Thursday, July 1, 2010

Practice, Realization, and Actualization

There is Zen koan (a teaching story or question that cannot be understood by rational thinking) that describes a student who has attained enough power to sit atop a one-hundred foot tall pole. Yet, implies the koan, this ability is not enough. The student must now step forward off of the pole into "the Universe in all directions."

What this koan intends to teach us is that we can cultivate mighty attainments of concentration, mindfulness, and insight while on our cushion, but these attainments are meaningless without the ability to utilize them in the world. In the Zen tradition specifically, there are considered three main pillars of Buddha Dharma (the way of the Buddha): practice, realization (through practice), and actualization (bringing the practice to daily life).

The practice of meditation is merely that: practice. Not practice so that we can get good at being a meditator, but practice that allows us facility and skillfulness to move from the cushion to daily life with less suffering. The realization that arises from such practice is that we are almost constantly in a state of clinging and aversion toward the world. All the insights in the world will not lead us to true liberation from suffering until we can release the tight fist of grasping. The take away insight that must be actualized is that we must release attachment to everything, including our one-hundred foot pole.

In studying ourselves,
we find the harmony
that is our total existence.
We do not make harmony.
We do not achieve it or gain it.
It is there all the time.
Here we are, in the midst of this perfect way,
and our practice is simply to realize it and then
to actualize it
in our everyday life.
~  Maezumi Roshi


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