Enlightenment is none other than recognizing the unity of opposites. However, this definition is totally intellectual, and doesn’t necessarily connect Enlightenment with anything real or concrete. Intellect needs to be connected with the physical body, with actually doing something in a particular way, through a proscribed form. Freedom is not found through intellectualizing Zen practice nor in thinking it can be found outside the forms that practice takes.
All of us need to bring our beginner’s mind to this moment. This is the case whether we’ve been practicing for two weeks or twenty years. Return to asking questions or being curious. Practice as though this was the first time you have practiced meditation because it is. This is “no self” in its practical application. We change from moment to moment, so who we are now is different from who we were yesterday, or even a minute ago when we began reading.
At Mount Equity Zendo there were two very old pear trees. These were not the kind of pears you found in the grocery store. They fell off the trees and were quite hard. Because of the shed, consisting of a tin roof, that was right beneath them, when they fell they made quite a bang.
The Bodhisattva vow, which many have taken when they received the 16 precepts, includes the vow to return again and again to this world until all beings attain Enlightenment. The underlying assumption is that Enlightenment, Nirvana and no rebirth is an aim of Buddhism. Zen Master Dogen’s phrase, “practice and Enlightenment are one” (修証一如), is a later development in Buddhism which merges the means with the ends. So, in one sense, concerning our self with rebirth is not necessary. However, even Zen Master Dogen talks about rebirth: “In ten thousand kalpas and thousands of lives, how many times are we born and how many times do we die? This cycle of lives is samsara [suffering], caused only by blind clinging to worldly affairs.”