Since the death of Daido Roshi, I've been re-reading a couple of his books. This afternoon in Cave of Tigers, I came across a dharma encounter that struck me especially hard. Recently I feel especially aware of my own human imperfections. I neither regret nor lament them, but I've been noticing them more and more. Thich Nhat Hanh talks about embracing our imperfections, loving them as we would anything else about us and others. But I've wondered, what exactly is the relationship between our own imperfections and the enlightenment of all sentient beings? Are even enlightened Buddhas sometimes imperfect? Is it possible for someone to become enlightened, but then keep making the same dumb mistakes?
So this afternoon I found this passage in Cave of Tigers, by John Daido Loori, Roshi. I hope no one will mind me using it here. I think it goes a long way toward answering the question for me, so I thought I'd share it.
STUDENT: Is it true that zazen itself is enlightenment?
STUDENT: So, when I sit and I'm falling asleep, or I'm daydreaming, or I'm not watching my thoughts, is my zazen enlightenment?
TEACHER: The very first thing the Buddha said upon his enlightenment is that all sentient beings are already enlightened. Obviously that includes our sleeping, our wakefulness, our intelligence, our stupidity. Most people have the idea that enlightenment is somewhere other than where they stand, so they run around looking for it. What Master Dogen is saying is that the process, zazen, and the goal, enlightenment, are not two things, any more than absolute and relative are two things. Form is emptiness, emptiness form. Delusion is enlightenment, enlightenment is delusion. Good and bad are the same thing. It doesn't compute logically, so what is it?
STUDENT: Yes, I think I'm definitely getting stuck on that.
TEACHER: That's because you're trying to understand it by linear, sequential thought. The fact that you can't understand it doesn't mean that it's not so. Anything else?
STUDENT: No. Thank you for your answer.
TEACHER: May your life go well.
It's funny how so many of the questions I have about the nature of the Buddhadharma lead us back to the Heart Sutra. Form is emptiness, emptiness is form.
There is no attainment, with nothing to attain.