When We First Begin
When We First Begin by Fa Shi Yao Xin Shakya
When we first begin our path of self-inquiry, we have often been driven to it by a profound notion that there is something missing in our life. We begin to realize that life can’t be just endless burdens we face day after day. Something else exists….but it is hidden from our every day consciousness.
This is how we think when we first begin to examine our daily life. We begin to look beyond the burdens.
These feelings of constant dissatisfaction fuel our problems as well as spur us on to find a spiritual path. We, however, sometimes end up putting our faith, our confidence, in this false reality. We think we need the dissatisfaction as a prod to keep us going. We are like Sisyphus….we believe we are cursed to push the boulder up the mountain until the end of time. But as we will see, all we need to do is step aside and let the boulder barrel down without us holding on.
There is no doubt suffering exists. It does poke and push us to find a way to liberation. To see and recognize suffering is a grace. It is a small touch of grace but it is nonetheless grace. But we need to develop our inner urge for freedom from suffering. For a long time we may believe we need the suffering to practice, thinking if we lose this constant prod we’ll give up. But to rely on the prod solely is not enough, we may begin a spiritual endeavor but we won’t continue. We need more than the prod to fulfill the two laws of Zen, begin and continue.
With time, if we are lucky, we learn to put our faith in our Buddha Nature; we switch our object of confidence to an inner reality we call Buddha Nature. An inner illumined awareness. This change often feels like an awkward beginning, a new step of faith. When we recognize we need confidence (faith) in the practices we gain a little more grace. It is true we do need confidence (faith) to begin to turn within to realize there is something more than our everyday burdens.
We need to put confidence in living out our Buddha Nature, (our divinity).
This living out divinity requires a lifelong, daily commitment of dropping the complaints of the hungry ego and accepting our divine, Buddha nature. More grace is needed to rely on the practices of discovering and relying on our inner true Self. Our hungry ego and our over thinking intellect challenges us. The ego wants something else, something more and the intellect thinks it knows better.
Another taste of grace is to know no matter what the ego gets up to, no matter what the intellect figures out our Buddha nature is untouched. It is immeasurable and ineffable and remains steadfast and unchanging.
As we begin to we know this Truth our confidence strengthens and broadens and words and ego desires diminish.
Our focus changes from finding our true self to living out the climb on the mountain of our true self in everyday life. This takes time. Patience, Effort. Endurance.
Our obstacles are in our distorted mind, a mind absorbed and identified with whatever arises; we go around the mountain instead of up it. We believe in our own myths much like Sisyphus. We don’t see that there is a possible path out of this endless inner cycle around our misery. In the cycle of misery we tend to rely on our wrong nature (our hungry ego and our know-it-all intellect) and not on our True steadfast one.
When inner faith/confidence is developed we see the path heading upward, we choose to go upward and know the difficulties and joys of going on this upward, unknown track. Discovering things at every turn of the tradition we sometimes think that there is some kind of secret teaching around this so-called Buddha Nature. And so we go on the arduous upward track for years and years, testing our selves. Instead we need faith in the simplicity, and humility of meeting what shows up in our day to day life of a practitioner.
We learn not to give up. Even a glimpse of our True nature helps us not to give up. We meet what shows up as the myriad forms of the undying and unborn nature. In all circumstances we are able to see through our Buddha eyes and hear with our Buddha ears. We realize everything is Buddha.
Everyday life is the path up to the summit.
Our intention encompasses bringing to mind the three pure precepts in every circumstance: we do no harm, cultivate goodness and purify our mind.
Fa Shi Yao Xin Shakya