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Zen training is done with bravery, it is not a decoration for our life...
Harada Roshi

Shonen Sozoku - True Awareness

There is an inner revolution that occurs when we shift from seeking answers outside to looking inside for fulfillment. Searching outside leads only to further thoughts and confusion, while turning inside and letting go of the thoughts that arise one after another is the true path to resolving our deepest anxieties. The production of thoughts is a type of habit, and thus letting go of thoughts can also become a habit—a habit that gradually dissolves our profound attachment to the process of thinking.
With the natural cessation of compulsive thinking comes the arising of true awareness (shōnen sōzoku in Japanese). True awareness is not confined to zazen, but can inform whatever we do, right here, right now, whether it be sitting or working or anything else. With true awareness our usual distracted, scattered consciousness gradually clears and we become vividly present in everything that happens, with our full attention on whatever is there. When working we are totally one with working, when meditating we are totally one with meditating, when eating we are totally one with eating. It is the same whatever we do.
This boundless state of consciousness appears with the stilling of the scattered mind. The liberation from fear that accompanies this is a result, not of reliance on some outside power, but of awakening to the immanent truth of the mind. This is the essential feature of liberation in Buddhism, and particularly in Zen.
Huineng, the Sixth Patriarch, spoke of “one-practice samadhi” (ichigyō zanmai). That is, Pure Land Buddhists persevere their entire lives with nembutsu practice, Lotus school believers persevere their entire lives with reciting “Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō,” and Zen practitioners persevere their entire lives with zazen. What Huineng intended by the term “one-practice samadhi” is not entirely clear, but it can be said that an overly literal interpretation of this concept risks binding a person in form and losing sight of Huineng’s true meaning. For example, if one regards zazen as absolute one can end up believing that as long as one remains deeply focused while sitting in the meditation hall one is fulfilling the requirements of one-practice samadhi. If that focus is lost while outside the meditation hall, however, this is not true one-practice samadhi based on shōnen sōzoku. The true awareness of shōnen sōzoku is something that continues twenty-four hours a day. If you’re just sitting for twenty minutes every now and then or if your practice is confined to sesshin, then the true meaning of zazen will never reveal itself to you.
The “practice” that Huineng refers to when he speaks of “one-practice samadhi” is, in essence, function or activity. If we do not maintain samadhi in the midst of activity, if the mind is wandering here and there and we do not continue our zazen practice while seeing, listening, smelling, tasting, feeling, and thinking, then the practice is not genuine. True awareness must always be present. The Vimalakirti Sutra points to this when it refers to “direct mind” (jikishin) in the statement, “The direct mind is the place of enlightenment.” The direct mind of which the sutra speaks is a mind that is never stagnant but always flows like pure running water, that is vibrant and clear, and that is immediate in its perception. This is living zazen.
Manora, the twenty-second Indian ancestor, talks of this in his transmission verse:
The mind turns with its surroundings,
A turning that is truly profound;
Perceive mind’s nature within this flow,
And there is neither joy nor sorrow.
This verse tells us that a vital mind—one that is truly aware—is one that moves as one with this world, standing with the world when it stands, sitting with the world when it sits, walking with the world when it walks. Moreover, “there is neither joy nor sorrow,” that is, even as the mind sees, hears, smells, and tastes it possesses nothing inside.
The usual habit of the mind is to attach to external objects. Deceived by the outside world, it becomes, in effect, a slave to what it sees and hears. When we are used by the things of the world in this way we lose sight of our own inner presence and truth. This contributes nothing to our true happiness, and has nothing to do with genuine joy and sorrow. For the mind to “possess nothing inside” means that it has dropped its habit of attaching to outside things and is no longer led about by circumstances. 



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