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Shambhala Sun | January 2009

True Love, Ultimate Zero


A grueling seven-day Zen retreat takes its toll on everyone—including the teacher. Joshu Sasaki Roshi says that at 101 it takes him a few days to regain his energy, but when I met with him following the July sesshin in Los Angeles, he was in an expansive mood, talking for an hour about his teaching of Tathagata Zen. Here is an excerpt.
—Michael Haederle

The activity of movement contains two different natures: difference and discrimination. The single activity of “going” includes “coming,” and the single activity of “coming” includes “going.” The activity of going and coming is encompassed by the activity of equality.

The whole universe is one: equality holds difference and discrimination within it. The activity of equality includes plus and minus. Therefore, it is zero.

You can only experience the state of equality; you cannot describe it. If someone demands an explanation of it from me, all I can do is kiss the person. Or I could hit him. Do you understand this? Have you got it? 

Generally people say, “We love equality, we love equality.” Rather than simply mouthing those words, you must come to understand this principle. When the state of equality is manifested, it is the state of zero. This is the state where you no longer need to insist on or claim your own self.

If you understand this important point, then fine. There is no need to make any remarks. For example, if the child calls to her father, “Daddy!”, what comment can he make? If the father does not respond to this call, the child would lightly nudge him and remind him, “Look at me.” Then, if he looks at her, she’ll say, “I love you, Daddy.” The ancient Indians called this the activity of karma. 

Today, we don’t know if the ancient Indians prior to Buddha understood this as Buddha did, as they simply used the term “karma.” They did not define the activity of karma, but Buddha made it clear that karma is the activity of “Thus coming” and “Thus going.” Buddha defined it clearly and then he realized that none of us can escape from the activity of karma.

The Chinese translated “Thus coming” and “Thus going” as nyorai and nyokyo. The term nyo—“thus”—is a very philosophical, important word. Nyorai also implies God, or dharmakaya. The male activity and female activity are completely separate and opposed to each other. The Chinese character for nyo includes within it the symbol for “woman,” but in the context of Buddhism, while male presence exists in nyo, at the same time the natures of male and female are viewed as difference. As indicated before, nyo also means “Thus.” Man and woman are not as one. Nyo is nyo. Things are as they are, in their own essence. But once you start to talk about this totality as “object,” unification breaks and separation of the states of female-ness and male-ness are manifested. In the unified state, complete tranquility takes place, and there, the self does not exist. You don’t need to say anything. 

When the daughter and father are completely separated, there is no need for them to say anything. Although she is with her father in a clearly separated state, she has no need to call him. She is manifesting her self-ness, alone, on her own. When the daughter is clearly separated from the father, she does not need to call him. She is manifesting her completeness by herself. The father could also be aware that the daughter does not really require him, so he can remain in the “at ease” state.

In this state of independence, though they are oppositions, without opposing, they coexist in one space, together. But looking at the same situation from the broader vantage point, we can also define it as opposition. Though seemingly opposing, they are not really in opposition. That is the state in which it is not necessary for anyone to insist on his or her “I am” self.

There, father and child exist separately in one state, and they don’t bother each other.  Each is complete in herself or himself. This state we are talking about inevitably appears, but without failing, it will break through and manifest unification. Then all will disappear. Inevitably, the state in which you no longer claim yourself will be manifested.  Buddhism concludes that this is the true self, true love, and the ultimate truth. Zen’s view is that words cannot point out the ultimate truth. It is utterly, completely zero. If true love exists as such, it is the ultimate truth.

Nyo is also gotoshi in Japanese, meaning, “As such,” or “Like that.” The state of nyorai is the state where one transcends the human condition. It is the complete manifestation of “Thus coming.” You are no longer mother, father, and child, and the great cosmos all becomes one. When you are able to directly experience the activity of “Thus coming,” you are “at ease” and in a tranquil state. No matter how much we talk, it will not bring us satisfaction or true happiness. Only when we reach the state of transcendence, “Thus coming,” can we be satisfied and “at ease,” which is true love, the ultimate truth. Father is satisfied. Mother is satisfied. Child is satisfied. They are not satisfied individually, but the whole universe is satisfied. It is a totally tranquil state, the zero state.

Whenever we teach Zen, direct expression and directly pointing out is critical. If you cannot promptly respond to the teacher, you cannot say that you are practicing Zen. When you gaze at the sky, what kind of direct pointing would be manifested? What direct expression can you make by looking straight up at the sky? When the daughter’s uncle visits the family, the mother, father, and child bow to him and say hello to him, manifesting the basics of Buddhist realization. In America or Europe, people use the direct expression, “Amen.” Isn’t that the same thing?

Excerpted from: True Love, Ultimate Zero, Joshu Sasaki Roshi, Shambhala Sun, January 2009.


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