Posted inHenry's Messages

The Point of Practice

January 11, 2015

All this existence is in fact nothing but Zen practice.


What’s the point of this practice?

Well, we could say: it grants space for things to be imperfect. It allows us to let things be as they are. It gives us peace. We somehow learn that the imperfect state of everything is also perfect.

Things like that. Beneficial things. New attitudes, new opportunities for healing and constructive action, new kinds of helpfulness that we may be able to offer in the world. An escape from the nightmare of self-and-other, where we are condemned to harried lives of struggling to make things the way we think we want them.

Instead Zen practice can liberate us into the world of no-mind, no-self, no-thing, where there is nothing to be done but to act freely towards the good. To cease from evil and do only good, as the cardinal precept says. And where that comes so naturally we no longer know what we are doing,  Yet none of these things really come close, noble and excellent and devoutly to be wished-for though they may be.

So what is really the point of this practice?

It’s like asking what is the point of life, what is the point of existence, what is the purpose of all things existing? Can anyone say? When we look at the marvel, the jewel, the treasure, of any single thing existing—a flower, a pebble, a cloud, a steering-wheel, a curve on the road, a tap at the sink, a beam of sunlight on a bathroom counter—it is beyond all human powers to explain the miracle of its being there at all. Never mind this whole great earth, the rivers, mountains, trees and rains.

What is its purpose? Its purpose, whatever it may be, is precisely the true purpose of practice. They are one and the same…

All this existence is in fact nothing but Zen practice.

We are learning to join all things in their practice. Our practice is not different from the floor’s, the sky’s, the cushion’s, the bird’s, the river’s. What an extraordinary thing it is to have human consciousness, and to allow it to be doing its practice in full awareness, and to find that that practice is none other than the practice of each every phenomenon in the entire universe, at which point what is left of human consciousness?

When we truly practice, we are all things, all engaged in a single practice. Do we then need to ask what the purpose of practice is? Are we even able to?

By Henry Shukman, from our newsletter archives.

Image: Siding, By wolter_tom, CC0 Public Domain, from

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