One wave at a time
It’s a fairy tale to think that once we have attained deep faith, or have had some great enlightenment experience, our whole life will be one joyous delight after another and all sadness will be swept away, so that all we can see is paradise. Living a life of true reality, experiencing an ongoing restlessness with alternate moments of joy and sadness, there has to be a settling into one’s life in a much deeper place, where you face whatever comes up. Likewise, true religious teaching is not a denial of our day-to-day predicaments; it is not cleverly glossing over reality, or feigning happiness. On the contrary, true religious teaching has to be able to show us how we can swim through one wave at a time—that is, those waves of laughter, tears, prosperity, or adversity.
Studying and practicing the buddhadharma is neither a kind of academic exercise to be carried out only after your livelihood has been secured, nor some sort of zazen performed when circumstances are favorable. I was forced to search out what true religion is when I was not unlike a stray dog, always badgered by anxieties over daily life, having to pick up whatever scraps I could.
As long as we are alive, there will always be fortunate things and unfortunate things happening in our lives. Inevitably, we go through times of utter collapse as well. Frequently during that period prior to throwing off my takuhatsu neurosis, there were days when one person after another would tell me to go away.
When we settle in the attitude that whichever way our life falls we feel grateful, we can feel the varying textures of fortune and misfortune in terms of joy and bitterness during the day’s walk. If we look at humankind from a long view of billions of years, this animal called Homo sapiens is nothing more than a single existence that suddenly appeared in this universe and will leave it without a trace. A single day in the life of this very small human species is just one tiny joy, one minute of bitterness. Without an attitude that whatever happens is OK, we are going to wind up neurotic. Still, even though whatever may happen is OK, if you do not apply any businesslike principle to your activities, even to one like takuhatsu, you will end up a fool. Going the Middle Way between the neurotic and the fool is precisely what doing takuhatsu is about.