I have to wonder if the Buddha or Bodhidharma or Dogen ever questioned their ability to follow this Path. Sometimes I will find myself behaving in a way that, when I stand back and look at it, I say “well that wasn’t very Buddhist of me” or “that was not in keeping with the Precepts”. To be sure, those times are less and less, because I believe that my way of thinking and seeing and experiencing the dharma have changed as my understanding of the dharma has deepened, but still there are times when I think “wouldn’t it just be easier if……..”.
It illustrates how hard this Way is sometimes. Just because it is the Middle Way, a way of no extremes, does not make it easy. Just because we are returning to our original selves with the Practice of the Way, does not make it easy. It’s hard some days. I used to smoke, for years and years I smoked about a pack a day. I knew it was bad for me, and I didn’t care. It wasn’t until I had a child that I said it was time to quit. There have been times where I’ve gone out to a bar with my friends and three out of four would smoke. I think this practice can be like that sometimes. You stop with bad habits and you recognize some of the delusions that are blinding you from seeing the truth, and you stop the actions that would arise from them, seeing and acting instead from a place of clarity; clearing away the ‘smoke’ as it were. But you have to go out into this saha world, and be next to people who are doing the very thing you are giving up doing. Every where you go, it’s like being a reformed smoker or drinker and walking into a bar (but not a bar in California or New Jersey where you cannot smoke :mrgreen: ). People catering to the very delusions and attachments that we are working to see through. It’s difficult with all the pressure out there, and easy to fall into bad habits, easy to say that it’s too hard to live according to your original nature when everyone else seems to have no thought of doing the same.
I wonder if the Great Worthies of Zen, our ancestors of old, ever had similar thoughts. I wonder if they ever questioned whether or not they really had the will and ability to continue down the Path, maybe even wondering if they could do anything BUT continue down the Path after having experienced Zen, after all the lessons learned on the cushion? Maybe it’s even harder for us, today, because then it was acceptable, in some cases even “noble” to give up the worldly life and go to a monastery, sequester oneself away from the world and focus on the Practice. It’s easy to fall into other pitfalls like nihilism, if care isn’t taken, and appropriate means not given. It’s easy to forget that the imperfections of this world can be beautiful too. Easy to forget that the imperfections are what makes it perfectly what it is.
I think it is important for new folks to realize this. The upfront realization may disuade people from becoming disillusioned with their Practice. It's like we used to say in the Marine Corps. "We never promised you a rose garden." But I would add to that, "we will help you realize that you are already in one." Beautiful, delightful to the nose, but you can't have all that without the thorns.