For Founder’s month each year, we celebrate Matsuoka Roshi’s coming to America in 1939, which will see its 80th Anniversary in 2019. This year I would like to quote a brief passage from “The Purpose of a Zen Life,” which is a chapter in “The Kyosaku,” the collection of his early dharma talks from the 1960s and 1970s. Later talks are available in “Mokurai,” both of which are available through our website online. We encourage you to purchase one or both of these volumes, to hear the voice of this early and important pioneer of Zen in America. And to join us in discussing his teachings online in our CloudDharma sessions Tuesday evenings, as well as in your Affiliate Sangha’s reading groups.
THE PURPOSE OF A ZEN LIFE - from The Kyosaku
The world abounds with different religions to satisfy man’s yearning spirit. Throughout time, man has yearned for something. For some, it has been the desire to be of good health, of good fame, to have a respected job, to become rich, to avoid mishap or trouble, to win the favor of the gods, or to enter into a “pure land” after death. There are a myriad of things one desires in their life and most religions try to satisfy this hunger.
Some promise success, heaven or a bountiful harvest if a person faithfully follows their precepts. Many religious people are dreaming of a supernatural power far away from themselves and of a fantastic world of good fortune when they pray and follow religious rites. Instead of living their lives more fully now, they dream fantasy and put their faith in something distant from themselves. Their lives are lived for another time or another being. Should this be the purpose of religion?
In Zen, the purpose of the religious life is to find the truth about life in this world and then to live with this knowledge. Instead of hoping to obtain some material thing or fortune from a supernatural being, in Zen we live in order to enter into the true life. We do not even desire to become a Buddha, for doing so takes the emphasis off the present moment of life and puts it into the unpredictable future. Instead, we live this moment to its fullest and so act as to develop the potential to be a Buddha which lies dormant in each of us.
The Buddha once said, “If you kill your wrong way of thinking, you will find the truth about life.” You ask: How can I rid myself of these errors? The key to this freedom was discovered centuries ago by the Buddha himself after long years of searching for the truth. He finally settled in a seated position under a tree in a garden and resolved not to rise until he had found the truth. Sitting in this position enabled him to find it. One morning, as the dawn broke, the Buddha became enlightened. He discovered the Buddha-nature within himself and the universe. His thinking no longer contained the errors that keep man in misery. Instead, his meditation had shown him the true life.