This lecture is reprinted from the September 2000 Berkeley Zen Center Newsletter.
The world that is within our reach is the world for us. There is no other world for us. You may say, "this world or the other world"; this world or the future world, but there is no such future world. Because people say, "this world or that world," Mahayana Buddhists began talking in that way, as a result of a delusive substantial idea. It is easy for us to think that there is some other world which we cannot see. But we do not put any consideration on something like that. When we say the "whole world," the whole world may be this room or the zendo. That is the whole world. Another time it may be this country or this earth or this universe. According to the situation, "whole world" will be different. So when we say "whole world" the world we live in is the whole world. We as Buddhists are not philosophers. Our practice, our life, is concentrated on this world which we see or hear, and we extend ourselves to things which are within our reach. So when you practice zazen, a black cushion is your world and there is no other world and no place to go. With that understanding we should practice zazen; then your practice will work. That is to live in each moment or the eternal present. This kind of world will continue eternally. Big world, small world; painful world, happy world... one moment after another our world continues. And there is no connection between this world and the other world. Because there is no connection, we should not sacrifice our present life for a future life, and we should make our best effort in each world. That is our way of life.
When Buddha began his practice, he saw our human world as very restless and evanescent, where you cannot rely on anything. So he denied it. This world can look very good, but actually it is not so good. I think most of the students here, after realizing this point, came to Zen Center and started our practice. So you gave up making effort in this kind of world. It doesn't make much sense and so you wanted to find some meaning in our life, and you came here denying this usual world.
But to deny this world does not mean to escape from this world. That is not possible for you. As long as you are a human being, a physical body, that is not possible. Even though you make a space trip, it is not possible. You cannot escape from this world. But still you deny it. You are not satisfied with it. This dissatisfaction will lead you to find a new meaning of life. Not in some other world, but a new meaning of our materialistic life. So what you do, actually, will be the same, but the meaning will be different. To find a new meaning in our life, we practice zazen. The teaching of "everything changes" means that even though you realize that there is nothing to rely on, we still make the same effort and still live in the same world. The difference is that, before, you were attached to a materialistic world, and what you strove for was materialistic success. But after you realize the teaching that "everything changes," and that you cannot rely on a material result, what you do will be the same because you have to eat and sleep and so forth. The difference will be that you are no longer attached to success in the material world. To enjoy the materialistic world as it is given to you moment after moment and to enjoy your life will be your purpose, your effort. The point of your effort will change. Before, you sacrificed this moment for the next, for the future materialistic result. But after, you are no longer attached to that kind of result, you will never sacrifice your present life for a future result. That is a more Buddhist way of life. So Buddhists say, "eternal present." Moment after moment our life is the continuity of the present, eternal present... present... present... Present, without sacrificing anything.
Last revised September 11, 2000. [an error occurred while processing this directive][an error occurred while processing this directive]