Monday, February 08, 2016



We’ve talked about intellect, which is wisdom, knowledge, and reason all rolled into one. We’ve said that even though intellect is part of the human condition, it needs to be transcended if we are to realize our true selves, our inherent Buddha-nature.

            Buddha-nature goes beyond intellect in two areas. One area is perception, that is, instant recognition. The other area is intuition, that is, instinctive action.

            Life trains us to think, to analyze, to weigh pros and cons, to intellectualize. This is neither good nor bad. It’s what human life is, and that’s a fact. We have to recognize that fact, and at the same time we have to step back and see it for what it is. We have to see the limitations of life training.

            So there is life training and there is Buddha-nature. This is one manifestation of what is called duality. Duality also shows up in thinking in terms of good or bad, right or wrong, this or that. Obviously we can’t do away with life-training or with Buddha-nature, so we must reconcile them. We must transcend duality.

            Japan is a group of four major islands. Being surrounded by water, Japan’s temperatures swing widely from season to season. In winter Japan is really cold. In summer it is really hot. A monk asked a Zen master how one could escape cold and heat.

            The master said, “Go where there is no cold or heat.”

            The monk, thinking in terms of geography, wondered if there was such a place.

            The master said, “When you are hot, be hot. When you are cold, be cold.”

            Think about it.

            If we could escape cold and heat, good and bad, right or wrong, that would be fine. But there is no place to run, no tree to hide behind. Life seems to come in such pairs. You probably even know jokes that are built around the words, “First the good part, then the bad part.”

            So where is a place of no-duality? Where is the fabled land flowing with milk and honey? Is there an escape from trouble?

            Zen says to become one with trouble. If the day is hot, don’t moan about how uncomfortable you are. Don’t feel put upon. Experience the heat instead of fighting it. Be one with it. When you become totally one with anything you become your master instead of its slave.

            As hot as Japan may get, there are few places in the world that are hotter than Thailand in the summer. When I first went to Thailand I could hardly breathe in the 100-degree-plus heat. I was constantly drenched with perspiration. I physically drooped and mentally sagged.

            It didn’t take long for me to decide that as good as air conditioning felt, I didn’t want to spend all of my time sitting in luxury hotels, quaffing iced Singha beer. I wanted to experience Thailand. Besides, in the most fascinating parts of Thailand—the back country—there are few fancy hotels and not much air conditioning.

            I didn’t want to hide from the heat, and I couldn’t fight it, so I learned to join it. That didn’t take long—maybe a single day—because most of the torment was in my head, not in my body.

            I became one with the heat, and I accepted it for what it was. I never looked at a thermometer because I knew the mercury would be way up at the top. It was hot during the day, it was hot during the night. It was hot, hot, hot.

            So instead of hiding out, I walked miles and miles every day. Of course, I sweated and I itched, but that no longer mattered. I had a terrific time climbing in ruins, playing ball with children, exploring open-air markets.

            At noon the heat was intense, yet I was so entirely with it that I occasionally experienced a cold chill of pure delight.

            I did not master the heat. I mastered myself. I perceived what heat is, and I acted intuitively. No longer was heat bad and cool good. No longer was there a duality of the temperature versus me. We were one.

Hot is hot. Cold is cold. Each is what it is.

You are what you are.

So enjoy.


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