Life is nothing more than an illusion. It's like a poor actor who struts and worries for his hour on the stage and then is never heard from again. All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players ~ Shakespeare
When we see that this life is a kind of charade, that we are all actors on a stage; that this world, this life, and all its beings, are “appearances” – meaning that yes we are solid, liquid and breath-filled, but at the same time, to be solid, liquid and breath-filled is to be a collection of appearances. To awaken (please forgive the sentence structure here) is to see that all phenomena, all appearances are made essentially out of nothing – they are all nothing more than appearances – when we see this, we get freed. That’s the point. We get liberated.
This is indeed the “seeing that frees,” in Rob Burbea’s phrase. And this freedom – it’s real.
This is why Zen training is worth it. It can be long and hard, it works “against the stream,” because we have strong instincts that keep us bound to the world of appearances, unable to see they are only appearances. But if we do loosen the bonds, if we see through this life, and start to see it as the stage set it is, then we have made a most significant discovery.
Everything we have thought and understood about ourselves and our world is thrown into a new light, a new perspective. We get to a far bigger picture – a boundless picture, and we taste actual, infinite freedom.
So yes, we can find we’re “liberated.” But even that is not the end of zen training. Why? Because, actually, we’re still here, on the stage. This world is still turning. We may have seen through it to the luminous nature of it all, the empty nature of it all, the unitary nature of it all. Fantastic. But the “purpose” of this discovery is not yet fulfilled until we turn to this world of appearances from the new perspective. We can now serve and help it in totally new ways, because we have seen what it is. And what we are.
Message from Henry is from our January 31, 2022 Newsletter.