Any spiritual training has to work with what is presented, namely the front door to experience: our mind and our sense of self. In kanna Zen, or koan training, the student initially sits with a ‘barrier koan’ such as ‘Mu.’ The focus, the attention, is all on Mu. Mu comes to fill the foreground of the mind. The mind’s front door over time becomes completely occupied with the koan. That’s what’s needed. While the front door is busy getting absorbed in Mu, it’s not attending to the back door, where the ‘real’ Mu can slip in unnoticed and spring itself on us. It seems paradoxical, and it is: by becoming absorbed in the foreground, we allow the background gently (and suddenly) to come to life. Our attention expands. By means of the narrow focus, our consciousness broadens. As we absorb ourselves into the lamp of consciousness, its light opens into a more inclusive illumination. But is has to happen by itself. We can’t aim for it directly. In other words, you can’t take the mind head-on. The front door is not the way; and yet it is the only way. Our minds are fruitfully led down the garden path, an illusion of progress is fed to the hungry maw of the self to keep it quiet, like a bone tossed to a dog, and real shifts can occur- inadvertently…….Thomas Jackson
this study of light is not unlike the painter’s layered nuance of crisp whites….this is when we begin to question, ‘what is white?’…..separating our diatribes from our truths invites the full spectrum of light….may our colors fade…..let nothing remain but the color of light….
The reality is that nothing about me or my life is ideal. The stories that I tell myself about myself are never complete or watertight, and they all involve some element of self-deception that makes me vulnerable to hurt and to spontaneous reactions that I will later regret. My very attempt to make myself into a perfect being has precisely the opposite effect. It distances me from the other person and makes it difficult to get on with them. Yet it is impossible to live without stories. It is quite likely that you, the reader, are reading this article with a mostly unconscious motive of finding ways to shore up your self-story. You may be looking for a way to be a better person, but you can, in reality, only be the person that you are. My spiritual progress, if we can call it that, has therefore given me a sense of gentle irony about human nature. What I have discovered that is of extreme importance, however, is that I now have a sense of being one who is loved by the universe. Imperfect, limited, and vulnerable as I am, the sun still shines upon me, things do work out, food appears, rain falls, wonderful conversations take place, and the grass grows without any help from me. We do not radiate the unconditional love that we read about in holy texts ourselves, but, inadvertently, we often reflect it……David Brazier
The true path to awakening is genuine discernment;
it’s the very opposite of belief.
….Trinlay Tulku Rinpoche