Master Hsuansha said, 'the whole universe is one bright pearl'. He is not talking about some universe out there, but this universe that is our life. It is not a matter of inside or outside, big or small. The thing that erodes self-centeredness, the mischief in our life, is the open experiencing of our life at this moment. You must completely withdraw from the invisible pounding and weaving of your ingrained ideas; if you want to be free of this invisible turmoil you must sit through it. Attain fulfillment and illuminate thoroughly, light and shadow all together forgotten. Life is in the midst of this invisible pounding of self-centeredness and, yet, it is this one bright pearl. In a bowl the bright pearl rolls on its own without prodding. Yet, for a luminous jewel without flaw, if you carve a pattern its virtue is lost. Some take 'carve a pattern' to mean if we try to add something to who we are, if we see our practice as adding, then we just take away from this bright pearl that is our life. For a luminous jewel without flaw if polished its glow increases. Sitting is this experiencing, is being who we are. Zazen is a polishing which increases the glow.
Through the practice of Zazen we don't get rid of anything but transform, transform what seems to be the difficulties, and reveal what seems to be the difficulties as truly the one bright pearl. It is not a matter of understanding that the whole universe is one bright pearl. Practice isn't thinking about practice, practice isn't even about understanding what the universe is, it is being this experiencing that we are. This bodily feeling of the totality of life.
Because it is not necessary for us to practice, because it is not necessary for us to do Zazen, because it doesn't add one iota to who we are, because it is so that is why we do Zazen. See? If Zazen, if practice, was about getting rid of some part of self then it would just be another artifice of self-centeredness. It would just be another way that we try to get what we want or get rid of what we don't want. Zazen is not so. Self-centeredness is eroded in this very experiencing of life that we think limits us.
See, it is in this very experiencing of what we think is the problem. Whether I am energetic, joyful, upset about someone, or in pain, in that experiencing we discover our self. This is the opposite of the self-centered way of running away from or doing something about or against it, or having something else to cover it up, substitute it. No matter what we enter, it is nothing but this one bright pearl, nothing but this life encounter that is the opportunity of experiencing, of being who we are.
The world of suffering resulting from self-centeredness, black mountain cave of demons, is pretty ferocious. The place where we are scared much of the time, the fears that arise in all sorts of circumstances which give rise to anger, upset, hate,..all of the human circumstances, reacting in all sorts of harmful ways..all of those are nothing but the one bright pearl. We might say 'well, I've been practicing but when am I going to really have something?' Whether it is enlightenment or some other thing/condition. You already are it. 'I don't have it'. Yes, you do. It is who you are.
In a way you could say 'have it is not the point'. Every aspect of your life is this one bright pearl.
As Joko said, it is a matter of really dropping into this sitting. We taste for our self, in our own sitting, in our own practice. Kodo Sawaki Roshi says it nicely, 'Doing your self by your self with your self'. The holding to attachment creates and maintains self-centeredness.
We need to do something that is who we are.. otherwise we are poisoning who we are in our self-centered pursuit of ideals.
It is only because of ignorance and attachment that we miss who we are; the inability and unwillingness to suffer and experience is the barrier to our life; inability not because we are not able but because we refuse to.
Our body, being still, reminds us. Being upright reminds us. In fact, the whole room and the whole universe reminds us, even when we forget. See, the effort in practice is always in terms of barriers and our toleration and willingness to be the experiencing, the physical experiencing of the moment, this moment. This is our opportunity of being alive; experiencing is polishing this one bright pearl. Thank you.
By/ Elihu Genmyo Smith