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249. The body of the buddha

One of the most significant innovations of the Mahayana is the Dharmakaya; the idea that the whole universe is the body of the Buddha. It is a radical re-imagining and enlivening of our normal view, changing our picture of the universe from a collection of objective, separate and largely inanimate things, from which we are somehow separate, to one where everything is “alive” and expressive, within a greater, alive whole.

I believe it derives from our actual experience in zazen. When we sit, we are not within the primary alienation, which thinks of the body as an object, distinct from, yet controlled by, the self. Rather, we experience ourselves as activity and expression – aliveness – and there is no clear boundary between this body, and the great body of all being.

It is not that this small body becomes the great body, nor that this small deluded person becomes a great person, because this would simply be ego inflation on a grand scale. But rather, we are taken back into the heart of all being.

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227. Vast unitary awareness

When we sit, our aim is to manifest vast unitary awareness – unitary like space.

This awareness is not the property of the self yet the self appears within it, along with all beings and all phenomena.

If this awareness becomes fractured or partial, we return the attention to this body and this breath.

Not because this body and this breath is the subject or the object of zazen, but because this body and this breath is simply the most accessible to us, like a mountain in its upliftedness, feeling it is a part of the great Earth.

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215. The breath liberated

In our practice, the breath is absolutely essential.

We are scrupulous about posture because when we sit upright and balanced, the breath is liberated.

The breath is central not because it relaxes and settles us; although it does, obviously.

It is essential because it clarifies our nature.

If we pay attention to the actual experience of breathing – not a conceptual one – we realise there is nowhere that our breath doesn’t reach.

It’s as if our breath is this dynamic vast moving space at our centre.

And the body is draped around it.

We are not this body in space. We are space.

There is no clear divide between the space inside and the space outside.

So to actualise this space inside us is to actualise all space; not as something abstract but as

the space between us.

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200. The breath in zazen

A familiar instruction many of us have received is: keep returning the attention to the body and the breath.

This instruction is helpful providing you don’t imagine it’s your body, your attention, your breath, because to imagine this is simply to reintroduce the self, and the familiar dualities.

Returning the attention to the breath means that we are aware of this dynamic moving space within us. Which is the same space as that around us and beyond us. Hence, Emptiness is actualised.

Returning the attention to this body is to clearly see that this body is part of the great body, the body of everything. Hence, Being is actualised.

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Kusen

193. Softened eyes

When we sit, we soften our eyes. Everything becomes very near, intimate. In softening the eyes, we become bodily aware, first the head, then the rest of the body. It is as if the whole body becomes an eye.

But because we don’t force the eyes to stay relaxed, the eyes, and the other sense organs, can suddenly, as it were, come into focus. So, we see the wall, hear the birdsong, smell the incense.

Sitting with our softened eyes, our mind is softened too. It is as if we are very aware of this intimacy, this underlying being-ness, prior to the emergence of objects, emotions, perceptions, formations. We might call this ‘not thinking’.

And, like the eye suddenly focusing, we suddenly get fragments of perceptions, mental formations, feelings. We might call this ‘thinking’.

We should not think one state is good and the other is not. It is of paramount importance that we accept everything.

Accept everything, uncontained by a self.