Sooner or later, we all confront situations with no easy way out. For human beings, sickness, old age, and death, either our own or someone else's, seem like insurmountable barriers. We all struggle to avoid these things, and the media encourages our pursuit, offering plastic surgery, exercise routines, and all manner of pills to achieve eternal youth. But sooner or later, we need to realize that old age and suffering are not going to magically dissolve. Daido Roshi encourages us to be the barrier that confronts us. Buddhism teaches that if we stop struggling against what we dislike, if we accept our vulnerability and suffering, we can actually empower ourselves. Part of this process involves making mistakes, and Roshi encourages us to make our mistakes freely, to accept failure as a natural part of life as well as an important teacher. As we gain strength and learn to trust ourselves, we discover that embracing our fears turn suffering into wisdom.
Zen Buddhism emphasizes zazen, or seated meditation, as the means to study the self and understand who we truly are. Dharma talks are an essential aspect of Zen training and take place in the context of zazen. Said to be "dark to the mind and radiant to the heart", a dharma talk is one of the ways in which a teacher points directly to the heart of the teachings of the Buddha. In our meditation practice, it is easy to get lost in self-doubt, fantasy, numbness, and emotional agitation. Dharma talks help to ground our practice, providing inspiration and an essential recognition of exactly where we find ourselves, so that we can learn to face difficulties and obstacles with a free and flexible mind. This talk was given at Zen Mountain Monastery or the Zen Center of New York City of the Mountains and Rivers Order of Zen Buddhism, founded in 1980 by the late American Zen Master John Daido Loori, Roshi (1931-2009).
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