Returning to the World

small tendrils of smoke rising from the tips of lit incense sticks

As we attempt to walk responsibly on this planet, we need perspective. If we hope to make a difference, we need a place from which to act. What are the Buddhist insights that can make our lives deeper and more productive? This is the purpose of zazen and koans: I walk down to the corner store and get a quart of milk. I sit in the playground and sing a silly song with the children.

The point is to return. To find our depth is to return to daily life. We wander the world to find that wisdom is always here, it is always right at home. This is the secret of the Zen way. We sit quietly or walk quietly; perhaps we engage koans; we visit with a friend. To sit on a hillside with the rivers and the earth, the grasses and the trees, and enjoy that full round moon shining overhead, is the fullness of Zen, and indeed, the fullness of our humanity.

The point of Zen is just this: emptying. And out of this emptying, returning—returning home. Our personal identities are exactly identical with the great emptiness. We must learn this truth with our bodies and with our minds, complete. To find genuinely open hands we must come to know ourselves. There is a great deal to this returning with open hands. There is an ethic of enlightenment. There are many consequences to our realization that in one aspect of genuine reality, we are all one. When we truly attend we may discover some of how it can be done profitably. The way of intimacy is a way of respect and beauty and grace.

All I want to do is to remind you, my friend, of the beauty and grace of this moment. This is home. This very place is where we find wisdom. This moment reveals what needs to be done and what can be left alone. Whatever traditions we claim, whatever religion we embrace, this moment shows its truth.

This right-here-and-now moment is the great play of existence, of life and death, of all that was and is and shall be. This very moment is both the doorway to heaven and heaven itself. Our teachers and friends who have walked the way before stand at the door, beckoning to us. They give us a broad wink; a crooked finger wiggles at us, beckoning us, welcoming us.

All we need do is step through.