Having no preference
Student: We often hear the comment, “Just have no preference and everything will be fine.” It sounds straightforward and yet it seems impossible to practice in today’s world. Can you say more about this?
Roshi: There was a time in the 80’s and early 90’s when I saw it this way. Today, more than 20 years later, I now see that this advice to have no preference is still holding a preference — the preference being to have no preference.
If we use the triangle to visualize what I’m saying, at the left corner of the triangle is our dualistic mind and way of thinking, which has preferences for and against all kinds of things. We are full of likes and dislikes, should’s and should not’s, do’s and don’t’s, ought’s and ought not’s. Here at the left side of the triangle we are stuck in a dualistic view and suffer due to our preferences.
Then if we shift to the right side of the triangle, which we can call the absolute, we see clearly without preferences for and against all things. This is also what I call holding a Buddha view. It frees us from suffering and allows us to live a life with no fear. However, we are now stuck in the absolute and in liberation. We hold on tightly to this preference because it appears to free us from suffering. This is also called an enlightened view or being stuck in the absolute at the top of the summit of the mountain.
When we drop this Buddha view and our hold on the preference of having no preference, we are shifting from the right hand corner of the triangle to the Apex. From the Apex we see clearly that we were holding on to a deluded view that having no preference was superior to having preferences. This is a trap we can fall into whether we’ve had only a glimpse of enlightenment or even a true enlightened experience. It is only when we are free from enlightenment that we see the stuckness of this position. From the Apex we have no preference for or against having a preference or for or against having no preference. We treat both views as we would our own two children, with no preference for one over the other. We embrace both children equally.
From the Apex the next step is to divorce or go beyond even identifying with these two views. Now we create a separation and distance from embracing both having a preference and having no preference. At this point we are at what I call Me, or jokingly, me.com. This is where we are coming from being oneself truly not knowing, beyond knowing and not knowing, beyond dual and non-dual. This is neti neti. This is gate, gate, paragate, parasamgate. The most difficult thing in our practice is to go beyond both the Buddha and Dharma. To let go of both Buddha and Dharma is to be truly free from all attachments, free even from not being attached. This is Zen.