The fundamental nature of our being is awakening, and what we’re trying to do is uncover that. Not at some later time or in some later life, but here and now. Be here now. All the teachings are meant to point us in the direction of our true nature.

 

 

By Daniel Scharpenburg

There’s a famous four line description of the Zen tradition that has come down to us.

This list is attributed to Bodhidharma, and it’s really supposed to be what sets the Zen tradition apart. It’s what makes Zen different from the rest of Buddhism and what we can keep in mind as Zen practitioners. These four lines express what the Zen tradition is and why it’s important:

A separate transmission outside the scriptures;
Not dependent on words and letters;
Direct pointing at the human mind;
Seeing one’s nature and becoming Buddha.

This sounds serious, but maybe it’s hard to understand. So I’ll go down it line by line.

A separate transmission

This means our practice is in our lives. We aren’t simply studying Sutras and talking about how great Buddhism is; we are actualizing the teachings in our lives. Hopefully we are also having a dedicated relationship with a teacher and/or a community that can help us on the path.

Not dependent on words and letters

Buddhist writing (and teaching) points in the direction of awakening, but ultimately these things should be viewed as maps and hints, not really as sacred texts. They are to be relied on only in as far as we’re trying to use them to point the way. Most writings have come out of someone else’s experience. They’re efforts to describe the experiences they’ve had on the path. These are useful and helpful, but the important point is awakening—we won’t come to that with intellectual understanding alone.

Direct pointing at the human mind

Our aim in this path is awakening, seeing our true nature.

Making efforts to recognize our true nature is the beginning of the path. The fundamental nature of our being is awakening, and what we’re trying to do is uncover that. Not at some later time or in some later life, but here and now. Be here now. All the teachings are meant to point us in the direction of our true nature.

Seeing one’s nature and becoming Buddha

Seeing one’s nature is recognizing your true self; becoming Buddha is actualizing and embodying that. We don’t practice to get somewhere or attain something. We all have Buddha Nature, we have awakening already. We are practicing because that’s what Buddhas do. We are all Buddhas. We are dedicated to seeing our awakening and integrating it into our lives.

The Zen approach takes awakening as the path. As practitioners, we strive to give ourselves to our training and follow the path that’s been laid out for us. Hopefully we can rely on teachers and/or communities and truly throw ourselves into the process of awakening.

That’s all there is.

 

Photo: Pixabay

Editor: John Lee Pendall

 

The fundamental nature of our being is awakening, and what we're trying to do is uncover that ~ Daniel Scharpenburg Click To Tweet


 

Did you like this article? You might also like:

 

What Happens on a Spiritual Retreat?

  By Daniel Scharpenburg Going on a spiritual retreat is like entering a hole in the universe. If it was just a break from your normal routine, I think that would be enough to have a big impact, but it's more than that. I used to resist spiritual retreats,...

How Much of Your Time Will You Waste Today Worrying?

  By Daniel Scharpenburg   “Take all the courage you have left Wasted on fixing all the problems that you made in your own head.” -Mumford and Sons   We waste a lot of mental energy; we are wasting it all the time. I only use the...

Going Forth From Home: Buddhism is Rebellion

  By Daniel Scharpenburg Walking the Buddhist path is an act of rebellion. I think people sometimes lose sight of that. In the Buddha’s time there was a really rigid system where people weren’t allowed to move up in life. If your dad was a...

Shantideva on Mindfulness {The Eightfold Path}

  By Daniel Scharpenburg Shantideva was a monk and scholar in the Mahayana tradition who lived at a popular monastery called Nalanda, in India in the 8th century. He wrote a text called Way of the Bodhisattva that is still revered by...

Comments

comments

Daniel Scharpenburg

Daniel lives in Kansas City. He runs Fountain City Meditation. Daniel is a Zen Priest and Meditation Teacher. He believes that meditation teachings can be shared with a little more simplicity and humility than we often see. He has been called "A great everyman teacher" and "Really down-to-earth." Daniel is affiliated with the Dharma Winds Zen Sangha, where he received ordination in 2018.

Find out more about Daniel here and connect with him on Facebook

Latest posts by Daniel Scharpenburg (see all)

(Visited 186 times, 5 visits today)