I like it when a practitioner says, "There's no point to what I'm doing." Especially when he's talking about a supposedly spiritual practice.
For me, this is the dividing line between fake religiosity and genuine whatever. (I tried to think of a better word than whatever, but couldn't).
You just do it to do it. Meditation. Prayer. Worship. Study. Whatever.
Zen and Taoism appeal to me because they extol uselessness. In "The Tao of Paris Hilton" I said:
And let us also learn to appreciate Paris more by studying this passage from "The Book of Chuang Tzu," where a long-lived, greatly-venerated tree appears to Master Shih in a dream and explains why it has never been cut down like other trees:
Because they are useful, they suffer, and they are unable to live out the years Heaven has given them. They have only their usefulness to blame for this destruction wrought by the people. It is the same with all things. I have spent a long time studying to be useless, though on a couple of occasions I was nearly destroyed. However, now I have perfected the art of uselessness, and this is very useful, to me! If I had been of use, could I have grown so vast?
Nice essay. This is the sort of non-religious religion the world needs more of.
Zazen is fundamentally a useless and pointless activity. A person is devoted to zazen not because it helps anything or is peaceful or interesting or because Buddha tells him to do it — though we may imagine that it helps or is peaceful or interesting — but simply because one is devoted to it. You can't argue for it or justify it or make it into something good. You just do it because you do it. It's not even a question of wanting to or not wanting to. Zazen for zazen's sake. Birds sing, fish swim, and people who are devoted to zazen do zazen with devotion all the time although there is no need for it.
I've meditated daily for almost forty years. I've read Zen literature for even longer. I've never actually practiced Zen. But maybe I have. Heck, I surely have.
We all have. We're alive. And once in a while, either by accident or on purpose, or with purposeless purpose, we see what life seemingly is all about. A glimpse at least.
It's cold here in Oregon right now. Freezing cold at night, which is fairly rare in the temperate Willamette Valley. This morning I got up and looked at our indoor thermometer, which also shows the outdoor temperature.
"27.2 degrees," I said to myself. At that moment I had a flash of it's so absolutely right. That was the temperature! Absolutely marvelous! In a little while it'd be different. And that too, absolutely right.
It might snow later in the week. Which could make it tough to drive around. Still, absolutely right. There's always only one thing going on: what's going on.
Any attempt to convince oneself of that – completely useless. Yet this is what religion is all about. As is Zen and Taoism.
The only difference, and it's a big one, is that religions take themselves seriously. Zen and Taoism don't. From what I've read, the ultimate Zen experience is throwing a pie in the face of your most revered Master.
Whereupon he laughs uproariously. So do you. What a joke!
In a dharma talk, "Three Ways to See Zazen," Fischer speaks more about how there's nothing to do. But that nothing needs to be done anyway. He says that zazen isn't like waiting for something that we expect is coming.
Zazen is certainly not waiting in this sense. It is waiting in the profound sense of waiting for nothing. Simply waiting. No expectations, nothing that is supposed to happen. No desired result. Just this moment of sheer presence.
Waiting – for what? If "nothing" seems too uninspiring and foreboding perhaps we can say we are waiting for God. This is the title of one of Simone Weil's books, Waiting for God.
That's how God appears- not by summoning God, or by performing sacrifice, prayer, or something like that, so as to manipulate God, causing God to appear on demand, like a vending machine- put in the quarters and you'll hear that satisfying clatter and bump.
No, God comes when we wait. Just sitting, just being present, with a powerful and alert anticipation, a pregnant, focused, poised-at-the-edge-of-the-abyss awakeness. Hoping for, waiting for- exactly nothing. Plunging into the moment of being alive. Just that, and nothing extra.