Student: Why do you emphasize that ideas, notions, hopes and expectations are the problem?
Roshi: The thing we are most attached to, of course, is what I call my self, which includes my ideas, notions and beliefs about who I am. So this “I” and whatever I call Me, My or Mine are the most difficult things to let go of or drop. As long as an idea or belief seems to be working for us and gives us some kind of benefit or reward, it is exceedingly difficult to let it go. We would actually rather be unhappy, miserable, even dead than face that an idea belief or notion we are attached to is wrong.
This may seem extreme, but take a look and see if it is not true for you. The world revolves around our identification with and attachment to deeply held beliefs which it would seem almost sacrilegious, heretical, antidemocratic or socially unacceptable to question. This is what makes true liberation so damned near impossible for us mortals, and yet any path that truly leads to a genuine liberation will force us followers of the Way to drop these deeply held beliefs, ideas, expectations and hopes. We will only drop them when holding onto them becomes more of a burden and painful than releasing them. This is what makes the path so difficult.
And yet the third Chinese Patriarch tells us the Way is not difficult — if only we follow his advice: simply avoid picking and choosing. The problem is we continually want and need to be right about what we believe to be true. This is what creates so much of our suffering. When we simply allow everything to be as it is without our notions of right and wrong, good or bad, this or that, the Way is not difficult.