Sunday, April 10, 2011

Ordinary Mind Is The Way & Everyday Zen

In ancient Zen literature there is a saying: 'ordinary mind is the way'. For me, this reflects the idea that Zen is not about mysticism or altered states of mind or seeking. Zen is about tapping into what is already inside of us, and it's something anyone can do at anytime of the day: while meditating, while folding laundry, while pitching business to clients, whenever.

In fact, I believe that one of the hallmarks of an enlightened person is that the mind state they achieve in samadhi becomes something they experience constantly in their everyday life. I call this 'Everyday Zen'. A person like this has so thoroughly disciplined their mind that they are in control 24/7. Such a person would be alert, attentive, unshakably calm, positive, balanced, focused yet detached, very quick of mind but slow to react, extremely patient, and happy in an understated way. While attaining Everyday Zen is not my goal with Zen, it is something I hope to achieve as a wonderful side-effect.

I've been able to attain Everyday Zen for short periods of time (we're talking a few hours and usually when there are few distractions). However, the challenge would be to keep Everyday Zen going regardless of what is happening around me. This is why I reject the idea that zazen should be done in a quiet place or when you're burning incense or chanting 'om' or a mantra. These things are fine if they help, but only if the person using them is fully aware that they are utterly inessential and mean nothing. I believe I should be able to go into zazen and reach samadhi while sitting at my zen table, while sitting in an airport waiting for a plane, or in a room with loud terrible music blasting away. This is the a sign of a disciplined mind.


jamison said...

Post: Ordinary mind is the way & everyday Zen (April 10,2011)

Hi again"

I have been reading your posts and I find some of them very interesting. My question to this post is do you still reject the idea of a quiet place to practice Zazen. My thoughts are, and I can only go by my own experience is that my deepest insights have only come from a very still.. and quiet environment. I think you are right once you have attained a certain level of expertise. You can become very detached and blissful even in a noisy and distractful environment, but this takes a lot of training.

Even with all my training I am still distracted, especially by a beautiful woman.
It will be impossible to reach absolute samadhi in a noisy environment. And Absolute samadhi is critical in my opinion to truly understanding Dogen Zenji "Mind and body drop off." You are also right Zen is a very personal practice, and I am still very much a beginner. As I still want to express my opinions.
All the best.
Kind regards,
Mark Jamison

Pete said...

Thank you so much! I'm happy to hear you find some of my musings interesting.

To answer your question, I do not reject a quiet place for zazen. In fact, I usually sit in a quiet place because, as you say, it is much easier to enter and maintain samadhi in such an environment. That said, I absolutely believe if we can discipline our minds sufficiently then we will be able to enter samadhi regardless of what is going on around us. It would be the ultimate expression of not being pulled by delusion around us.

I have been able to reach the proper mindstate in many non-ideal situations...though I am certainly not fully adept at it. Yet. Sometimes the 'impossible' is simply what is out of reach at present. I certainly am much better at entering samadhi than I was at the start of my practice, so perhaps one day my mental discipline will become so strong that my surroundings truly will be irrelevant to practice.

The post 'Form and Ritual in Zen' (July 5, 2015) goes into this in some detail. Thanks for reading and sharing your opinions!