What do we have to do to receive the love and help of the ancestors, ever more deeply and thoroughly, until finally we know that we do nothing, and they do everything? We act through and for them. They act through us. We are their hands in this world. And as we allow them to work through us, indescribable joy fills our hearts. We are free. They are free. This whole great earth and all beings are free. It’s just that unfortunately, many of us beings don’t know it.
But what is it that we must do to receive this vast storehouse of love in our lives? It’s quite simple, but maybe not quite so easy to do. We just have to drop ourselves. Our agendas, our histories, our very lives. But what does it mean, to “drop” them? Does it mean we have to abandon everyone in our lives, leave home and work and friends and loved ones?
Absolutely not. In the old days, to study the Way generally but not always involved becoming a monk or nun – a home-leaver. Today, many practicing Zen Buddhists are lay practitioners. Yet at the same time, we could say they are also home-leavers. But in a different sense. To leave home, more deeply, means to leave the “home” of our conditioned consciousness. It means to let go of the root-system of desires, attachments, hopes and fears that constitute our everyday experience of what we think of as our lives. To leave this “home” is not to abandon the content of our lives – our friends, family, household and so on. Rather, it is to abandon our attachment to them. When the attachments are gone, we are suddenly free to love in a way that was not possible before.
But what if the ancestors – perhaps even God himself or herself – are actually our projections? What if the source of the love we encounter is not somewhere “out there” after all? What if truly there are no ancestors, no buddha, no God? What about that? Does that refute the experience of love and support we experience? No. Of course not. All it does is strip away another layer of concepts. Ancestors. God. Buddha. Instead we have: no Buddha, no God, no ancestors. So what is this tremendous love which holds us? Where is it? Where does it come from? Why do we experience it? Is it made up? Are we deluding ourselves?
Not exactly. We experience it sure enough. But what exactly is it? And who does it come from? What is its source?
Maybe the answer is more shocking than we want to allow…
Nothing. Nothing at all. Nobody and nothing out there. Nothing anywhere. And that is true love. That in the midst of one astonishing nothingness, here all this world is. As Dogen said: “This whole great earth is nothing but moonlight reflected in a drop of dew shaken from a crane’s bill.” And as Yamada Koun Roshi said: “Clearly I have seen: not one thing, no man, no Buddha.”
Why and how can it be that this discovery of zero, absolutely nothing, no self and no world, should lead to such an overwhelming abundance of love? Not even all the Buddhas and ancestors can say. They don’t know. The Way, as Nansen says, belongs to neither knowing nor non-knowing. No knowing! No non-knowing! What is left? What is left?
Image: From Mountain Cloud Zen Center photo archives.