Seeking enlightenment, following the path, making progress, moving toward liberation. All of these things setup the concept of a me over here moving toward a goal or destination over there.
Master Thich Thien-An in Zen Philosophy, Zen Practice says that,
“When we seek Buddhahood as an object outside ourselves, we fall into the dualism of subject and object, and by their very nature subject and object can never become one. But if we give up all discrimination, subject and object will vanish of their own accord. Then we will see the Buddha within.
This Buddha is the original Suchness, the Clear Light shining in the Void, the underlying unity of all things. To realize it is to experience enlightenment.
When we realize the Buddha and everything are one: that is Suchness.”
Suchness, what an evocative word. Its mysterious aloofness draws you in. Inviting you to venture into unknown worlds. And as you enter into it more and more deeply all lines and distinctions are lost.
But how do you do that?
How do you discover Suchness?
Such was the question that arose in me when I read these words by Master Thich Thien-An.
But answers to this riddle were not as bold and apparent as this invitation to Suchness.
In The Contemplation of Suchness, the Tendai Master Genshin says that,
“…if while walking, standing, sitting or lying down, or while performing any kind of action, you think, ‘I am suchness’ then that is realizing Buddhahood.
What could be an obstruction to such contemplation?
You should know that suchness is to be contemplated with respect to all things. Clergy, laity, male or female – all should contemplate in this way. When you provide for your wife, children, and retainers, or even feed oxen, horses, and the others of the six kinds of domestic animals, because the myriad things are all suchness, if you think that these others are precisely suchness, you have in effect made offerings to all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of the ten directions and the three periods of time, as well as to all living beings, without a single exception.
In this way, because all living beings, both self and others, are suchness, they are precisely Buddha. Because grasses and trees, tiles and pebbles, mountains and rivers, the great earth, the vast sea, and the empty sky are all suchness, there is none that is not the Buddha.
Oneself and others are from the outset a single reality that is the principle of suchness.”
George J. Tanabe editor of The Religions of Japan in Practice says that,
“Because suchness is the real aspect of all things, to think of both oneself and others in this way is to open a perspective from which individuals are not separate, unrelated, or conflicting existences but nondual – each identical with the totality of all that is and encompassing all others within itself.
In other words, it is to see all beings manifesting original enlightenment just as they are. By cultivating the attitude that ‘all things are precisely suchness’ the simplest acts of daily life in effect become Buddhist practice.”
Even the modern day Master Thich Nhat Hanh in his book Living Buddha, Living Christ, uses the idea of suchness to help us break through the barriers of self:
“Like the Buddha, we too have come from suchness, remain in suchness, and will return to suchness.”
The contemplation of Suchness helps to break down the barriers of distinctions. It helps you go beyond subject and object. Dissolving the wall of the “I” so that “you” become transparent.
The Chan Master Dongshan said,
“You are not it, in truth it is you.”
In the book Zen Masters, edited by Steven Heine and Dale Wright, Zen teacher Taigen Dan Leighton writes that,
“ ‘It’ is a totally inclusive experience, incorporating everything. ‘It’ is the totality of being, yet as individuals we cannot personally claim to encompass all of it. This depicts the relationship of the limited ‘I’, including its egoistic self-clinging, to the all-encompassing universal nature, of which any ‘I’ is simply a particular partial expression.”
Into the Arms of Suchness
Sharp edges disappearing.
You, me, here and there.
Laughter cracks like thunder.
Bit by bit letting go.
Of what no one really knows.
Into the the arms of suchness.