In order to be this person, we have to have trust in ourselves, but we also have to be this person to understand. In other words, to realize our enlightened nature we have to be endowed with enlightened nature. And that’s what the Buddha realized: we are that person. But it has to be discovered—that body of wisdom—in order to function. It’s always true. It’s true right here and now. Why don’t we see it? Because of all the “saying and feeling.” Because of all of the turbulence in our mind. Because the conditions aren’t right. Because it’s not time yet. All of these ideas we impose on ourselves. “I can’t really enter into training because my practice needs to be in a better place.” “I can’t receive the precepts because I’m still violating them. I still get angry. When I don’t get angry anymore, I’ll be ready to receive the precepts.” We create rules for ourselves, and then we proceed as though they’re true.

Fayan continues:

I’ve always lived in a
   three-section reed hut;
In the spiritual light of the one path,
   myriad objects are at rest.
Don’t use right and wrong to judge me—
   Fleeting life and its rationalizations have
nothing to do with me.

Clinging—trying to preserve life—and all the justifications, the theories and explanations, have nothing to do with me. Fayan is not rejecting life, and he is certainly not without caring. He’s completely immersed in life and the world. Rather than placing himself outside the fray of life, he’s thrown away all notions of outside and inside. In other words, he’s saying, “Don’t speak to me about right and wrong. That’s not who I am.” Not because there isn’t right and wrong, but because he cannot be identified as right or wrong. That’s not who he is, that’s not who we are.

If we can’t be identified as right or wrong, we certainly can’t be identified by our belief system, the color of our skin, our gender, where we live—all of the various ways that we identify ourselves. But then who are we? That’s the question the Buddha wanted to resolve. Because he realized that in that question is everything—every thought, every action, every word, every decision, every response.

To practice with one’s whole being is to realize the body of wisdom. It’s high risk. You have to throw everything into it. Don’t leave anything out. This is not a half-hearted path. That’s what makes it so challenging. Having discovered this Dharma, let it permeate our lives




Geoffrey Shugen Arnold, Sensei is vice-abbot and resident teacher of Zen Center of New York City: Fire Lotus Temple and head of the National Buddhist Prison Sangha. He received dharma transmission from Daido Roshi in 1997.