“No gaining” practice in 2012


This post was written by guest-contributor, Kevin Heffernan

For the past few days, I’ve been thinking about New Year’s resolutions in the context of a statement by Shunryu Suzuki: “Each of you is perfect the way you are…and you can use a little improvement.” How encouraging and humbling in one breath! I think this is essentially the same as Dogen seeing that practice and enlightenment are one. We already are buddhanature, or enlightenment itself. Zazen, which we are encouraged to practice with “no gaining idea,” is just this activity of buddhanature. Perfection and improvement, practice and enlightenment, go forth hand-in-hand. Yet we often turn to practice out of some sense of lack. Similarly, we make resolutions out of some aspiration for improving ourselves. What would this effort to “improve” feel like if we had some glimmer of or even faith in our inconceivable, unescapable, ungraspable buddhanature? What if resistance and realization are made of the same stuff? What if effort or struggle is buddhanature? What would a buddha look like at the gym? How would a bodhisattva balance the checkbook? What would a government clerk look like on a zafu?

Kevin Heffernan is the coordinator of the Richmond Zen Group, at the Ekoji Buddhist Sangha and the Zen Campus Minister at the University of Richmond.
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Filed under Meditation, Zazen, Zen Buddhism

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