At any time, we can find within our experience a belovedness, an ease, that is intrinsic to our existence and our very consciousness.
All of us in the Mountain Cloud sangha and network are blessed to be part of a deep and ancient lineage of practice. Throughout history we human beings have been through many challenging situations of many kinds, in all times and places. For example, in mid 8th century China, when Zen had emerged as a new expression of Buddhist awakening, a dire civil war ravaged the country. Some estimates say one third of the total population died in just eight catastrophic years. Zen was forged and tempered in those times. To be part of a living body of practice that has weathered turbulent periods like that can make a huge difference in our lives today – to how we respond to both the easier times and the harder.
We are connected to our practice-ancestors not just as old examples of human wisdom, of people who found a well-being that is within us all and does not depend on conditions. They are not just distant models. They are actually direct ancestors of our live lineage today, real historical figures who followed the same practice that we do, and found their way to a liberation from automatic, unbridled reactivity, from the turbulence of the inherited human mind, into an “ease and joy” that is not a blissed-out passivity but rather a clear, energetic and sometimes passionate responsiveness to life.
There is a story about one old master who was sitting in meditation when brigands burst into the temple. The other monks ran away but he sat still. The leader of the militia brandished his sword before him and said: “I am a person who doesn’t flinch when he plunges his sword into your belly.”
The old master calmly responded: “And I am a person who doesn’t flinch when a sword is plunged into his belly.”
The brigand not only put down his sword but became a student of the master, so the story goes.
At any time, we can find within our experience a belovedness, an ease, that is intrinsic to our existence and our very consciousness. If we cultivate an openness to this, as generations of practitioners before have done, we can join them in their ease and joy, in their profound and clear aliveness in the face of all conditions.
Our opportunity in practice is not merely to pacify an unruly nervous system. It’s much more than that. We can open up to a boundless well-being that is beyond any single nervous system – one that reveals our innate oneness with all things.
One Dharma brother of mine from the Philippines referred to the coronavirus in a recent message as “our true self”. For a moment it stopped me in my tracks and I had to reread the sentence. Then quickly it reminded me: of course, all this world, all creation, viruses included, is intimately part of each and every one of us. On the deepest level, nothing is excluded from what we are: really nothing. What kind of a world would this be for us if we could consistently open our hearts to that incomparable fact? True oneness, no exceptions. This is the world where we meet our practice ancestors, where we can find a home that nothing can compromise, and where we meet the source of our deepest trust.
In times of uncertainty, it can be a great help just to know that such a thing is possible, and that throughout human history there have been people who devoted themselves to finding it and sharing it, as a service and a generosity to all of us, as a gift they only wanted to pass on and share.