Posted inDogen, Henry's Messages, Koans

Message from Henry: The Seeker

February 10, 2021

Forget seeking, forget not-seeking, forget all sense of gain.

Don’t underestimate or undervalue the seeker within you. The seeker is right. There is something worth seeking, something worth finding. Remember Dogen’s words: “I went to China, body and mind fell away, and I found the Dharma.”

The Dharma is what the seeker is looking for. The seeker knows intuitively that the Dharma exists, and that it must at all costs be found. It just doesn’t know quite how to go about finding it. Many of us explore many different avenues trying to find our way, until one day something in us is ready, we connect with a teacher – which is to say, someone who has found the Dharma themselves, and been approved as having found it by another person who also found it – and our training begins in earnest.

So what is the Dharma? First of all, it’s the most precious thing possible in a human life. It sets a whole human life in a totally different perspective, it justifies and validates our birth in a miraculous way.

Secondly, we can’t say what it is. “Empty-handed I went to China, empty-handed I returned,” Dogen also said.

It is an emptiness that contains everything. “This staff has turned into a dragon and swallowed the whole universe,” said Unmon, with complete accuracy, as he held up his staff. “So where are the mountains, rivers and great earth?”

This koan expresses perfectly the truth and the fact of the Dharma.

It’s maybe unpopular to use the word “true” – yet there is a true Dharma, and you know it when you find it, or when it finds you. Life is turned on its head. Everything is revealed, everything is redeemed, everything is perfect, beautiful, and acceptable. There’s nothing left that’s unacceptable. Even death is redeemed, death is acceptable. Death is fully welcomed, revealed, manifest and present – and beautiful. “Death, where is thy sting?” as the poet asked.

Yet, the seeker is also wrong. There is nothing to find that is not already found, already here, already ours. And as long as we keep looking, we are necessarily looking in the wrong place. The looking itself is what we are looking for. The looker, the seeker, is the very thing we seek, as St Francis said. But how can the eye see the eye? How are we to understand this? What are we to do?

The paradox is that although seeking is in a sense wrong, it’s the only thing we can do. It’s through seeking that we find, as that master Zaddik and hasid Jesus said: seek and ye shall find.

Within the guidance of a Zen training, we come to realize that all we can do in the end is diligently follow our practice, and forget about the rest. Forget seeking, forget not-seeking, forget all sense of gain.

We give first our attention, and then our entire selves, to exactly how things are. Right here, right now, all is just as it needs to be. This moment is completely fulfilled. Our practice is to notice that, welcome that, embrace that, and let ourselves go so that we can in the end fully become that.

Message from Henry is from our February 8, 2021 Newsletter
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