The Freshness of Life

These words of wisdom about the freshness of life by Uchiyama Kosho Roshi come to us from the Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico. My friend, Roshi Joan Halifax is the founder of Upaya and its abbess. I look forward to her emails weekly.

Uchiyama Kosho Roshi lived between 1912 and 1988. He was a master of Soto Zen and origami. His temple was located near Kyoto, Japan, which we visited in 1982, just before Rachael was born. He is the author of many books.

Buddha Taught Wholesome States of Mind

Buddha in Plum Village
Photo © 2000, Jerome Freedman

No matter how much you sit, you are never fully satisfied with your zazen. ‘Not fully satisfied’ means that it does not feel the way your stomach does after a big meal. So many young people who had dedicated themselves, body and soul, to the practice of zazen began at some point to wonder if they weren’t wasting their youth with this zazen that does not fill them up at all. And many finally left, saying: ‘Aren’t even the older disciples, who have already been practicing this zazen for years, at bottom just ordinary people? I need satori!’

…Life is this moment is fresh, raw and new. But when we think about this essential fact as an idea in our heads, we get stuck, wondering about what we can understand and what we can force into our categories. When we think about ‘the freshness of life,’ it isn’t fresh anymore, it isn’t alive. Freshness of life means opening the hand of thought. Only when we do so can life be fresh. Zazen is this ‘opening this hand of thought.’ It is the posture of letting go.

—Uchiyama Kosho Roshi

Soto Zen practice is the practice of shikantaza – just sitting. You don’t sit for any other purpose than to just sit. Kosho Uchiayama is saying that when we sit like this, with no purpose, with no desire, with no goal, then we can experience the freshness of life.

The same goes for when we wash the dishes. If we wash the dishes simply to wash the dishes, we can also experience the freshness of life.

Can you think of other activities that open the hand of thought and bring on the freshness of life?

Books by Kosho Uchiyama

Opening the Hand of Thought: Foundations of Zen Buddhist Practice

Kosho Uchiyama Roshi

For over thirty years, Opening the Hand of Thought has offered an introduction to Zen Buddhism and meditation unmatched in clarity and power. This is the revised edition of Kosho Uchiyama’s singularly incisive classic.

This new edition contains even more useful material: new prefaces… [Read More…]

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