By Zuiko Redding
In this ango period, let’s pay attention to our practice, whether we’ve signed up for ango or not. It will help our lives.
Practice can be pretty difficult and painful sometimes. Thoughts come up in zazen that open old wounds. Daily life practice involves constant awareness and effort, and it’s occasionally just plain dismal and boring.
Watching others’ practice is more fun. We can ease our own pain and boredom by noticing others’ wrong thoughts, words, and actions. Gloating over our virtues in light of others’ shortcomings can definitely make us feel good!
My teacher, Tsugen Narasaki Roshi, the guy in the picture here, always advised us to watch our own practice. To watch our own practice is to be present in each instant with what we’re doing, making sure we’re in accord with the dharma, that we’re putting aside ego, that we’re helping and not hurting. This is less fun but in the last analysis we have more peace and our lives are more fulfilling when we do it.
To do this, we remember that if others’ practice isn’t perfect, that’s not our problem.
Our problem is our imperfect practice. Dealing with that is a 24/7 effort and part of that effort is letting go of all the ego involved in observing and judging others. When we’re tempted to judge others’ practice, let’s turn back to our own practice, understanding that the person we’re tempted to judge is just another human being who wants to be happy.
With kindness toward both others and ourselves, we just practice.
Today’s world has people taking many sides with conflicting opinions, arguing, and warring with one another. How are we to watch our own practice and at the same time act for the right of all to live in dignity, with respect and freedom to choose their own ways of living?
We watch our own practice. We live the life we want for everyone.
Rather than judging others’ lives and ideas and creating more discord and strife, we live according to ours, and we encourage others to live in the same way. We don’t try to change others, but we live in such a way with such joy that they will be inspired to follow our path. If they don’t, we don’t worry—we just keep following the dharma which leads toward equality, dignity, and respect for all.
Living this way, we’ll create well-being in the world and not get lost in fear, anger, and hopelessness.
*originally written for the Cedar Rapids Zen Center
Zuiko Redding is the resident teacher at Jikyouji – Cedar Rapids Zen Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa in the United States of America. She began studying and practicing Zen Buddhism as a university student in Houston in the early 1960s.
In 1992, she left her career as a sociology professor to receive novice ordination from Tsugen Narasaki Roshi and and enter training at Shogoji Monastery in Japan. She received dharma transmission from Narasaki Roshi in 1996. She returned to the United States in 1997 where she and five other practitioners founded Jikyouji in April 2000.
Editor: Dana Gornall