Master Dogen, in his instructions for meditation, said that when we practice zazen, we have to take ‘the backward step’.
That suggests that the world we ordinarily experience is constructed. But also, that what we are searching for is abundantly available to us, and always has been. It isn’t somewhere we’ve not been to yet, but somewhere we’ve forgotten. It is easy enough for us to say that the ways we demarcate the world is a construction, but harder to say – and to mean – for the self, or, as the Heart Sutra says, ‘the five skandas’.
To abandon one but not the other is useless, like collapsing all the props, yet leaving the actor on stage. Which is more essential to the delusion?
In his commentary on the Heart Sutra, Dogen said that the five skandas are five pieces of prajna. Pra-jna. Pre-knowing. So, what is differentiated in the stepping forward into self and world is ‘one piece’, which is broken when we step forward, unbroken when we fall back, breaking and unbreaking, like space.