Imagine for a moment that it was your privilege to have a brief interview with God, in the course of which you were allowed to ask one question. What would you ask? Now you would have to think this over very carefully, because this golden opportunity would come to you only once and you would have to be most careful that you didn’t ask a silly question.
Well you might try God out with a Zen Buddhist koan. Such as, beyond the positive in the negative but what is reality? And the law to talk to and say, “My dear child your question has no meaning.” And you wouldn’t have the opportunity to think up a meaningful one and come back. So perhaps you should’ve asked, “What question should I ask?” And the Lord would say to you, “Why do you want to question?” See, it seems you do want one, don’t you? Because you feel that something is wrong if you don’t have a problem. When you’ve got one, that is, the insoluble problem of trying to win without losing it.
Now as long as you can keep that problem, you’ll be busy. Until you see that it can be solved. But there are all sorts of ways of presenting that problem in such a way that you cannot see that it’s meaningless. And the better gurus are very clever at bringing these ways out. You may see for example if you are invited to practice intense concentration, that after awhile you find yourself thinking about concentrating and therefore that your concentration is somewhat divided. Or he may ask you What is your motivation for this activity? And you find out that it’s your element of irreducible rascality. So however, the teacher once he is seeing we’ve mastered that lesson had something still more in jeans. He says now you’ve actually made progress. Because finding out that you could not really concentrate. Lets value on because it began to prick at the illusion of your ego.
But you’ve only got your foot in at the door. Beyond this, are many many higher things to be learned and you must redouble your efforts. And so of course you apply yourself all the more again and again on all sorts of tricks that these old gentlemen can come out with, and you will keep at it just as long as he can make you fall for it, that in the end, you see that it was all tricks. That as the great Zen master Rinzai says “Well after all ,there was nothing much in Obaku’s Buddhism.” And he went on to explain to his students that they art of Zen, or teaching Zen, is like deceiving a child with an empty fist. You know how you can intrigue a child by pretending you’ve got something very precious in your fist. And you can play a game for an hour, provoking a child to ever great enthusiasm to find out what you got. And in the end the revelation is that there was nothing there.
So many people say in the course of there Zen training, I realized there was nothing to realize. It was all there from the beginning. Because you see standing up as to the realisation that you can’t do anything about it. Equivalently that you can do nothing about it. Comes to costly awakening that the reason for that is there is no you separate from you. In other words, when you try to control your thoughts, or control your feelings there is no difference between the thoughts and the controller. Because what you call the thinker is simply your thought of yourself, the thinker is a sort of monks was and the feeler is a feeling a feeling among feelings. And trying to control thoughts the thoughts just like trying to bite your own teeth. So you’ve found that out. Well then the other side of the picture is of course, that if you do find that out, you discover that the project of controlling yourself was unnecessary. Because you were, yourself, a Buddha from the very beginning. That’s what the Upanishads mean when they say quite simply tat tvam asi. You’re it. You, as you are. Now how can you conceive that? Supposing you let your imagination go and really think through what you would like to happen. Imagine the most gorgeous state of bliss that you can conceive. Where there are no worries, no anxiety,no haunting future with unpleasant consequences. You’re in control of the whole works. And you’re sitting on your lotus, perfectly content. And I ask you seriously, “Is that really what you want?” You’re quite sure that’s what you want. Imagine now, let’s get this situation straight. You’ve got everything you want, you’re in the highest possible spiritual state that you can conceive. And yet, I haven’t really surrendered myself. Because I know it all. Something I don’t know. So please the surprise you know what would happen. You would find yourself sitting here, in this building tonight, feeling exactly the way you feel. There’s your answer. Because after all, don’t you have it all? You have the feeling of yourself. But the feeling of yourself depends on there being, at the same time, a contrast, the feeling of other. The self has a certain sensation of being in control of life to some extent. Through voluntary action, the Will seems to have a certain freedom, and yet on the other hand there are limits to that and it seems in the end life sweeps us away, and we are overwhelmed by the involuntary. And yet the voluntary keeps popping up new voluntaries come into the world with every baby.
So you see, you couldn’t have the experience you call being a voluntarily acting self without the contrast of the involuntary happening. Now do you want to be without the involuntary happening? You want to get rid of that? Alright, if you get rid of it, you won’t have the experience of the voluntary self. Or would you like to turn it the other way around? Would you like to have the experience of no voluntary self, and on the other hand everything just happen?
But then you say well I’m not sure about that. Because then I would feel at first that I was floating, that I had no further responsibilities, that I was walking on air. And we do get that feeling sometimes. If you take the ideas of determinism and fatalism to their final conclusion, you do have that sense of freedom from more responsibility, freedom from worry and care. And you float along for a while whereas off. You don’t somehow seem to be able to follow that philosophy consistently. Especially if you have children. And somehow society begins to push on you to be responsible, as it pushes on children to be responsible.
And so this nagging duality keeps coming back, that I cannot realize this nice irresponsible condition of involuntary behavior unless I have the contrast to the possibility of the voluntary, and vice versa. And what does that mean? Obviously it means these two aspects, or sides of our experience, which we can call the voluntary and involuntary the knower and the known, the subject and the object, the self and the other, although appearing to be two, are indeed one. Because you can have one without the. And when that state of affairs arises you know at once that this is a conspiracy. That two things which lose different is different can be, are for that very reason the same.
Now, you can detect even under those actions of yours which we call voluntary, the voluntary movement of the muscles or of the mind, that there are processes which are not voluntary. You do not will your blood to circulate, you do not control by intention the synapses in your nervous system, and yet you would be incapable of any voluntary action unless those involuntary processes were going on. So you see these two things go together. And you begin to realize something which is rather difficult to describe, that what you call your experience is a do- happening. We don’t have good words for this. We have some words which have a sort of sense like the word cleave, which means to stick together or to hold together and also to split. And the words sacer, in Latin, means holy or accursed.
And so I would like to propose we all should find some word for a do-happening, because it’s all a do-happening. That’s what the Buddhists mean when they talk about karma. The word karma means action. And when something happens to you, be it good or bad, they say it is your karma. That means quite simply it is your doing. But you say I didn’t mean to do that. No. One school of thought will explain it by saying, but you see you did something in a former life or a former time which now has this consequence, but that’s a very superficial understanding of God. You don’t need to believe in reincarnation to believe you understand karma.
Karma is simply, that you don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. That is one where you are doing what you call the environment. And with the other aspect you are doing what you call the organism, the me, this living body, but as you cannot conceive possibly the existence of a living body with no environment, that is the clue that the two are basically one. Likely to poles of a magnet, north is quite different from South and yet it’s all one match so it precisely the same way. You are both what you do and what happens to you. So that you have a little game in which you play that what happens to you that you’re not responsible for. That’s not you doing your own or responsible for this side of it. And then you can compete with the other side. What it’s like is this. Get two knitting pins, one in each hand, and have a fencing match with yourself. And really sincerely try to stick the other hand but that other hand is really sincerely trying to stick the first one and also to defend itself. It’s like playing chess with yourself, you see. Now it won’t work. You’ll come to a sort-of standstill, unless you decide for your right hand that’s the one through to going to win. But then you’ve broken the rule of the game see. But that’s what we do. That’s what is called by both the Hindus and the Buddhists avidya, ignorance, which really better means ignore-ance.
So what it comes down to, you see is basically this. Just in the same way that the authority of the guru is your authority, you did it. So in the place where you live life. It’s where you’ve put yourself. And just as on the surface of the sphere, every point may be regarded as the center of the surface, so every place may be regarded as the true place. And everyone’s in his true place. Everybody, in other words, put it in what language you will, is a manifestation of the divine. Playing this game, that game, the other game. And your not knowing it, if you don’t know it, is part of the game. It makes it all the more fun. Get lost, you say to yourself. And lost you get, like children love to play hide and seek. To get lost. Like we all like to go to a play, or see a horror movie. And have the cold shivers, because we think something awful is going to happen, something is going to be seen on the screen which we can’t stand to see. Woo, won’t that be a thrill if that happens.. We all expose ourselves to that this is children and young people are always exposing themselves to dreadful things. And the parents get absolutely, they get the heebie-geebies. If it isn’t getting drunk, or driving hot rods, they take drugs. And that may ruin their sanity for life. How hard can it be? If they don’t take drugs, they will do something else always to see how close to the point of danger you can get. And those people who go in for the racing cars usually end up in a crash. And their life is all the sweeter, for being played dangerously.
So I would say to those among you who are the most dead-heads, in the sense of unspiritual and square, if there’s any here, real stuffy people: congratulations. You see, you’re playing a very far-out game. You see you’re so lost you don’t even know where you started, and that’s taking a most gorgeous risk. Why, because of you, we might even blow up the planet. How close are we going to get to that one?
Well, just in the same way as that car racer watching is the needle going up, up, up, up, there are these people more and more and more righteous, determined that good will prevail watching that needle go up it’s getting hotter and hotter and hotter and finally they go out in a blaze of glory. And then when the dust settles, they say, “that was a close squeak.” I mean, that was quite a dream we’ve woken up from. Where will we go next? Because that’s the point, it’s simple. That’s why I would say that my function is liberative, I want you to see that it’s you. It’s not me, it’s not Swami so-and-so, it’s not Buddha so-and-so, it’s not Saint so-and-so, it’s you. You’re doing it.
As Sir Edwin Arnold put the words into the mouth of the Buddha, “Ye suffer from yourselves. None else compels. None other holds you that ye live and die. And whirl upon the wheel, and hug and kiss its spokes of agony, its tire of tears, its nave of nothingness.” And when one of the old Zen masters went to his teacher and said “What is the way to liberation?” The teacher said “Who is restraining you?” He said “no one.” If so, why should you ask for liberation? See it all bounces back to you. What do you want? Do you know? Can you think it through? Say exactly what you want. And invariably, you’ll get back to the place where you are. Because what you say you want is always the symptom, the expression of what you are now.
If that is the case, that it’s all because you are doing. Why meditate? Why do anything of a so-called spiritual nature? People don’t understand really what meditation is. They take it up, like they take up psychotherapy or a course in weight reduction. In order to be better. But if you do that. You are not practicing what is called jnana or yoga or Zen. That’s not it at all. Meditation is the one human activity which has no purpose. Buddhas, or those who are supposed to have attained anything, are invariably shown in some sort of meditation posture, why should they meditate any more? Because that just happens to be the way that a Buddha sits when he sits. When he sits, he sits. When he walks, he walks. He’s not going anywhere, he’s just going for a walk. Because he digs it. See to dig, the very word is not merely to appreciate but to penetrate. To go to the heart of the matter and to penetrate the moment, to get right to the root of the moment is nowhere else than the center of you where you are, it’s where you start this whole thing.
So to get with yourself is to get at the moment where you begin all this question where does the question come from? Where does the desire spring from? Well that’s you, and that you is the point from which the whole universe is created, flowing back into the past like the wake of a ship. Wake doesn’t drive the ship, the ship that makes the wake. So here you are, producing it. And meditation is just sitting here and watching it happen. And it’s not done because it’s good for you, it’s done for fun. I might even say meditation is a fun thing. And if it isn’t you’re meditating. There’s an awful game the meditators play which is competitive suffering. They go to some place where they sit for hours on end until their legs ache and practically fall off. And then come back and brag about how they sat through all those hours of leg-aching. Now it’s very difficult to put down people who are suffering. Because after all, one has a natural sympathy for pain. But I sometimes want to say “For goodness sake, don’t throw your suffering at me, in that way and in that spirit. Don’t brag about it. Don’t one-up me by saying, ‘Well I’ve suffered more than you’.” People do things like that, they say, “Well I’m more aware of my shortcomings than you. I’m more tolerant than you are. I recognize more than you do what a rascal I am.” Every kind of way one upping somebody else in order to play the game in which I always win. So, once we get into that kind of thing with the meditation scene, we get into hierarchies and ranks and degrees, and who has attained number seven, who has attained number nine, and an expert guru will put a stage higher than anyone’s thought of, so as to see how far your ambition will run, and this goes on endlessly, endlessly, endlessly, until you suddenly wake up.
That you do really meditate all the time by virtue of existing all the time. Only, you miss that eternal now, by always looking for something next minute, expecting a result. Now you can say, let me not expect a result. Because one does anyhow. So you may as well just as well sit and enjoy it.