First, from a Dharma web newbie, a couple of online things that just came to my attention:
–Dosho Port of Wild Fox Zen is doing a very interesting thing in actualizing online Dharma by leading what promises to be a fairly rigorous but completely online 90-day Ango/Practice Period. It seems worth checking out if your life doesn’t allow for a 90-day retreat of the walking around, bowing kind. It goes from 2/20-5/22 – follow these links for information or a video invitation.
–Open Buddha has a Dharma blog aggregator that I hadn’t known about, a noble attempt to contain the Buddhist blog sprawl into one site. It’s at http://community.zen-sangha.org.
Last Sunday in my talk at Green Gulch (“Practice with the Life You Have” – an exceedingly “opiate of the masses” talk, however true it may have also happened to be) I scratched the surface of a theme that I want to pursue here and consider with you: the relationship between “dissatisfaction” and “disillusion.”
The story in Two Shores of Zen is that I am dissatisfied with American Zen life and head to the Mystic East to find Real Zen. Most of you know how that goes: I cry, I laugh, I see Buddha, and ultimately I join the ranks of the many “Zen failures.” That is, I end up just as dissatisfied with my austere Japanese Zen temple as I was with my decadent American Zen temple. With dissatisfaction everywhere I turn, there’s really nowhere left to turn but my own heart, this present moment of my own mind producing my own dissatisfaction with whatever form my life takes.
In other words, my relentless, unproductive dissatisfaction led me to a gentler, more wholesome disillusion. Not a disillusion with external conditions – with which we are all doomed to be forever dissatisfied – but disillusion with this dissatisfaction itself.
It isn’t then about being satisfied or dissatisfied with Western or Eastern Buddhism, but it’s about getting sick of, getting thoroughly disillusioned with, this all-pervading suffering itself. Disillusion with this all-pervading suffering doesn’t mean that I should seek refuge some place it isn’t, but that I really have no recourse but to turn and face this suffering itself.
Dissatisfaction, or dukkha, is a turning and running away from what is. It is looking or longing for some other option, some other more complete or more perfect life. Disillusion on the other hand is a turning in, a turning towards the mechanism that creates suffering. When dissatisfaction drives me, I dig deeper into samsara, endlessly cycling by trying to get out; when disillusion drives me, it’s more like stopping, more like seeing, more like surrendering to the life that I have and putting my energy into the deep work of letting go.
The Buddha invites and encourages us to grow disillusioned with samsara, with suffering. We are to grow disillusioned equally with the agreeable and disagreeable. To be disillusioned is not to simply be dissatisfied, but in a sense to give up on the whole realm of conditioned existence with it’s pervading dissatisfaction and its glimmers of transient satisfaction. For me, that means to let my life be my life, let my circumstances be my circumstances, and shift my gaze to a subtler process by which I’m making the whole thing into a problem.
There may be a student of the Pali Canon out there who can help me with the words I am looking for, or who can clarify what the Buddha “really meant” when he taught “disillusion.” In the meantime, I’ve found something in this framework that speaks to me at least. It helps me to work with my dissatisfaction in a way that turns me towards my life. Recalling that dissatisfaction won’t help but disillusion will, I can relax a little bit about getting that elusive satisfactory life circumstance, and just do the work of letting go completely of everything.
This is, of course, just a belated echo of what many of the first comments on “No Zen in the West” insisted – forget about East, forget about West, forget about monk, forget about layperson, and get to the real issue of settling your heart.