Hazy Moon Zen Center


Los Angeles

One Mind

By Nyogen Roshi

You can certainly feel what is happening here with the strength of the samadhi. And yet what you are experiencing is just scratching the surface. This is the most amazing Dharma. Don’t sell it out in a simple or superficial way. It is extremely profound.

I’m talking about this one mind. The ultimate and universal mind, the cosmic mind, the Buddha mind which is non-discriminating and pervades the entire universe. More than that, it is the entire universe. How simple, how beautiful. This one mind, this place of not knowing. This is the place of anuttara-samyak-sambodhi. Transitory emptiness. All things in constant flux. How can we experience this one mind? We cultivate it with zazen.

It isn’t that in sitting zazen we produce this one mind. We sit zazen because of our delusions. It is seldom that this one mind becomes manifest, realized, and actualized. The important thing is not to discuss the world of oneness. Having a theoretical or conceptual understanding of it will carry you nowhere. It is to live day-to-day carrying out the business of the world in the world of oneness, which is this one mind — the literal reality of what each of us is.

The way that we exist right here and now is the way we sit our zazen. Too often people do not want to sit, they do not want to go through the discipline and if they are very clever and they have personal agendas, they think, “Oh I get it, it is just everything here, that’s Zen.” There are folks in Maezumi Roshi’s lineage who do not think that zazen is necessary. Roshi thought it was absolutely necessary. He used to tell us to think about Shakyamuni Buddha and all the great teachers that followed. They all did zazen and they were spiritual and intellectual geniuses. You might think you have such a superior intellect that you can just grasp this mind conceptually, but the Buddha himself said that it cannot be grasped.

What is this zazen that we practice? This is the non-dualistic, objectless state that does not strive for any goal or achievement. Did you hear that? It doesn’t strive for any goal or achievement. This is a critical point, this is the Gateless Gate. This is the most difficult form of effort. It’s called the effort of no-effort. It is radically different from our worldly activities, which are nothing other than a continuous grasping and rejecting that results in anger, envy, grief, fighting, greed and self-pity. That is our day-to-day life. That’s delusion. The Buddha didn’t teach us to live in a realm of delusion. The point is not to develop a defensive wall around my being, but to see that I don’t need that wall, that wall is the cause of my suffering.

So what we try to do in this sitting, or whatever activity we find ourselves in, is to be with this non-striving mind. Dogen tells us to be totally present in the moment. Whenever a thought occurs, be aware of it. As soon as you are aware of it, it will vanish. He does not say ruminate on it, see where a thought comes from, or understand the deep meaning of it. He says just be aware of it, don’t add to it and it will vanish. He says if you remain for a long period of time forgetting objects — not following them, not ruminating on them, not building a story from them — coming back to the present, staying totally focused in this moment and remaining like this for a long period, you will naturally become unified — become one. The great Dogen Zenji tells you this and you can trust it. He is not trying to sell you a course on positive thinking, a course on rehabilitating your lifestyle. He said body and mind of themselves will drop away and your original face will be manifest. What is this original face? It is this one mind. This is the essential art of zazen.

Do you want to stop your suffering? There is a way to do it quite simply. Maintain a calm state of mind when you practice. During breaks, work continuously to calm the mind down without the egocentric luxury of talking to yourself. Empty yourself, allow the mind to settle, continuously go to your breathing and empty out all the churning in the ruminating mind. There is no mind so active that it cannot eventually settle. If you think that you can rummage around in your egocentric mind and have it give you great meaning, you are involved in the biggest delusion of all.

So this is our zazen: no separation. What do they tell you? It completely clears all pain. The mind should be alert, awake, focused and very, very stable. As the thoughts, the emotions, and the physical environment floats by, I am not pulled. I can stay in this absolutely still and centered place. This place of absolute samadhi. This mind is clear and magnanimous. From the beginning, unbound by seeing or hearing, the genuine self romps and plays in samadhi without obstruction.