A friend wrote today confessing that he skips or misses Zazen some days, and finds it easier sometimes to let the Precepts be his guide. He said:
Wonderful! I have a confession too:I may not be able to settle my mind enough to do zazen, but my troubled mind does well working through my vows and precepts. And in that process I often find some sort of answer as to how to be a better Buddhist in my interactions with the world. Often, once I've settled things a bit with the vows and precepts I can get back to doing zazen.
Do you think I never miss a day of Zazen?? Well, if you mean seated Zazen on the Zafu, yes I miss when life comes up. Just this week, I was getting ready to sit and my wife rushed in with our daughter, shaking with a high fever. I was off to the emergency room in a minute, the Zafu forgotten. Of course, as best I can, I seek to never miss a day ... seeking Such what cannot be sought, each day that is Timeless, never missing What cannot be missed ... the consistently inconsistent, Changeless right though all change ... seeking beyond and right through all seeking, yet seeking nonetheless ...
... but sometimes I get called away, or have someplace to be, or just fall asleep, or forget, or just take a day or week off (even monks do that), go to the movies instead or just am too darn lazy. Do I miss many a day? Yes!, (although I seek not to do so, and try not to miss, and resume again the next) I miss MANY a day of seeking Such Not Sought Which Is Never Missing!
But do you think that I ever miss a day of Zazen?? NEVER! Not a one! Sitting in the emergency room, on the edge of life, I "sat Zazen" even if without the funny round cushion, no sacred mudra, legs straight on the floor comforting my scared and just as sacred daughter. It may not be cross legged facing the wall, but there is not a day, not an hour, when I do not "sit Shikantaza" in life. Allowing life to be even as something cannot be easily allowed ... afraid yet simultaneously living Such Beyond Fear, body shaking as That Unshaken ... hoping for a good outcome, yet simultaneously embodying Such In Which All Comes And Goes, All Outcome Good.
The Precepts are fundamental, and I seek to live them each day ... but do you think we never miss? Yes!, I miss sometimes ... so many times each day. Well, I usually do not miss too bad (no bank robberies, assaults or murders to my name), but yesterday I did find myself getting too angry about a stupid bookkeeping error in our small translation office! All I could do was realize and release ... let the anger go before the fires burned too hot. Honestly, I got a little burned this time, but soon the fires were out.
The Precepts are fundamental, but they can never be broken! NEVER! In a moment of Shikantaza ... seeking Such what cannot be sought, each day that is Timeless, never missing What cannot be missed ... the Precepts are all kept, no Precept ever broken in Such Ever Unbroken. Nonetheless, rising from the cushion ... out in the world ... one does as one can never to break a Precept. (In fact, when the mind is filled with excess greed, anger and divisive thoughts of ignorance, darn hard to "sit Shikantaza" and know Such Which Can Never Be Broken!).
Did Dogen ever miss a day of Zazen? Did Dogen ever break the Precepts? (I would ask the same of all the Ancestors, even the historical Buddha himself ... although the biographies have all been polished up and the misses erased). I would say, in my guess knowing what a human being is ...
... sometimes (when life came up) YES! and (for certainly there was not a day in which they did not apply the Buddhist Teachings) NO! and (seeking Such what cannot be sought, each day that is Timeless, never missing What cannot be missed. NEVER!
Yes! No! Sometimes! NEVER! This is our sincere Zen Way of Practice-Enlightenment. Is that clear??