The next line says, “Within heaven and earth, and through space and time, there is a jewel hidden within each one of us.” That jewel is our original perfection. It’s the buddha nature. Upon attaining enlightenment the Buddha said, “All beings, the great earth and I have at once entered the Way.” His realization included all beings, sentient and insentient. But when we don’t understand this truth, we run around thinking that what we do does not affect the rest of the universe.

How can that jewel be found? Where will you search for it? Since you already have it, it follows that the only way to get to it is to discover it. That’s what the Buddha did. That’s what an endless array of Buddhists have done for 2,500 years. Now it’s our turn. “We must learn the backward step and meet the wisdom that has no teacher. We must discover our own inherent and unconditioned compassion and give it life.” To be born human is to be born with wisdom and compassion. They may get covered over with greed, anger, ignorance, and discrimination, but they’re there, buried beneath layers and layers of conditioning.

The Buddhist teachings offer a process. It’s not salvation coming from above, or salvation by some priest or teacher, but realization springing out of our own power to transform ourselves and our lives. That’s how we “Let the three poisons manifest as the three virtues. Each one of us must sweep ourselves clean of all beliefs and dogmas in order to be free and at ease.” How do we do that? We must be aware and awake. We have to acknowledge them, throw them away, and come to the ground of being. And having arrived there, we learn to trust it. We learn to live our life out of that trust.

"But tell me, how will you do it? When will you do it? You are a fully equipped buddha. How will you give it life?" How important is it to you to give it life? That's what matters.

The capping verse says, Buddhas and ancestors have not appeared in the world, nor is there any truth to be given to the people. We shouldn't waste time chasing buddhas and ancestors, whether it's here or abroad, through books or the internet, lectures or discussions. Simply trust yourself. Really be yourself. Give yourself permission to be yourself. They were just able to observe the hearts of beings, and dispense medicine according to the ills. The medicine they dispense is the process. But it doesn't happen by itself, and no one can do it for you. You have to engage it. There are no shortcuts. Ultimately, the question is, will you do it?

 

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John Daido Loori, Roshi  is the abbot of Zen Mountain Monastery. A successor to Hakuyu Taizan Maezumi, Roshi, Daido Roshi trained in rigorous koan Zen and in the subtle teachings of Master Dogen, and is a lineage holder in the Soto and Rinzai schools of Zen.

Koans of the Way of Reality is a collection of koans complied at Zen Mountain Monasery over the last twenty-five years. It includes both koans that appear in the traditional collections as well as pieces taken from other sources and treated as koans because of their relevance for modern Western practitioners.