In Zen, generosity is an important devotional practice. We can find a context for generosity–which can make our practice come alive–by contemplating one of our Zen ancestors, Dogen Zenji’s sayings from The Shobogenzo: “When one attains the Way, the Way is always left to the Way.” When the Way is left to the Way, there is no need to add anything, seek anything or move away from anything that is happening. We are totally immersed in the Way, with the vitality of awareness. The Way is also called the great emptiness or the great fullness. The great fullness is so full that we cannot find anything separate from it. We cannot find any thing at all.
Brother David Steindl-Rast describes gratefulness as great fullness. We are grateful that the Great Spirit shares its great fullness of life with us. What a relief not to have any place to put our ego, it has no seaparate existence of its own. The ego can be thought of as a cipher, huge as an ocean within us that sucks up all our energy. What a relief to release some of that pent-up energy and offer it to the buddhas. As profound as our offering, so inexhaustible is the gratitude of the buddhas for our willingness to share our lives with them. With enormous fullness, they receive our offerings.
When we realize this, in the depth of our being we feel that all of our experience is welcomed as expressions of the wholeness of life. Realizing we are always unconditionally welcomed, we learn to welcome life unconditionally. This realization of unconditional welcoming naturally goes deeper, becomes clearer, as we welcome the welcoming as gifts from spirit itself, from the wholeness of life. Our receiving the welcoming tenderizes us, makes us more pliant and flexible, and naturally more generous. As we begin to understand how everything is unconditionally and lovingly given to us, we begin to understand how to unconditionally give everything to everyone.
Of course there are some events we cannot summon up gratitude for; but these are truly opportunities to open up as much as we can to the great fullness. Regardless of our limitations, the buddhas are just as thankful for our best efforts. From the viewpoint of the buddhas, their fullness includes our limitations. We only need to cultivate the ability to see our catastrophes as opportunities. They are opportunities to remember the most important thing. My way of expressing the most important thing is to remember to receive the gifts of life as they are, and this includes the willingness to make efforts to help all beings. This is how we receive the power of our inconceivable life force, and simultaneously it is how we are re energized, refueled in our life. Spiritual energy comes from our spiritual aspirations, the true spirit of these aspirations comes from receiving our life as it is given to us in the present moment.
So we leave the Way to the Way. And we can be grateful that the Way leaves us to us. The sun is an equal opportunity provider, rising each morning, shining on everything with its peaceful warmth, revealing everything just as it is. Likewise the light of the Way shines equally on all its creations, leaving us to us. As we learn to expose ourselves more and more to the gifts of this life, we gradually realize our oneness. We realize that in leaving us to us, the Way offers us everything.
Let our gratitude extend to the opportunities presented by others. Let us see how upset and frustrated we still become when someone offends us in a way that pushes our buttons of pain and fear. Let us see how taking offense is the same as giving offense. So we can cultivate a spirit of thank-you-very-much for providing this opportunity, painful as it may be. And thank you very much, buddhas, for providing others with a chance to give us these opportunities.
Thank you very much, buddhas, for giving us a way to overcome our fears of exposure to the great unknown. Thank you, buddhas, for giving others the opportunity to receive the gift of our response. Confucius said “When you see virtuous behavior, emulate it. When you see harmful behavior, look at yourself.” May all beings learn to heed Confucius’s advice, and in their anger or denial, look to themselves.
Thich Nhat Hanh has a saying: The world of suffering and discrimination is filled with the light of the rising sun. Meditating with the light of the rising sun can be a wonderful opportunity to embody the depths of this saying. We can be grateful for our spirit of inquiry. We can be grateful for our willingness to embody the big questions of life, including our death. We are gifted with the ability to embody them in a lighthearted way, with our heart full of light.