Ordinary Life Is the Way

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It is natural to look for the things you want outside of where you are now. That is the whole point of a journey. Yet this moment is all anyone has. So if freedom, love, beauty, grace, and whatever else is desirable are to appear, they must appear in a now.

Article by John Tarrant published in Lion’s Roar magazine February 11, 2016

Zhaozhouo asked Nanquan, “What is the Way?”
Nanquan said, “Ordinary mind is the Way.”
“Should I turn toward it or not?”
“If you turn toward it you turn away from it.”
Zhaozhou asked, “How can I know the way if I don’t turn toward it?”

Nanquan said, “The way is not about knowing or not knowing. When you know something you are deluded, and when you don’t know, you are just empty-headed. When you reach the way beyond doubt, it is as vast and infinite as space. You can’t say it’s right or wrong.” With these words, Zhaozhou had sudden understanding.

It is natural to look for the things you want outside of where you are now. That is the whole point of a journey. Yet this moment is all anyone has. So if freedom, love, beauty, grace, and whatever else is desirable are to appear, they must appear in a now. It would be nice if they appeared in the now you have now. And if they are to appear and endure, they will have to be found in ordinary circumstances, since ordinary circumstances fill most of life. The marvelous, the lovely, will have to be right here in the room where someone is reading, someone is sick, someone is coughing, two people are making love, one man is yelling at a dog. It will have to appear in the sound of rain splashing off trees, of a truck laboring up a grade, of TV from another room. It will have to appear in the sight of a child running, in the feeling of a headache, in the anxiety of preparing for exams, in worrying over a sick child. It will have to appear in what is ordinary, usual, commonplace, and right under your nose.

 —From Bring Me the Rhinoceros and Other Zen Koans That Will Save Your Life, by John Tarrant (Shambhala)

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