385. Natural, not intentional

One of the reasons for the peculiar forms Chinese Buddhism took was a recognition that there’s an apparent contradiction at the heart of Buddhism. If we say that life is suffering and what causes suffering is desire, and so we should be free of desire, then isn’t that itself a desire?

Likewise in the Shin Jin Mei where it says “The Great Way is not difficult, only avoid picking and choosing”. Isn’t the intentional avoidance of picking and choosing itself a kind of preference? 

It’s because of this recognition that there was a shift within Chinese Buddhism from an intentional state to a natural state—from an intentional state to a spontaneous state. This, fortuitously, chimed in well with existing Chinese culture.

Yet we can’t will ourselves to be natural; we can’t will ourselves to be spontaneous; any more than we can will ourselves to be surprised. 

But despite that, naturalness and spontaneity plainly arise.

If we have naturalness rather than intentional action as our basic position, then we can start to understand two associated things. 

One is that enlightenment is already here, so we’re not required to drive ourselves forward to attain something that we don’t presently have. Rather, we need to change our perspective, take our blinkers off.

The second is the position of faith. Underlying naturalness is a deep faith that this world and this person is complete and perfect as is. We don’t need to keep flapping the wings of egotistical spiritual self-improvement for fear that we fall into nothingness. Rather, the ground of faith [Buddha Nature, if you want to use that language], is always here, like an invisible sun.