Kanzeon Bodhisattva


What Is Meditation?

Dennis Genpo Merzel, Roshi

In this “not two” - nothing is separate, nothing is excluded.

...That is meditation (zazen). Normally we set up all kinds of walls and barriers simply by defining ourselves. As soon as we define something, we set up criteria about it, contrast it with other things. Once it is defined, we can study it, understand it. Now we feel more comfortable because we can comprehend it. But ultimately there is nothing to define, only no-self: vast space.

Ordinarily we define ourselves in limiting ways: I am a man or a woman; I am uneducated or highly educated; I am arrogant or humble, brilliant or stupid, old or young, deluded or awakened. All just concepts! Why are we afraid to throw out all definitions, all concepts, all ideas? Who or what would we be then? How would we relate? How would we function, not knowing? How could we go to work if we didn’t know who we were?

This brings us back to faith. If you really trust and have faith, you can live without such definitions and then you are not limited. Then you are the boundless, infinite nothing. But who wants to be nothing? Because we don’t want to be nothing, we cannot be infinite. So we settle for being just a little something, not much. Just throw it out! Then you can receive all, be all. When you really empty yourself of the self, then you are the mountains, the rivers, the earth - everything. You are all things.

Only then does true compassion arise. Then you cannot turn your back on another, because that other is not separate from yourself. Then it is hard to be greedy for one’s self. Of course you can still be greedy for the whole, for the Dharma, for the Truth, for people to awaken. All the time Maezumi Roshi used to say: “I want you to be really greedy; you are not greedy enough!” and “I don’t want you to be desireless. Have big desire, great desire!” What are the Four Vows after all? Nothing but huge desire: to liberate all sentient beings, to accomplish the Way!


Dennis Genpo Merzel
The Eye Never Sleeps: Striking to the Heart of Zen
Shambhala, 1991
P. 112-3

Read also: On Zazen, by Uchiyama Kasho Roshi

And: Experience No-self, by Genpo Roshi



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