This was profound to me.

Not Two is one of the fundamental concepts in my Taoist lineage Longmen Pai, and our head priest has us meditate upon this concept to set the intent before going right into our zuowang meditation sessions. Sometimes it eludes me, sometimes I experience it. But in any case, I received this e-mail from the Zen temple I go to here in Chicago, and it explains the concept of Not Two from Dogen’s standpoint, which I found so profound that I must incorporate it into my own Taoist practice. Here it is:

Not Two

Rev. Kongo Langlois, Roshi

[This text was first published in The Diamond Sword, a collection of talks by Kongo Roshi, Zen Buddhist Temple of Chicago, first edition 1987, second edition 1992, pp 37-41.]

All of you practicing zazen must have a very clear understanding of what you are doing. And even more, why you are doing it. Are you looking for something? Do you expect to get something? Why are you practicing zazen? You are dissatisfied, so you come to zazen. This is good, but why? What’s going to happen ultimately from this practice?One of the most profound statements in all of Zen literature is by Dogen Zenji (1200-1253) the founder of our Soto Zen sect, who said, “Practice and enlightenment are just one.” Dogen persistently taught that there is no separation between practice and enlightenment. Zazen equals enlightenment, and enlightenment equals zazen. Thus, if practice and enlightenment are one, then it is futile to practice in order to become enlightened. Then why do we practice?

Practice zazen just for the sake of doing it. Zazen is whole and complete within itself and does not require peeping around the corner for something else. You must understand that from the Zen point of view the body and the mind are not separate. There is no distinction between body and mind. The delusion of separateness is brought about by our sense of self. We sense ourself. We feel ourself. We smell ourself. We see ourself. We taste ourself. We think ourself. So this endless sense of self creates the illusion that there is a mind here somewhere with a body, or body with a mind. But the Heart Sutra states there is no body, no mind. And again in the Heart Sutra there is the line, “Indeed there is nothing to be attained.” So what are you doing?

Soto Zen is often referred to as Bodhidharma Zen. This is the original Zen before any sectarian split occurred. Bodhidharma (fourth century) spent nine years facing the wall, listening to the ants scream. This is how Bodhidharma Zen is characterized. You could interpret this as listening to the mind screaming. In the twentieth century there is a lot of mind screaming. It is all around us, in us. You can’t avoid it. Bodhidharma Zen is pure zazen – pure zazen practiced with faith and knowledge that indeed practice and enlightenment are not separate. Consequently, we do not practice to obtain enlightenment. If you see some distinction between practice and enlightenment, then this is your problem; this is your koan. In zazen there is nothing extra added, there is no reliance on tricks, there is no chasing enlightenment. Unless you understand that indeed zazen and realization are synonymous, you will always be like a dog chasing his tail who only needs to stop and realize that it is attached to his behind.

The koan, “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” isn’t nearly as meaningful as the problem of life and death that confronts each one of us every moment. Practice and enlightenment are one and the same. There cannot be the understanding by the mind without understanding by the body. Body must do the work. Body must do the sitting. Everyone recognizes that Dogen Zenji was a great Buddhist philosopher. He is considered by all Buddhists, regardless of denomination, as the greatest spokesman for Buddhism in Japan. But Dogen was first and foremost a teacher of zazen. When he was asked questions concerning the benefits of chanting or about chanting in general, he called this just empty wagging of tongues. Just practice zazen, just sit. He harped on this constantly. Remember even in Rinzai Zen, as important as koans are to the Rinzai person, one does not chase koans forever. You’ve got to run out of them sometime. What do you think an eighty year old Rinzai priest does – sit and look at the question, “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” or “What is mu?” or “Does a dog have Buddha Nature?” This is just the gate that is erected to show you that there is no gate. This is Mumonkan: gateless gate. This gate of Zen that you choose to pass through is erected by you as an individual. Koan study is a fancy structure that has no substance. You create the gate. You create the barrier.
Cultivate unity of body and mind!  Practice zazen:

Just look
Mind rise
Sounds rise
Breathing rises and falls
Each moment is now.


How else can you keep from vacillating between the future and the past in your life, consequently creating a living hell for yourself, unless you learn, unless you train yourself in living now? This is Zen life, no life. Not tomorrow life. Not grieving over yesterday. That is why the Zen person is always strong. All energy is concentrated now. So continue training yourself from this time on. Just sit. Just sit. Enlightenment. Just die to enlightenment. Life, death? Just die, die to all of it. Don’t look for anything; don’t expect anything. The value is in the work, in the doing itself. How cheap to engage in a spiritual practice of peeping around the corner. Just do zazen and you come to find how indeed there is no looking for enlightenment. All answers come to you. You don’t chase them. When you are chasing something, you’re always anticipating. And when you are in this state you never attain, because you are always seeking. This is the state of the perpetual beginner. Some people practice zazen for twenty years and are always beginners, because they are always peeping around the corner. They doubt the innate unity of practice and enlightenment, of body and mind. That is the problem. But Dogen Zenji was very firm on this point: cultivate unity of mind and body, and a non-separateness of practice and enlightenment. Not two.

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