Why is it so difficult to study? It's a deep aspect of human nature, but most of us are educated to simply learn facts and repeat them. We can take responsibility for our learning by engaging in solitary sessions where we probe and question, cultivating a mind of inquiry. We see that our conditioning offers us false ideas of ourselves. We build our lives around these false ideas, but when we look deeply we see that it is possible to live in a different way, with joy and freedom. When we fall in love with learning, we discover that we can trust ourselves, and it becomes easy for us to discriminate what constitutes an authentic life.
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).