There’s a saying in English “Practice makes perfect”, but in our Zen practice we actually drop ideas of perfection and non-perfection. We practice just to practice, without any gaining idea. I make this point because it’s so easy to get caught up in the emotion of “that was a good sitting” (pat on the back) and “why can’t I concentrate?!! My head is going round and round in circles” (extreme frustration).
In our advertising culture we are constantly urged to aim for the perfect house, the perfect job, the perfect relationship, and that can spill over into wanting the perfect zazen. But perfect zazen is just simply sitting, seeing all those raging thoughts and judgements as a passing parade; just seeing what is here.
In Verses on the Faith Mind (Hsin Hsin Ming) it says:
‘The Way is perfect like vast space where nothing is lacking and nothing is in excess.
Indeed, it is due to our choosing to accept or reject that we do not see the true nature of things.’
This perfection of the Way is not the Hollywood movie way, but the perfection of the crooked line, the fading colour of the rose petal, the noisy aeroplanes roaring through our Annandale meditation. It’s the path of seeing through the labels and habits of mind, choosing to be here on the cushion or here in the middle of your busy schedule, whether it’s with the uncomfortable, the anxious, the serene or the joyous.
Gaudi said that in the natural world there are no straight lines, and you can see that expressed in his marvellous organic architecture which finds perfection in avoiding the perfectly straight line.
Similarly, when the bird sings it doesn’t say to itself: “my top notes are horrible today!” It just sings, whatever comes out.
So please don’t give yourself a hard time when your actual practice doesn’t live up to your expectations. Just keep going.
AND YET…..there is also aspiration. These are the ten Paramitas or Perfections which Gilly mentioned in her recent Encouraging Words about Dana or Relinquishment, the first of the paramitas.
Let’s take a look at the fourth paramita, Virya or Zeal, which nowadays seems such an old-fashioned word. It is a combination of stick-at-it persistence, sincere enquiry, and a trust in each complete moment, which will naturally flow into generous action for others. Virya will help you, rather like an encouraging Personal Trainer. It helps you to choose to act so that the Buddha Way can be embodied fully.
I’ll finish with this quote from Verses on the Faith Mind:
‘To live in this realisation is to be without anxiety about non-perfection.
To live in this faith is the road to non-duality,
because the non-dual is one with the trusting mind’.
These ‘Encouraging Words’, by Jane Andino, were printed in the June/July 2018 Newsletter