“What the Buddha taught in the Four Noble Truths,” Shinge Sherry Chayat told me during my visit to the Dai Bosatsu temple in the Catskill Mountains, “is something we all know in our own way, but we never really come to see how we can transform our lives accordingly unless we commit to a Zen practice or another spiritual tradition in which meditation is very much a part. There is suffering. Everybody can say, ‘Yes. That’s true.’ The next step for most people is to say, ‘It’s their fault. It’s because of such-and-such condition. Such-and-such circumstances. If not for that, I would be fine.’ But the Buddha said, ‘Look at the cause in your life. When you stop pointing your finger outward, what’s really going on?’ What is going on in you that is perpetuating suffering, as opposed to merely feeling the perfectly natural ebb-and-flow of pain and gain that everyone experiences? What makes it suffering? What are you thinking right now? How are you interpreting what’s happening in your life that makes it suffering? What are you ignorant of in your life? Do you actually think you can make the things that you like stay the same? Do you actually think you can prevent things that you don’t like? Does your inner state of dissatisfaction cause you to seek anywhere for any kind of distraction? Anywhere but here?
“Or are you willing to stop, really stop? This is what we do when we sit. We stop. Get off that hamster wheel. For just this breath, can you be present? What happens when you do that? Does your suffering shift? This is what the Buddha taught. Third noble truth: We can enter into samadhi. We can be one with this, as it is. Just this. Just this pain. Not taking it into another anxiety-producing, suffering-producing round, but just be with it. And when we become one with it, it all falls away. This is the experience of zazen. True being. The more we do this, the more we understand the fourth noble truth—the Eightfold Path—how to live.
“Everything the Buddha taught, if we really put our trust in it, we can live our lives very differently. This has a huge impact for each one of us, of course. But, more importantly, we are so inter-connected, this has a huge impact on the world, the universe, all beings. So, what is Zen but realizing, for ourselves, the truth of the Four Noble Truths?”
[Shinge Roko Sherry Chayat – Cypress Trees in the Garden: 69-82, 125, 213, 295]
[See also: Dai Bosatsu]
[See also: Dai Bosatsu]