Posted inBasic Buddhism, Dharma, Other Teachings

Practice as Pilgrimage

April 7, 2022

The Way is never apart from you, right where you are. Why should we wander here and there to practice?

Eihei Dogen

Zen has deep roots in the practice of pilgrimage. From the teachings of the Buddha to the ancient tradition of monks “wandering with the wind” to meet masters and deepen their insight, pilgrimage is a way of engaging, exploring, and embodying who we truly are – the native ground that Yamada Koun Roshi called “the homeland of the heart.”

At the same time, Zen is clear that the reality we seek to realize is nowhere but here. “The Way . . . is never apart from you, right where you are,” says Dogen. Or, as Dogen’s contemporary, Mumon Ekai, put it, “Before a step is taken the goal is reached.” The step IS the goal. Not the slightest gap.

What, then, of the pilgrimage, the exploration of zazen? Do we wander about, seeking something outside ourselves, something that is lacking; something yet to be? Are we busy navigating borders, mapping out safe spaces, trekking in territory we think we know?

What if this pilgrimage is not a geographical trek but a homecoming – a practice of recognizing that we never leave home?

Thich Nhat Hanh famously wrote, “Peace is every step.” He didn’t say ‘peace is in every step.’ Peace is every step – whether sitting, standing, walking, or lying down. Each moment is a pilgrimage, an arrival, a return to the peace that excludes nothing – and an invitation to offer our sitting for the peace of the whole world.

Dogen wrote, “When you find your place where you are, practice occurs.”

In a season of war on many fronts, this practice calls us to find our place right where we are and let that be a pilgrimage of peace.

Photo by Sage Friedman on Unsplash

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