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The Zen Student Knows the Way Home

Updated on January 31, 2015

Buddha welcomes you home

Thai Buddha in silver
Thai Buddha in silver | Source

Enlightenment is just a tool

I had a dream this morning that included a message for all who practice Zen. The purpose of Zen and all Buddhist practice is to become a person who makes the world a better place. To do that, we clarify our minds, so that we don't add more confusion to an already confused world.

Classically, the purpose of meditation is Enlightenment. But this needs two clarifications. Enlightenment is not a final goal, it is simply the acquisition of a tool. A teenager might say, "I'm saving up money to buy a car." But the car is not the real goal. The real goal is what she will do once she has a car - drive around, connect, go places, make things happen. In the same way, an enlightened mind is not the read goal. An enlightened mind - a mind that isn't racing around making trouble, a mind that isn't grasping for things and creating misery - is only the vehicle. The goal is the way we live when our mind is healed through Enlightenment.

Secondly, Enlightenment is the wrong word, anyway. A proper translation of Buddha is "one who is awake. So our goal is Awakening, not Enlightenment. And that is what this dream is all about.

The dream

I was standing in my apartment as two friends came to visit. My apartment was on the ground floor, and had a glass door opening onto a patio right by the parking lot. My friends walked right up to the patio. I said hello, but I was distracted. In my mind, I was worried about how they would get in the building. I pictured the security door at the back of the building, an ugly gray door. My first idea was that they had to go around through that door to come in.

As we chatted, I saw the obvious. I invited them in. My two friends - a middle-aged woman and a young woman - had brought their cat. The cat immediately got it, and jumped down off the young woman's shoulder right into my apartment. The older woman, accepting my invitation, asked how to get into the building. I replied "come right in here." The two women got it. There was no need to go a long way around or to pass through a security door. I opened the glass porch door wide, and they walked in.

The message

The woman, the young woman, and the cat are the practitioner. The apartment is our True Home, our Natural Mind, the mind that is already Awake. The practitioner has decided to Awaken, and comes to practice, to Zen meditation. Getting out of the car is sitting on the cushion - dropping our ego, showing up as we are. The glass door represents our ability to see our home, to feel the true peace inside us.

The cat is the practitioner's natural mind, our bodily intuition. Immediately arriving at meditation, this part of us knows "I am home, I am awake, this is It!" The cat jumps inside.

The young woman is the eager young practitioner, our beginner's mind. Beginner's mind is in all of us, but can get lost when we think we know what we are doing. The middle-aged woman is the more experienced thinking mind who thinks she knows what she must do. She must go around, go on a long journey down a dirty hall, and pass some kind of security lock, pass some kind of test.

When this message arrives, the cat, your natural mind, gets in immediately. That is why the body relaxes and feels so comfortable sitting in Buddha posture.

The eager young practitioner and the seasoned practitioner who thinks she knows what she must do take a bit longer. If the eager young practitioner were alone, she might just step in, in natural excitement.Or she might not see the way in, and would be too young and perhaps embarrassed or confused to ask. The seasoned practitioner knows the ways of the world. To get anything, there is a difficult journey to be traveled, a difficult price to pay. And often, that is true in the world. But the seasoned practitioner also has the sense to ask, to be open to being wrong. That is a crucial ingredient of mature practice.

In many areas of life, there is a high price to pay. There are messy jobs to do, barriers to overcome, locked doors. But this is not true in Zen. It is not true on the path of Awakening. In Zen, we know this: You are already Home. You are already Awake. Your Natural Mind is who you truly are.

Come on in.

The fellow in the apartment

So, the two women and the cat (and even the car) are part of the Zen student's mind. Who is the fellow in the apartment, the one who knows the way directly in?

You might think it is the Zen teacher, already at home, already Awake. But that would be a mistake. The man in the apartment is also a part of you, the Zen practitioner. It is your inner spiritual Wisdom, the part of you that knows you are already home, that you have never left home. You just thought you were wandering. You are always welcome back here. In the bible, this is father in the story of the prodigal son. The son has wandered and thinks he might not be welcome. The father is just glad to see his son.

All you truly need is your spiritual intuition saying, "In just wanting to come here, in just showing up, you are already here. Welcome home. Welcome to your True Home. Step in."

Why, then, are there Zen teachers? Certainly, we are not necessary. But we can be helpful.

When a person has been living in the world for many years, we learn the ways of the world. We learn that things are complicated and hard, that there is a price to pay and a test to pass. It is hard to believe that all the wonders of Awakening are right here, right now. That peace and joy are inside us, and we are already inside peace and joy, the moment we choose to be.

If we knew how to listen within, we would not need a teacher. A teacher would not even be helpful. But the student, wandering in the noisy world, taught over and over that someone else has the answer, that the answer is outside, projects his or her inner wisdom onto a teacher. The student sees "he is at Home; he can invite me Home," not realizing, all the time, that Home and the Teacher are within.

It's okay to think a teacher can show you the way home, especially if your inner wisdom has chosen the teacher well. In that case, the teacher is simply reminding you of what your inner voice is saying: You are home. Come on in! You are hearing that outside yourself, from a teacher in another body, because you have forgotten to listen within.

Should you always listen to a teacher and do what the teacher says? No. If you have chosen a teacher, do listen respectfully. Do consider what she has to say. Then turn to your own inner sense of what is right. And follow your inner guidance. That is what my own Zen teacher, Roshi (Zen Master) Joan Halifax, tells her students, and it is what I share with you.

The invitation: Welcome Home

And so our dream ends with an invitation: Welcome home! Come in! Joy and peace await you here.

This is not the joy and peace of eternal rest. No! How boring! This is the joy and peace of living in confidence, of solidity in the rightness of life. Please, come home to your own inner wisdom, right here, right now. In that inner wisdom, you already have the ability to see things as they are (correct view), which shows you what to do (correct action). And when you take correct action, you suffer less, and you help alleviate the suffering of others.

And that, my friend, is what life is all about.

Welcome home!

The rainbow is inside you

Awaken! The rainbow is here inside when we open our eyes.
Awaken! The rainbow is here inside when we open our eyes. | Source


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    • SidKemp profile image

      Sid Kemp 5 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach)

      Hi Charlu! Be sure to mention this in your email, too. (You can get my email address from my profile page by clicking on "fan mail." I offer weekly meditation by phone on Monday nights. And Zen and 7 Habits go really well together.

    • Charlu profile image

      Charlu 5 years ago from Florida

      I am intrigued by the teachings in this hub and inspired to learn more.

    • SidKemp profile image

      Sid Kemp 6 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach)

      Wonderful! Your poetic mind reflects the full moon of the Buddha

    • PDPoole profile image

      PD Poole 6 years ago from Alexandria, Louisiana

      Hello Sid...

      The thought comes to mind(small m)how you can drift asleep, and dream of sadness...and you cry. When you open your eyes and become Awakened, it's raining...

    • SidKemp profile image

      Sid Kemp 6 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach)

      Absolutely! May we live grounded by inner discipline and alive with intuition each breath of each day.

    • kartika damon profile image

      kartika damon 6 years ago from Fairfield, Iowa

      Oh Yes! I love the phrase because for me it means be simple, perform day to day chores as usual, and continue doing what you are meant to...whether in the hermitage or in the world of commerce, whether you are a nun or a householder.

    • SidKemp profile image

      Sid Kemp 6 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach)

      I agree. Classically, though, "chop wood carry water" is a hermitage retreat, living completely alone, and living off nature in the simplest way possible. Yes to that, as well. Living in harmony with nature is a deep level of service, too.

    • kartika damon profile image

      kartika damon 6 years ago from Fairfield, Iowa

      I loved you comment about Enlightenment being not a goal but a tool! That resonates with me--we are meant to chop wood and carry water. Service is key. Best, Kartika

    • SidKemp profile image

      Sid Kemp 6 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach)

      Hi Blue - Agiri has a special meaning - but it is secret at the beginning of the novel. I hope you're not too disappointed, and will be one of my first readers. If you decide to write on the name Nibiru, be sure to check out Wikipedia - some fascinating stuff there. If you look at Egyptian cat divinities, be sure to hook up with "Cats in Ancient Egypt" on Wikipedia. A friend of mind named Carni had an amazing experience when taken to a secret temple at Karnac where the cat goddess (perhaps Bast) was worshipped.

    • somethgblue profile image

      somethgblue 6 years ago from Shelbyville, Tennessee

      Does the name Agiri have any special meaning?

      Of course Nibiru is the name the ancient Sumerians gave to Planet X and means the Planet of the Crossing.

      What was the special significance given to cats in the ancient Egyptian culture . . . Hmmm . . . I feel a hub coming on!

    • SidKemp profile image

      Sid Kemp 6 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach)

      Thanks so much, blue! I love what you wrote: All my life I have searched for something that was inside me the whole time. And I am working on a novel about a man who has a cat who is his spiritual teacher. That cat's name is Agiri.

    • somethgblue profile image

      somethgblue 6 years ago from Shelbyville, Tennessee

      About eight years ago I had a spiritual awakening of the educational variety and about four years ago I had an educational awakening of the spiritual variety. Basically I stopped using my logical mind and learned to trust my heart and soul.

      For me I have no destination just trying everyday to live in the moment and enjoy the journey. I have simplified my life and am getting down to the bare necessities of living frugally and giving more than I take, without being a burden to anyone.

      All my life I searched for something that was inside me the whole time and all I had to do was let go of the past and stop trying to control the present or the future.

      Interesting that although I write to give and don't pay attention to hub scores an article on Hub Scores brought me to this article . . . it is so interesting how the cat works in our lives . . . BTW the cat that lives with me came to me, I suspect as the teacher, but he is humble and refuses to acknowledge it.

      His name is Nibiru . . . .

    • SidKemp profile image

      Sid Kemp 6 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach)

      We shine the light of Awakening on each other, through our practice.

    • gclitty profile image

      gclitty 6 years ago

      Haha, ya your right. I've got to work on my word choice i guess.

    • SidKemp profile image

      Sid Kemp 6 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach)

      Thanks, gclitty! Glad I can inspire. Enlightening, though? Enlightenment comes from within!

    • gclitty profile image

      gclitty 6 years ago

      Wow. This is enlightening indeed. Fantastic hub, just fantatstic.

    • SidKemp profile image

      Sid Kemp 6 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach)

      Yes! The real reasons for Buddhist lie in two places: One is very small: How do we live each moment? And the other is huge: How do we do our part towards the elimination of all suffering? And the two are one.

    • promaine profile image

      promaine 6 years ago from New York

      Sid, I'm so glad that you insist that awakening or enlightenment is not a final goal. I had taken away that idea myself as do so many other people. In a way, the real goal is *how* you use being awake--how you integrate it into your life. I'm reminded of Taizan Maezumi's urging his students to "appreciate your life"--it's one way of integrating. Your whole hub is inspiring. Thank you!

    • SidKemp profile image

      Sid Kemp 6 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach)

      Thank you, Denise. I agree with what you say. I've looked at your hub, and I've learned from three of the four teachers you name on your path.

      Also, I think, Life is the teacher, and everything and everyone we meet is a teacher. And I feel more like my dream used me to share its lesson, than I used the dream. May we continue to share dreams of light, until we Awaken!

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 6 years ago from North Carolina

      It appears that it is my evening for 'stumbling' across dream related hubs. This is the third from three different hubbers that had dream content in it. I find that interesting.

      Sid-well written teaching. I love the use of your dream in this lesson, and the analogy to Zen. Yes, we are already awake and you bring up an excellent point that because we are drenched in worldly ways it is often necessary to find a teacher who can guide us, at least initially.

      I'm not sure if you read my hub, 'My spiritual journey-four teachers I have met along the way', but it mentions that there are many teachers in the world of all types of spiritual paths; ultimately, the path that is right is the one that resonates for us and brings us to that 'awakened' state.

      Thanks for your teachings-greatly appreciated. Rated up and useful/interesting.

    • SidKemp profile image

      Sid Kemp 6 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach)

      Thanks - I hadn't thought of that. And this dream was not just about Zen, it was about writing, sharing and guiding. I guess my unconscious mind likes HubPages, too.

    • KrisL profile image

      KrisL 6 years ago from S. Florida

      What strikes me about this is how much your practice has become part of you . . . I only dream of activities -- like teaching (I'm a teacher)-- that are central to my life.

    • SidKemp profile image

      Sid Kemp 6 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach)

      Welcome, Sandra - come on in!

    • sandrabusby profile image

      Sandra Busby 6 years ago from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA

      Sid, glad I stumbled upon you and your zen practice. I need to read hubs like this daily to keep me focused on what's important. Thanks for SHARING.


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