Encouraging Words from Tassajara
(Kosho McCall)

Stay as present as you can. Each time you see you’ve strayed from the present, rejoice! It is prajna that sees this so what you ordinarily might have called a failure and berated yourself is actually a victory. Clear seeing of what’s happening is wisdom—each coming back is compassion.

We are here to drop away body and mind To drop away body and mind we have to employ body and mind ardently and with great effort. There is no control in this effort. Control only leads to suffering. There is only willingness, a willingness to meet each moment with a fresh, open mind and a forgiving and courageous heart. The Buddha Way, the Way of True Reality is right before us; it’s right behind us; it’s above us and below us; it surrounds us, it fills us; we’re in it, we’re on it. Let’s do it.

Here we are. Each of us tiny monks, sitting on our tiny zafus in this tiny building, nestled in this tiny valley, on the edge of this tiny planet somewhere in a rather small galaxy; waiting for the morning star—when the whole universe awakens to its own heart in each one of us.

“If force doesn’t work, use more force.” Sometimes it works; sometimes it makes things worse. Buddha tried by sheer force of will and determination to break through suffering. It didn’t work; it made things a little bit worse. In the midst of his despair, he remembered sitting under the tree as a little boy. He applied that same compassion to everything that arose—opening, accepting without judgment. The clouds of delusion in his mind parted. He became radiant.

The Buddha said ”We are what we think, all that we are arises with our thoughts; with our thoughts, we make our world.” Everything we see, hear, think, etc., is like an inkblot. We put our own spin on it. No wonder cognitive therapy works: when we change our thoughts, we change our world.

I’ll tell you where you can find it. It’s the place of non-thinking. It’s where there is no involvement, no affair, no good, no bad, no pro or con, no movement, no gauging.

I’ll tell you where you can find it. It’s that space between the thoughts. —Even though it seems tiny, it’s really as big as this room, this valley, this earth, bigger. The space between the thoughts. Give it some attention, watch it grow. Know the end of suffering.

What causes suffering? Perhaps it’s trying to avoid suffering. If that’s so, enter the buddhafield where everything is accepted completely in an atmosphere of compassion just as it is. In the center of the buddhafield sits a serene Buddha surrounded by flower petals. Guess who that Buddha is.

Greed arises: Something out there will make me happy. Hate arises: Something out there, if I get rid of it, then I’ll be happy. Delusion arises: Something is confusing me. Put awareness to it with curiosity, tenderness, gentleness, compassion. What do you find? Greed turns to generosity; hate to kindness, delusion to wisdom.

Some express disappointment saying they expected we’d be stricter here. The practice here is very strict—for those who are willing, dedicated, and committed to waking up.

Most of us have “left home” because of some special sensitivity that didn’t feel “at home.” We have made “our home” here only to continue to discover there is no home; that everything is always changing, adapting to arising circumstances.

Watch a squirrel balancing on a small branch. That animal has and continues to evolve to meet its changing world—its eyes, fingers, tail, metabolism always adapting so that life (changing) continues within an always-changing form and context.

There is no home, nothing to stand on, nothing that isn’t changing. And this we can rely on and make our home—the home that is no-home.

I stand looking up at the canopy of the night sky. I hear that if I were to go straight up I would go on forever, arriving back at the same place. In the zendo we are plumbing the depths of the Self, and because there’s nothing there, we go deeper and deeper forever, until we come right back here, back to the Self. It is as vast and limitless an inner space as any outer space. Don’t know how it is out there, but this True Self is full of peace and joy.

Mind and body becoming One: the Mind, our attention; the Body, our breathing and posture. Attention to breath and posture—Mind and Body becoming One. Doing simple things: sitting, walking, eating, working, resting. Meeting each moment with acceptance, which goes beyond the One and the Many. Opens the true heart: kind, compassionate, tender, forgiving. Opens the true mind: vast, all-inclusive, boundless. True Self revealed: moments of pure joy, moments of complete freedom at the center of it all.

About Kosho McCall

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