Commitment and Intention
from a talk by Roshi Enkyo O’Hara
In Zen we don’t use the term religion very much at all. We don’t think of ourselves as –œreligious– –”perhaps because we think of religion as a system of beliefs. But actually, when you look it up, –œreligion– comes from relegare, a Latin word meaning –œto bind– or –œto hold.– And I do see our practice as a way to hold us–”there’s a way in which our practice holds us and helps us to follow a way of life, a path, that has meaning and purpose to it; a way of life that has a certain intention in the sense of a kind of dedication or commitment; that offers understanding and joy and the ability to simply, intimately experience our lives just as they are–”not our fantasies about them or our idealizations–”but our lives just as they are! How can we find a holding space, a –œreligion– that encourages us to see this? How do we train, in other words, to be committed and to maintain our commitment?
–œCommitment– is to trust something, to –œjoin with– –“ and I think when we’re committed there’s a quality of reverence that arises. So I wonder what you’re committed to? Maybe you are committed to the Way-seeking mind, to the Buddha-mind; maybe you’re committed to the project of waking up to who you are, of waking up to what this whole thing is about –“this world we live in, our lives, our coming and going. But are you also committed to practicing the Way? to discovering that practice –“ as in sitting, standing, walking, relating to one another –“ is not separate from the experience of waking up?
I like to think of Zen as a way to meet my life–”whatever comes up, the people I encounter–”with kindness and compassion. Because who are we, really, but that relationship that arises between us–”between the individual and what’s in front of them–”whether it’s another person, a complex situation, a piece of music, an art project, or a group of people? Dogen says, –œMake each moment the top of your head.– That’s not clinging to the last moment, and that’s not projecting ourselves onto the future moment, or the ideas we have about what possible futures there might be.
Looking from far away we can miss our life as it’s going on. We can miss our practice as we’re practicing. And that’s when our commitment can begin to lag, to become slack. Maybe our zazen falls off, we stop coming to the Zendo, we stop supporting the activities and being supported by the community.
You know, when we carry a cushion across the floor, that is the practice; that when we pay our dues so we can pay the rent, that is the practice; when we help clean up after coffee and tea, that is our practice.
When we learn to do these things that we do here in order to hold and bind our community together, that is our practice and that is our awakening.