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Dharma Talks : The Kwan Um School of Zen and Providence Zen Center

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Don't make anything  

From a teaching letter to a student:

Dear Alex:

Thanks for you letter. You live in my old residential area. I went to school in Shreveport and played a lot of jazz in New Orleans. You might find that there are others in your area who would like to sit regularly together. I started a small sitting group at Oberlin after running an ad in the school newspaper.

You write in your letter that you get "shaken up when Zen becomes a part of (your) life." But Zen is not something special, it is the actual fabric of life itself. Zen means to just wake up. In order to do this we first must begin to recognize our karmic patterns - our tendencies to want solutions outside of ourselves, to constantly check our situation and condition in life, to hold to our opinions and protect our perceived emotional insecurities. Regular Zen practice allows us to take charge of our destiny in an intuitive, creative, and dynamic fashion. Through regular practice we begin to perceive our correct situation, correct condition, and correct action in each moment. Zen teachers call this "just doing it" mind. Zen mind, therefore, has no opposites -- so why do you make a difference between technical mind and Zen?

I suggest that since you are removed from a Zen center and practicing alone that you try to touch base each day with the essential elements of strong practice. Try to do some bowing each day to balance your karmic inclinations. (We do 108 prostrations at our centers; because you have a strong checking mind, even more bowing would prove beneficial for you.) Sit for at least twenty minutes to develop a stronger center; chant at least one chant, maybe the Heart Sutra in English, to open your compassion; and read a passage from one of Zen Master Seung Sahn's books for cognitive training (but don't attach to his words). Above all, don't make anything; then you will get everything! Don't continue to check yourself so much. As Lin Chi Zen Master once said, "When walking, just walk. When sitting, just sit. But above all don't wobble!"

When your mind becomes clear, then any direction in your life will become your true direction - that might be science, art, business, etc. So please put it all down - only go straight, try, try, try for the next ten thousand years. Then you will surely attain enlightenment and save all beings from suffering.

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