Just think how powerful and vast this is—to know deep inside of yourself, through your own experience, that you and every single person is endowed with miraculous power. This is the bodhisattva’s experience. When they look around the world and see so much chaos and confusion, they know all this to be unnecessary. They see people with great capacity but without great functioning. Our self-nature is pure and undefiled, our wisdom is deep and clear, our capacity for compassion is boundless. Yet as Dogen taught, “One who does not step forward [into practice] cannot accept the buddha’s teaching. If you are unbending, you cannot stop floating along in birth and death.”
It’s very interesting how the self—our idea of the self, our attachment to the self, not to mention any attachments this self has to other things—always leaves a trail. This makes for a sloppy world because there are traces everywhere. For the student of buddhadharma though, this makes practice possible in the 3,000 moments in the morning and 800 moments in the evening. Because every trace you see is attachment, and every attachment you see is an opportunity for letting go. You know where to enter.
In the beginning of the journey it’s very depressing when we begin to become aware and see that our life is literally strewn with debris. We come into practice with an inkling that maybe there’s a little mess—but it’s contained, right? We’ve got it under control. We just need to deal with this one little area and then the rest is good. And then we begin practicing and opening our eyes and we can’t find a single corner where we are naturally free and unhindered. This doesn’t mean our life is utter chaos or that we are a bad person. It’s just our eyes being opened to the truth that life is dukkha.
So much of practice is recognizing the traces and entering there. We need to see where our greed, anger or laziness leaves a trail that someone else then stumbles upon. Something as simple as a dish that wasn’t cleaned and put away, a window left open in the rain, a task at work left undone—someone has to come along and clean up our mess, our selfishness. So why do we act as though our time, our life, is more important than another’s? Why have we decided that this time, this moment, this action is not important enough for our attention? If we cannot actually be completely and totally undivided in very simple, daily activities, what makes us think that in the “truly” important moments that we imagine are coming, we’re going to know what to do? The fact is we won’t.