What I mean when I say to be really free, and the reason why I call it the most difficult thing in our practice, is that in my experience one can have numerous experiences of awakening and liberation and still not manifest that liberation or freedom in the world of relationships in one’s ordinary life. There is always a gap between what one realizes and what one is truly able to actualize. Closing that gap is what we call practice. I am not talking about freedom as just doing whatever one wishes to do. I’m talking about our deeply rooted patterns, some of which go all the way back to our childhood, and being free from or at least conscious of these patterns. It is one thing to experience a state of freedom and another to really and truly actualize it from moment to moment in our daily lives. This is what Dogen Zenji meant by continuous practice.
The Buddha view is the so-called enlightened state, and to let go of it completely is not so easy. A Dharma view is what I am referring to here as the power to manifest in the world and to awaken and empower others. Again it is not so easy to drop that either. Maybe to be truly ordinary is most extra-ordinary. To drop both the Buddha and Dharma is to let go of attachment to both Buddha/Dharma. Again this is not so easy. This is considered by ancient masters the most difficult attachment to let go of. It precedes returning to the marketplace or living “Ordinary mind is the Way.” This is the way of the Bodhisattva.
All are concepts but some concepts are harder to drop than others, just as some concepts hurt more than others. When a great master once was asked by his students why he was crying, he answered, “I just received word that my mother died.” The students then asked, “don’t you tell us that all are concepts?” “Yes I do,” he replied, “but some concepts just hurt more than others.”
It is easier when we realize we have chosen something than when we think it has been imposed on us, but again it is not always so easy to see this. Of course if we can turn it around and choose it, it is easier.
In the absolute all is Zen; from the relative apparent side of the One reality, all may fall short of Zen. As a great master once said, “I don’t say there is no Zen, only that there are no teachers of Zen.”
Another ancient great master once said, “My life is just one mistake after another.”