The Harsh Cry of a Crow
Q: Roshi, I wonder if you could just break down for me in simple terms what it is that you teach as Zen?
A: Of course. Here it is. Your awareness, which includes all of your senses, including your mental sense, is basically pristine, open & boundless as space. All the senses that seem to be separate are one. It is the Buddha. It is nothing more than the endless delight and bliss of sheer being. It is the awe-inspiring depth of mysteriousness itself, yet it is also as simple & clear as the palm of your hand or a wildflower or a patch of green moss or a crooked stalk of bamboo or the harsh cry of crow as evening darkens the sky.
Once you realize this and can live fully in this state, you are said to wondrously enlightened, and you have nothing left to do.
Q: So why do so many people, like me for example, find enlightenment beyond reach?
A: For only one reason: your thinking glues & grimes up the works. How does it happen? I will explain. This constant obsessive thinking you've engaged in since you were a child coarsens your spiritual energy, which then blocks the simple awareness. You feel sick with longing & grief all the time & this drives you to harm others. In turn, you receive harm, which you resent & hate, so you become even sicker with the turning of the years.
At the beginning, it's no more serious than getting a grain of sand in your eye. But rather than wash it out of the eye, you start rubbing frantically, which makes the eye more & more inflamed. Eventually you might even lose your sight entirely.
Q: So you're saying that if I just take some time to let go of all thinking, & become calm & stable, my natural awareness will take care of the rest?
A: That's it exactly. But you have to put some strength into it at the beginning. Once you've developed the habit of thinking, it is difficult to let go of forms, names & labels. As you regain your straightforward spiritual energy (Qi) you may even feel very strange. You may become frightened that you are "losing yourself." You are not. You are realizing the light that has always been there. You are entering the great space of being the way a dragon enters water, or a tiger roams on a mountain.
Q: So -- how must I proceed?
A: Do not conceptualize your awareness as anything whatsoever. Most important of all, do not think of it as "nothingness." If you need a simile, it is like space, but understand that this is just a simile. When you meditate, take care to free yourself from all names & forms, like Houdini throwing off his chains. Gradually, your spiritual energy will clarify by itself.
Q: I'd like to ask you about negative energy, particularly as it relates to interacting with others.
A: If you can interact with others in a natural, direct way, keeping yourself free of negative feelings, that's the best. If you can't, then you should withdraw into solitude until you can.
Q: What about various moral strictures, ethics of behavior, karmic retribution & so forth?
A: The harsh cry of a crow is neither wrong nor right. Some people who have not attained any lucidity, on hearing the crow's harsh cry, will feel a flash of pain & fear. They attribute their own emotions to the crow, & call it selfish or underhanded or brutal. But in doing so, they only tell the sad story of their own lack of awakening.
The Zen I teach is all about the inner state of your awareness, & whether or not you have attained lucidity. There will always be people who will try to challenge you & criticize your behavior on this or that point. Pay them no mind at all, so long as you are letting your light clarify. "Do no evil, do only good. Purify your own mind. That is the whole teaching of the Buddhas."
Some people may tell you for this or that reason that you are doing evil, not good. But evil is accompanied by negative feelings & getting enmeshed in social conflicts. Keep to the straight, pure body of reality, which is just your innate awareness. Nobody else can do it for you, though there will always be plenty of people to tell you that you are doing it all wrong!