where nothing is lacking and nothing in excess.
Indeed, it is due to our choosing to accept or reject
that we do not see the true nature of things.
Live neither in the entanglements of outer things,
nor in inner feelings of emptiness.
Be serene in the oneness of things and such
erroneous views will disappear by themselves.
Many years ago after two weeks of meditation at back to back sesshins and my first deep experience sitting I came home and I was still in the midst of that deep experience. Everything looked very different yet it also looked the same. I was experiencing the world as a single entity. This was not a theoretical no- duality but rather an abiding perception that everything was a single Body and I was moving through it. This Body was not just a collection of things but that it was primarily space. The space between things seemed to take on a quality of substance. Before I had looked through space at things now I was looking at space and I had this insight that space was in fact what connected us all together in this single Body. I had been a spiritual seeker, a student of philosophy science and religion trying to put it all together in an intellectual frame work studding the connections between things, but this experience was different, It was a large perceptual shift. I had, I think, like most of us seen the world as a collection of separate beings and objects and thought the connections between these objects were the connections taught to me as a student of science as well as the human connections of love, friendship, family, etc. But now I perceived that everything is connected by this single body I was perceiving.
This perceptual shift was also accompanied by a conceptual shift in my self-identity because I recognized that I did not stop at the boundary of my individual body, that my truer body and self was this single body that contained all space and all things. This insight has had large repercussions in my understanding of how everything works. Hakuin Zenji in his Song of Zazen calls this insight, " the gate of the oneness of cause and effect." Before, in my dualistic perspective I had seen everything and everybody functioning in their individuality according to cause and effect but now I saw all of this activity as the functioning of a single entity and this single entity has direction that transcends the activity of the individual entities within.
This One Body has many names, In Buddhism it has many names, the Dharma Body, or just Buddha to name a couple but Seng Tsan is here calling it The Way which emphasizes the active. The Way is vast containing all space and time and everything within. The Way transcends all ideas of right and wrong. Within The Way everything functions as it must function. There is nothing missing. It is perfect because it could not be anything else. Even our delusions and suffering are perfect in the activity of The Way. Out thoughts and actions are the thoughts and actions of The Way and our recognition of The Way is The Way's own self recognition.
Recognition of The Way is not open to those caught in a dualistic perspective. If you wish to perceive The Way drop all dualistic thinking. That is the practice of Zen. Direct experience of the One Body might not be exactly the same for each individual but it is probably also very similar for everyone. And the causes and conditions that allow one to perceive the One Body are also very similar. There is a logic to this experience that is apparent to those who have had the experience. And that logic dictates the necessary attributes of any practice that will lead to perception of The Way. What are those attributes? Well you might say that Shakyamuni Buddha laid them out in the Eight fold path, if you are a good Buddhist. But the eight fold path is just a skeleton on which the the organs and flesh of practice hang. The heart of practice, the attributes necessary for the experience of The Way are complete openness, complete clarity, and a searching mind. lastly, I must not leave out effort.
It is a difficult practice to thread. Our dualistic thinking often confuses us and leads us off the necessary path. Our desire to "know", to solidify our understanding, may lead us to take up the intensive study of Buddhist Philosophy which may also lead to opinions that block our path. But without some study you my find yourself walking in the dark. Without desire there is no effort but desire may also become like a cloud not letting the mind clear. Even the Bodhisattva practice of good works is a double edged sword. In this practice we learn to drop our obsession with the self and put others first but also we might form strong attachments to the others we are helping setting the good against the bad.
The prescription that Seng Tsan gives is serenity. "Be serene in the oneness of things," he says. This type of serenity is often translated as equanimity, that state of mind in which all things and events are viewed as equal. This state of mind is also not easily attained. It is attained in deep zazen but maybe for only periods of short duration until one has had a deep experience of The Way. Also this state of mind is not different from a mind of complete openness, and complete clarity, which is by the way completely quiet. There is the teaching of Silent Illumination which asks us to cultivate and return again and again to that place of quiet serenity, telling us that Enlightenment will gradually grow. This a very Soto way of threading the needle. Put aside effort and attainment and simply cultivate a serene and quiet mind. It is never so easy. In the Rinzi school in which I practice we talk about effort and attainment as positive's. This is just another direction to threading the needle but again it has it's pitfalls. Language just cannot fully tell us how to get from here to there.