The Fast Way to Chan
- Jan 28
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Many spiritual seekers get frustrated as they become lost in the myriad approaches to enlightenment presented in Buddhist literature and by various spiritual teachers: take this path … or that path; study this sutra, then that sutra; do these things … don't do those things. There is also much discussion of psychology, philosophy, science -- a billion things to occupy the mind and distract from the simple, direct approach to Self-realization. While all these things are, in and of themselves, well and fine, it's not surprising that few come to realize their own enlightened nature through them. The untended mind naturally latches onto the ephemeral as if it were the perennial -- that's when we end up chasing our tail, getting dizzy, and falling down in a dead heap.
If you are one of those rare people who just wants to get down to business, here's the scoop:
1) Guess what: we're all already enlightened. The object of spiritual practice is simply to realize it.
2) All paths to enlightenment are a sham and they all lead to the same Truth.
3) The paths are a sham because there is no path - there is no destination different from where we are right now so there's no way to get to it except to be in it.
4) The paths just help prepare us for Being but they do nothing to actually get us there. As long as we're on a path, we're on a journey and as long as we're on a journey, we're not where we want to be. Where we want to be is just right where we are. Don't mistake the journey for the destination!
5) Getting lost on the journey and asking a guide where to go is like going into your own home and asking the way to your own home!
6) When we struggle with practice we are like a thief pretending to be a cop so we can arrest ourselves - just let everything be.
But this doesn't address the topic of this short talk - the fast way to Zen. Here it is: all anyone needs to do is question deeply the nature of "I"ness. Where is "I"? Who is "I"? Who is it who is reading this now? Who thinks this thought? Koans, hua tou's, chanting, reciting the Buddha's name - religious disciplines of all sorts -- have no other purpose than to bring us directly to "I"ness. There is no path to get there, so it takes no time to arrive there. The only effort it takes is the effort of caring enough. And therein lies the rub. There can be no pretending. We must be excruciatingly honest with ourselves. We must have the courage to confront the fundamental nature of life and death, which means abandoning our mental images of ourselves and of everything. Detachment is essential.
So if you're tired and frustrated of the battle, just stop in your tracks and ask yourself, "Who is it who's tired and frustrated?" With a crack of thunder the veil will vanish.
And that's the fast way to Chan!