These two statements from Suzuki-Roshi have been pestering me for awhile. Although Suzuki-Roshi was a "zen" teacher, I don't find either of these comments to be particulately "zen" but to be more applicable to any practitioner of any tradition. Or any non-tradition.
An early student of Suzuki-roshi's, David Haselwood, recounted this statement, made by SR to him in dokusan. This comment can be found in the archives at cuke.com under interviews, David Haselwood.
Suzuki-Roshi told him: "You try and you try and you fail, and then you go deeper."
Another time, during a seven day period of sitting, Suzuki-Roshi is reported to have told his students: "the problems you have now (pause)...... you will have for the rest of your life."
Zen teacher Ed Brown is fond of repeating this one in his talks.
So, I'm sharing both of these here because both statements are incredibly true in my life and my practice. The spiral of success and failure is exactly what samsara is. And then we are reminded that nothing will get rid of these "problems", in case we are tempted to grasp any particular success. Or any particular failure. Always going deeper and deeper as we approach the core of our neurosis.
At least this is how I see it.
I am one of those people who happens to think that rebirth is an actual phenomenon. I know many people, many people who consider themselves Buddhist, do not. That's okay. I am perfectly fine with the idea that rebirth just might be one of those conceptual overlays that human beings use to help make sense of their experience. I'm okay with that because I do not actually know. For now, for me, I am considering that rebirth is an actual phenomenon.
It helps me understand the enormity of the neurosis I have carried from life to life. And why one lifetime, or many lifetimes, may not be enough to dissolve all these obstacles. Or to resolve and purify all this karma. Or to be of assistance to others before I mess up again. And create more problems. And so on and so on.
These two quotes remind me that maybe nothing is final. That samsara is endless. That grasping is useless. And that in any given life, this life for instance, there may be more to do, or not do, than I can even imagine.
For some strange reason, these two quotes, although seemingly of a negative, pessimistic flavor, give me hope. Because they remind me not to get too arrogant. Not to judge others. To look at my own endless neurosis. And to constantly be okay with going deeper.
And I am okay with it. Even if at times, I am discouraged. Or angry. Or tired. Even if at times it seems as if I have given up. If i can't (or won't) do anymore. Because I understand that any (or all) effort is taking me towards the core of my neurosis. And all that seems like very good news to me. Because I have a learned that all problems are workable. And everything, no matter what it is, can be dissolved.
Any and all problems.
The real problem is seeing what your real problems are.
And then going deeper.