Zen Practice – Home Base

September 11, 2012

We, in mundane life, are familiar with the existence of bases. There are, for example, army bases and naval bases. We have a base in our Zen practice, too. It is the calm mind. The calm mind is your base; the pure mind is the basis of your practice.

Thoughts are like soldiers. They go out, but eventually they must return to their base. Soldiers come and go, but the base is always there. So, we should think of our base as something concrete. We should maintain calmness of mind. In your base, if many soldiers come and go, it means there is going to be a war. This is not a good thing. It is very important to keep the base safe and secure.

In mundane life, you have a base. How do you secure it? Security begins with individual practice. I am here to practice, and you are there to practice. If every single person practices well, we not only affect ourselves but also our family members. You can affect your friends, your colleagues and anyone you meet. You can expand the positive effect to others. This is what is meant by propagating the Dharma. It is not an external form. People might think they can propagate the Dharma by e-mailing to Buddhist associations and sending videos to everyone. I think this is one way. You can go to Amazon to buy my books and give them to people. This is a way of propagating the Dharma, too. You can talk to your friends about Buddhism, your master or your practice. This is another way to propagate.

However, if you don’t know how to propagate the Dharma in your mind, your efforts will be very shallow; they will only be on the surface. Sometimes you cannot even convince yourself. But you are here, so you need to be honest. You may tell your husband, wife, kids or friends that practicing Buddhism is very good; but once they leave you might wonder if what you’ve said is true. This happens.

One should first know how to propagate Dharma from the bottom of our mind. A single thought represents a single, individual person. If we can create two, three and many persons, it means we are propagating the Dharma. One, two, three, four and more positive thoughts: this is what I mean by propagating the Dharma. If you cannot propagate the Dharma in your mind, within yourself, how can you convince people and say this is good? To do so would not represent truth.

The propagation of Dharma does not concentrate on a particular form: books, videos, conversations or talks. Truly, it is in your mind. You should propagate the Dharma individually, in yourself. How can you increase more positive thoughts? It is in your mind, and this is propagating. You are here as an individual person. You can propagate the Dharma by having someone learn the right path, which is not exclusively Buddhism. The right path is a path by which you can purify yourself. It is a path that can make you become a better person, lead you to the truth and liberate you. Buddhism is one right path that can help people to liberate themselves, but it is not the only right path. Zen practice is one way, but it is not the only way. Understand this concept, and your mind will open.

If you insist that Zen practice is the only way, your mind will close. If your mind is closed, your hand—which could otherwise propagate the Dharma—becomes narrow. A narrow mind can only touch a narrow field, but if you open the mind,  the field expands. There are many places you can go to propagate the Dharma, but remember that no matter what you are doing—either practicing or learning about Buddhism—you should practice. You should show your results to people. Although conversations or talks can convince people to some extent, results can more strongly convince them. If you change your eating habits, change your temper or put down your negative habits, such as smoking. People will believe you. You have the ability to change yourself by doing this, and then you can tell people that this is good. However, if you cannot change yourself by doing this, how can you tell people that this is good? People will not believe you.

Practice so that you can uplift yourself and help others. We can consider Shakyamuni Buddha, the historical Buddha. If he did not practice well and did not reach enlightenment, how could he expand the influence to other people? There is no way he could have done so. It is the same for us: We need to practice. If we do not practice well, we will not acquire the ability. Your mind is still up and down, and you still have many worries. All your energy is wasted by your worries and negative thoughts. How can you have the energy to propagate the Dharma? Instead, you should show your results and practice to people. This is the best way to propagate the Dharma. When you give people a book and say, “This is wonderful, and this book is going to improve your life …,” if you fail to show results, people will just put the book on the shelf. After all, you have read the book but they cannot see your results. So, it is important to secure your base first. The calm mind is your base. If you don’t have a base—a calm mind—where can the soldiers stay? They carry guns and fight everywhere, but they are homeless. It is a terrible situation; an awful waste or resources. Your mind has left a lot of soldiers in the battlefield, but they have no base.

Angry thoughts, happy thoughts, worrying, and feelings of depression are like soldiers without a base. Homeless soldiers make a big mess. They might even shoot themselves. In such a case, it is as if you have shot yourself. This is never a good thing. So, it is essential that you secure the base, and the pure mind is the basis for doing that. If you can have a pure mind, you can have everything. However, if your pure mind gets lost, you can do nothing. Even if you make a lot of effort, nothing can be done. But I believe that you have learned a lot. Therefore, it is important to show people your results. I hope that everyone can improve his or her life by practicing the Zen teachings, and by abandoning negative thoughts and habits.