The world is teaching us all the time. Teachings come from rivers, rocks, and mountains, and teachings come from pollution, AIDS, and starvation. But how much of these teachings do we actually hear? Daido Roshi says that we can't possibly experience the world around us if our senses are dulled. Zen practice shows us that it is possible to experience life in a new way, a way that allows us to hear with the whole body and mind. The key is understanding our conditioning and seeing how we define ourselves in a way that narrows and limits our experience. We can learn instead to view the world in a bigger way, without separation. By realizing our unity with everything around us, we embrace the wonderful opportunities constantly unfolding before us.
Zen Buddhism emphasizes zazen, or seated meditation, as the means to study the self and understand who we truly are. Dharma talks are an essential aspect of Zen training and take place in the context of zazen. Said to be "dark to the mind and radiant to the heart", a dharma talk is one of the ways in which a teacher points directly to the heart of the teachings of the Buddha. In our meditation practice, it is easy to get lost in self-doubt, fantasy, numbness, and emotional agitation. Dharma talks help to ground our practice, providing inspiration and an essential recognition of exactly where we find ourselves, so that we can learn to face difficulties and obstacles with a free and flexible mind. This talk was given at Zen Mountain Monastery or the Zen Center of New York City of the Mountains and Rivers Order of Zen Buddhism, founded in 1980 by the late American Zen Master John Daido Loori, Roshi (1931-2009).