What if the problem is not how things are; if the problem is in fact us?
If you’re looking for a transcendent fix, an escape from all your problems, zen is not for you. Here, we don’t escape our problems. As Buddha said, everyone has 83 problems. If you fix one, another will pop up in its place. He said he couldn’t help fix the 83 problems. But he could help with the 84th problem – which is that we don’t want to have any problems.
Rather than transcending problems, in zazen we simply study the one who sits in the middle of all the problems. This is what the analogy of the lotus flower points to: the beautiful bloom that grows out of filth, mud, dung. The extraordinary fact is that our problems are not the problem. Seen right, they can lead us to the solution.
I can still remember the joyous moment I discovered, through the incredible help and guidance of my teachers, as well as of the great cohorts of koans and the masters in the koans, that I had been wrong about everything – not just about some things, or most things, but absolutely everything. It may sound strange, but the joy of that discovery was immeasurable, beyond all describing. Sometimes it seems like it will never go away, even years later.
May we all discover how wrong we are!