accepting one's addiction, then working with it
(not —hopelessly— against it)!
"Hello, my name is …, and I am an addict. I am addicted to my ego. I have always been addicted to my ego and I will always be addicted to my ego."
by Rick Issan Elkin:
This is an interesting excerpt from Bernie Tetsugen Glassman-roshi, a teacher and recipeint of Dharma transmission from Maezumi-roshi, of the same Dharma transmission as my teacher, Jitsudo-roshi.
I welcome your thoughts!
According to my understanding of enlightenment, I am enlightened. According to the understanding of my teacher, Maezumi Roshi, I am enlightened. I've never met Shakyamuni Buddha, never had any personal dealings with him, but according to what I've read about him, I believe that he would have said that I am enlightened. And that's for the reason that, upon the occasion of his great realization, he said: "How wonderful! All sentient beings, as they are, are enlightened!"
Not everybody believes as I do. I think that most people who've met me probably wouldn't say that I'm enlightened. There are Buddhist teachers, many of whom I respect, who believe that what the Buddha meant was that everyone has the potential to be enlightened. Some believe that it takes many, many lifetimes to reach a state of realization.
Nevertheless, what I've learned from my teacher and what I've taught my own students is that all of us are one body. We are the stars, the moon, the trees, the death camps, the killers, and the killed. We are enlightenment and we are delusion. We read it, we say it, but we don't believe it. So the experience of realization is seeing and realizing exactly that—that everything is enlightened as it is. That all of life is the enlightened state, that all of life is one body. And that it is constantly changing.
Actualizing that realization means that we live our life out of the realization of the oneness of life, out of the understanding that this is it. Of course, all of us are actualizing who we are all the time. All of us have some degree of realization and, moment after moment, are manifesting our understanding of the oneness of life. Obviously, the greater the realization, the greater the clarity, the greater the confidence.
And with all that, even while possessing great realization, we still have our conditioning, our own particular characteristics, our own particular paths. Little of that changes overnight. In fact, there is a great deal that remains unchanged throughout one's lifetime. We acquire from a very early age strong patterns of behavior; we have physical characteristics that we and others sometimes call limitations; we have traits embedded in our DNA that we are powerless to change in this lifetime. It is like drinking from a glass and then washing it of all trace. The washing itself leaves traces. So we wash some more, try different ways of cleaning and drying, yet no matter what we do, some trace is always left.
That is why, in our lineage, we believe so strongly in Continuous Practice. Say you have a realization of the oneness of life. If you stop right there, thinking there's nothing more to grasp, your conditioned ways of doing things "'ill soon take over once again. But if you continue to practice after the initial enlightenment experience, it will continue to unfold and broaden, deepening to the very end of what we call our life. That's what we call Continuous Practice.
I have often noticed that students of the Way, knowing full well that Shakyamuni Buddha taught that everything is change, seem to think that that is true about everything but the state of enlightenment. As if everything changes other than the realized mind. As if, once you have had such an expelience, you are frozen in that state.
Things change for all of us. I have made statements twenty and thirty years ago, during the time of my own dharma transmission, before and after experiences of realization, that I would not make now. I was enlightened then and I am enlightened now. And my understanding grows with the years, as it does for everyone who continues to practice. We have many delusions about enlightenment. One delusion is that the realized mind doesn't change, doesn't grow after the realization experience.
An associated delusion has to do with the idea that there are no delusions after an enlightenment experience. A cornerstone of Alcoholics Anonymous is that alcoholics are alcoholics to the end of their lives. They may not be drinking all that time. They may not be drinking for thirty, forty, even fifty years. Still, they are alcoholics. The same is true in Zen. I've often begun my talk in front of an audience the way they do in meetings of AA: "Hello, my name is Bernie, and I am an addict. I am addicted to my ego. I have always been addicted to my ego and I will always be addicted to my ego."
We are addicted to our self-centered identities for all time. That doesn't mean we don't practice. That doesn't mean we don't have realization experiences. That doesn't mean we're not accomplishing the Way. And simultaneously we are addicted. And the addiction—and the practice—go on forever.
Many people don't buy that. They seem to think that delusion is outside the enlightened state. But if we truly see that we are all One Body, then that One Body includes enlightenment and it includes delusion. It includes everything. To understand the One Body, think of a circle. There can be nothing outside that circle. If there is one thing that you can think of that is outside that circle, one delusion that you cannot permit inside that circle, then I suggest that you change your definition of the circle to include that one thing as well.
So if your definition of enlightenment is that there's no anti-Semitism in the state of enlightenment, you better change your definition of enlightenment. If your definition of enlightenment is that there's no nationalism, or militarism, or bigotry in the state of enlightenment, you better change your definition of enlightenment. For the state of enlightenment is maha, the circle with no inside and no outside, not even a circle, just the pulsating of life everywhere.