This small article is based around ‘The Immeasaurable Life of the Tathagata’ which is a chapter from the Lotus Sutra. In a nutshell it deals with the role of doubt in our practice, or another way of putting it is, what is there to believe in? The Buddha talks of ‘always abiding here, and ‘yet appears as extinct‘. How can we have faith in what appears as extinct and yet are told that it is always here? So to me it is talking about faith in the practice or trusting the process. To sit and let go of all we believe, and trust in what we can’t fully see. It becomes a case of dropping the confusion by us not getting in the way and allowing that which needs to be seen and heard a chance to be seen and heard. As the Scripture says ‘confused creatures not see me though I am near’. This is talking about trusting and allowing doubts to fall away by turning towards doubt. The Buddha then appears proclaiming the Dharma. He appears to those who, ‘wholeheartedly yearn to see the Buddha‘. When fully acknowledged and accepted doubt shows itself as truth.
Doubt is just a cloud drifting across our vision. Enightenment is ever present. Beyond the human realm enlightenment is not restricted. Being beyond our conceptions, (however grand they may be), whatever we think it is that is not it. From my experience, (such as it is), it doesn’t come in the form of answers to questions as such but comes about through living and breathing the life of the meditation and the precepts. How we live and act. As Dogen said ‘Training and Enightenment are one’. Living in accord with the Precepts is enlightened action.
Elsewhere in the Scripture it talks of ‘Under bejewelled trees, heavy with blossoms and fruit, may these beings take their delight and play‘ and ‘My Pure Land will not be destroyed, though sentient beings may see it as utterly consumed by fire‘. It is tempting to look for bejewelled trees, pleasant though that may seem, and not see them for what they are. Yet again we can fall into the trap of conception and not see the bejewelled tees because they aren’t what we are expecting. Seeing the jewel in our lives, as it is. The eye of compassion can see confusion as something to embrace not turn away from and shun. All is one and all is different. Compassion naturaly arises.
Thoughts and feelings are the effects of past actions, they don’t need to hinder us. Equanimity seems to be consumed by fire yet the Pure Land is not destroyed by appearances. When we closely look isn’t all well in that very moment. This is ‘Abiding on Vulture Peak’ in the Scripture. To know there is suffiency. I know it took me quite a while to understand and not confuse this with adequecy. Sufficient is what we always have been and are.
Enlightenment isn’t something we have or don’t have. It is ever present, beginning less and end less. It is all. It is the natural state that can be awakened to. This is why when we open up, it seems like coming home. The natural residing place of body and mind. Non action and non seeking is practice, not the casting aside of practice which implies one is seeking by casting aside. Why name it? It is everything and nothing in particular. Trust the process and know it is there, let it reveal itself. Trust the Buddha when he says ‘My Pure Land will not be destroyed‘
The quotes from The Immeasurable Life of the Tathagata are from Buddhist Writings, published by Shasta Abbey.
This article is a shortened version of a talk given at Reading Buddist Priory.