The following was first published March 9, 2012. I’m republishing it now for all those who are arriving at the monastery today to participate in the week-long retreat called Jukai. During the week a number of people will formally make their wish to practice. Simply coming here and joining in everything wholeheartedly is a remarkable and potentially life changing event. Good fortune everybody.
The wonderful thing
about Zen practice is
that you get to do it
whether you like it or not.
I was talking to a woman the other day who is preparing to receive the Precepts during Jukai at Throssel in early April. This quote indicates that once you have committed to the practice it does itself. One thing that seems to happen during the lead-up to the commitment made during Jukai is to question ones ‘readiness’. Questions such as Am I able to keep the Precepts? Or, Am I adequately prepared, or would it be best to wait another year?
Like anything else one commits to, one enters with the understanding and depth one has at that time. Invariably that understanding deepens as one goes on in life. In the beginning taking up formal practice seems to be all about discipline. Not a word or concept some of us take so kindly too! The rebellious amongst us know how the internal pressure to ‘sit still’ works with that rebellious nature which…well…is in the habit of rebelling. There is always the need to be reflective around what we choose to do and not do. That is true for everybody.
Even after very many years of committed practice that little duality, Discipline v rebellion, can left foot us. At such times it’s good to take a kind look at oneself. Not sitting may not be a problem with discipline. It might be that something is pushing one to take a deeper look as to why one sits anyway. In the beginning it is a ‘good thing’ and becomes a ‘good’ habit which proves we are not the hopeless kid we sometimes think we are!
We have been told that over and over that ‘pure zazen must be done’, that sitting is a good thing. But what is the good, and what is the thing? The kid in us all, the rebellious one, gets some hard knocks along the way but not everything needs to be laid at her door. As the quote says, we practice whether we like it, or like it not. More importantly whether we know it or not. And along the way we struggle but that’s just a finger pointing back to us to ease up on ourselves. Why not sit still and enjoy and appreciate the gem we carry in our hearts. Sometimes we know it’s twinkle and most often not.
The gem, however, can be lost sight of. But not for long though.
Thanks to Chris Y. for the quote. And I’m sorry not to post more often of recent weeks. Right now my Internet connection has failed so nothing much will appear here for a few days. Sitting in the local gift shop where there is a free Internet connection I realize how I enjoy writing in such conditions. The statutory coffee and cake helps of course!
This post is for those who are stepping, those who have been stepping for years and all of us who have been stepping…eternally. For that’s, in truth, how it is. Practice has no beginning and no end. But receiving the Precepts formally is not nothing.