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92. Senika

Senika appears in the Nirvana sutra as a kind of fall guy. He’s a Brahmin who believes that the body is the temporary home of the soul, which lives on after the death of the body.

Certainly, his soul has lived on, buried deep in our language. We make statements like ‘I am doing zazen’ or ‘I am living my life’ or ‘I need to be kinder to myself,’ and imagine we are saying something true.

Lying within the buried soul of Senika is the belief that the world is constituted of things, with attributes, acting.

This is the ground of delusion. Unless we can escape from it, buddhist teaching is entirely nonsensical.

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51. Self-Enchantment

In our practice, we are continually drifting in and out of delusion.

The delusion isn’t the intermittent noise; rather, it’s when our attention focuses on a kernel of thought/emotion, and our breathing becomes shallow. It’s a kind of trance state. In response, we throw the breath and attention wide open, unentrancing ourselves.

This learning to fall out of self enchantment is giving life to all things.

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39. The Life of Each Thing

Our aim isn’t to eradicate delusion, but to actualise space.

Within vast space, each thing can have its own life.

Although it is natural to wish that our demons were gone, only demons can kill demons.

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34. Obstacles

We should distinguish between obstacles and delusion.

Obstacles are straightforward: a persistent tune, an idea that keeps returning, a scenario that keeps regurgitating itself. These seem a serious obstruction to our practice, but they’re not.

Delusion is our taking a position towards them. One aspect of delusion.

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30. Delusion

A principal way in which we maintain ourselves in delusion is imagining that our life and practice should be something other than it is. We locate delusion in the wrong place. We imagine that our transient thoughts and emotions are obstacles, and if somehow we got rid of them, we wouldn’t be deluded any more.

But this is precisely the idea that is the engine of delusion. When Dogen says that delusion is carrying the self forward to experience the myriad things, and realisation is the myriad things expressing and experiencing themselves. By ‘myriad things,’ he doesn’t just mean trees walls and sky. He means everything, including our thoughts.

If we obsess on our thoughts, it is as if we take all the light and concentrate it on that, so that everything else – the body, the senses, the breath – is in darkness. Throwing the light over all experience makes the dualism of thought and world impossible to sustain. We see the tremor and evanescence of our thoughts as one aspect of our aliveness, which is to say, the aliveness of everything.

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25. Dreams

The dream state and the waking dream state.

In dreams we imagine–at least later–that what we see is unreal, although really it is just our fractured heart taking on one form after another. We feel fully. We exert ourselves fully. We are always implicitly asking, “What is this?” How can we dismiss it so easily?

In the waking dream state, we cannot say that what we see is unreal, but why? We concede easily that what we see is what our culture and our language can see, and concede–less easily–that our emotions are flung randomly onto this thing or that, like paint falling from high windows. And the same question: “What is this? What is this?” And thus, a false world created. How different? How different?

In our dreams what we feel cannot be doubted. In our waking dream state what arises cannot be doubted. And the whole waking world conceals itself in the heart. Should the heart open, a world will spring out. The only true one.

Demons are the creators of false worlds. Equanimity is walking on the heads of these demons, partly in tenderness, partly in scorn.

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19. Enlightenment Demons

The desire for enlightenment is the root of delusion. It is a project of the heroic ego, and the ego is part of that frozen mass of thought and feeling we call delusion. Zazen is a melting of that mass.

It is no use calling on our demons to leave us. Even if they wanted to, they can’t. But we can leave them.