation of what we call life. Only what is born dies; that which was never born does not die, and that is our True Self.
To see this we need to take a step back, but that step is not easy. It requires forgetting one’s self, or stepping out of the self we are so identified with and attached to. We think we are this one we call the self, but if that’s true then who is it that is actually witnessing and observing this self? If we were to look at the one witnessing in this very moment, we would find no one, or no-thing. Who is that? That is what in Zen we sometimes refer to as the ‘Forever Unnamable It.’ It is not what we think of as the self or the ego; it is the True Self .
The ego self is not the limitless and unconditioned Self, even though we might like it to be and sometimes act as if it were. We believe it is substantial, real and solid. But when we try to find it, it eludes us. We have a sense that we are not just our name, our story, or what we do, but we don’t know who we are. We cover up this not knowing with pretending to know and understand, but in truth we don’t know, we’re confused and pretend we’re not. Or we are caught in our confusion. We fill up our time with trivial pursuits and distractions, all so we don’t have to face that we really don’t know.
Our problem is that we believe there is something about our situation that needs to be fixed, something we need to know or to do. In fact there is nothing to do. We think we can figure it all out, finally understand and grasp the ungraspable. We can’t. It is beyond our grasp, forever ungraspable and unknowable, but our ego doesn’t like that. The ego always feels it should be able to know what is unknowable and to grasp the ungraspable. That is our human arrogance; monkeys and dogs and all other living beings are not bothered by not knowing, only man is. Dogs are just dogs, monkeys just monkeys, trees are trees.
When we are one with the Absolute or Truth then there is nothing to figure out. When we allow ourself to rest in our True Self, the reality of our nature, then we can relax and be at peace in our Self.
Why aren’t we happy just being? Why do we always want to be different or better or greater than we are? We are already perfect. We could spend less time trying to become perfect and more time just being. Our beingness is intrinsically perfect, nothing lacking or extra. From the beginning we are whole, complete and perfect. When we do, just do. When we are not busy doing, then just be.
~D. Genpo Merzel, is a Zen Master also known as Genpo Roshi, and a teacher in both the Soto and Rinzai schools of Zen Buddhism. He founded the Kanzeon International Sangha in 1982 and is a former President of the White Plum Asanga, composed of successors of his teacher Maezumi Roshi. He is the creator of the Big Mind process, and the author of several books which have been translated into a dozen languages. This is an excerpt from his forthcoming book, Spitting Out the Bones, A Zen Master’s 45 Year Journey.
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