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So how do you deal with this conundrum? How do you leap free of duality? To leap free of duality is to leap free of affirmation and negation. Here it is again in another encounter: “The monks gathered in the great hall to listen to Fayan give a talk before the mid-day meal. Before the talk started, Fayan pointed to the bamboo blinds. Two monks jumped up. One started closing the blinds on one side, and the other started closing the blinds on the other side. Fayan said, ‘One has it, and one has not.’” The commentary says, “Tell me, which one has it and which was has not?”—yet, “you’re strictly warned against arguing about ‘has and has not.’” How do you leap free of “has and has not”?

Affirmation, negation, approval, disapproval. My teacher never approved me. Never. Even when I passed a koan, he’d just say, “Go on to the next one.” He wouldn’t say anything about how I did. He never would say, “Great! You really saw that, Daido.” But he definitely would yell at me when I didn’t see it. In fact, not only did he never approve, he was constantly disapproving. Not only did he disapprove me, he disapproved all his successors. He would tell me, “Well, so-and-so is not mature. I shouldn’t have let him move so fast.” Or, “She’s okay, but not really clear. She needs another ten years of practice.” Then he would say the same thing about me to them. When we first started the Monastery, he came and said, “Oh, this is great. You’re doing a really good job. I support you one hundred per cent.” Then he’d go back to Los Angeles and say to his seniors, “I don’t know what Daido’s doing over there. He’s not ready for that kind of teaching.” And he would go back and forth, back and forth.

So what do you do in a case like that? You trust yourself. You’re not going to get anywhere on someone else’s fuel. It has to be your own fuel. That’s what Maezumi Roshi was teaching us. Approval is just another kind of leash. That’s the way you control a dog—through approval. Every time the dog does what you want, you control it, and it gets a cookie. Before you know it, it will do anything you say. Is that the way you want to live your life? Or do you want to be free?

Approval and disapproval are so limiting. All of the great advances in history happened when someone had the courage to break out of the mold. Think about Impressionist painting. People thought it was junk while most of those artists were alive. Even in terms of popular culture, when Bob Dylan diverged from folk music and went electric, everybody said, “Awful!” Great advances have always been met with great opposition. Galileo, Einstein, Columbus, Erlich—they all went contrary to the status quo. Each of them was met with disapproval, but each trusted himself to go on.