Another form of doubt, though—self doubt—is a sort of deep insecurity that appears when we not only question our ability to accomplish ourselves within the Way, but also whether we inherently possess what is necessary to do so. Yet from the very beginning of our tradition, the Buddha’s enlightenment laid that question to rest. He realized that all sentient beings possess buddha nature, which means that all beings are perfect and complete, without any insufficiency. That’s why the subject of doubt doesn’t appear very often in the Buddhist sutras—because our inherent completeness, from the perspective of this 2,500-year-old tradition, is a given. Yet self doubt still arises, and it must be dealt with.

Then there is Great Doubt—the deep, fundamental question about the nature of this life. This doubt is present in the raising of the bodhi mind, the mind of enlightenment. There’s a moment when, from within the dream, we sense that we’re dreaming. Living within the promise of our culture—that if we have certain experiences and acquire certain things our lives will be deep and satisfying—we begin to suspect that promise falls short, that no matter how much we acquire, no matter how much we’ve accomplished, those things will not give us satisfaction.

The pointer says: “In the strategic action of omnicompetence, arrowpoints meet each other. The whole world is not concealed, far and near are equally revealed, past and present are clearly described.” This points to a truth that is free of all circumstances, yet can function freely within all situations. When we begin to seek the Way, it seems that everything is hidden. Yet, what we realize is that hiddenness itself is a result of illusory perception. In Zazenshin, Master Dogen says, “Don’t favor what is close at hand and reject what is far away. Don’t reject what is close at hand and favor what is at a distance. What is seen has always been revealed, what is discovered has never been lost.” “But whose realm is this?” the pointer asks. This is, essentially, the question that Emperor Suzong is asking.

One day, Emperor Suzong asked National Teacher Zhong, “What is the Ten-Body Controller?” Master Nanyang Huizhong was a successor of Huineng, the Sixth Ancestor, and he taught during the eighth-century Tang dynasty. Zhong was teacher to three successive emperors, therefore he was given the title of National Teacher. The “Ten-Body Controller” is one of the epithets of the Buddha. He was also known as the Realized One; The Great Worthy; the True and Universal Knower, Perfect in Knowledge and Conduct; and the Blissful One. So the emperor is asking, “What is buddha?” What is the original face, the one true person?

A monk once asked the National Teacher, “How can one become a buddha?” The National Teacher said, “Just cast off buddha and all beings. At that moment, you’ll be liberated.” Be naked and clean, without grasping. Cast off delusion and enlightenment. Cast off the arrogant one, the knowing one, and the one who’s insufficient, inadequate.