No-Birth, No-death

From “Touching the Earth, Intimate Conversations with the Buddha” by Thich Nhat Hanh
Page 25 and 26

"Lord Buddha, I shall listen to your advice and look deeply into impermanence, interdependence, emptiness and interbeing, in order to arrive at the deep realization that all that exists has the nature of

no birth/ no death
no coming and no going,
no being and no nonbeing
no permanence and no annihilation

Lord Buddha, you have opened the door of no birth for us.  I only need to follow you and enter that door.  I know that the highest aim of a practitioner is to realize the nature of no birth and no death and thus to go beyond the cycle of samsara and attain the greatest freedom.  You have been so compassionate to teach us this.  Yet, I have wasted much precious time following a worldly career, looking for words of praise, profit and position.  I know I can do better."

This quote intrigues me.  This is a constant reminder and investigation to incorporate into my mind and life the actualization of this message.

No Birth, No Death. - I think the fear of death; the fear of the annihilation of our so-called separate self, drives a lot of people’s emotional desire system.  Part of my practice has been to allow myself to let go of the enormous defenses I have around my “separate self” and dissolve into seeing the world moving through me with interdependence or interbeing.  When I can keep that in my awareness, that the total dynamic working completely engulfs me, then I live more vitally in the activity of the present moment and let go of my fears and trust more.

It is not simple to follow Buddha in entering this door. I contemplate over and over, breaking down my former ideas of Time and Space in order to enter this door.  It is even more difficult to enter this door consistently.  Consistency demands a strong power of concentration.  Few people can guard consistently their mind to understand the right amount of importance to place on our “worldly careers, or looking for words of praise, profit and position”.  We need to become less distracted by them.  My mind so easily goes down the deep grooves of consensus reality that I have been culturally taught.  These patterns towards fame and gain, done over and over in my past, causes them to be quite tenacious and hard to let go of.

No coming, no going. - The way in this Buddha door for me has been the study of time.  If it is true what the Buddhist teaching say that a moment is one sixty second of a finger snap or that the appearance of form come as quantum physics say in a “jiffy”, one to the negative 42nd power of a second, I can begin to release my mind’s view that things are permanent and appear and disappear.  They come and go so fast, as Katagiri Roshi used to say, at superspeed. Because of this superspeed, they cannot really be seen, held on to, or have permanence.  With this understand, we can move into the gate of no coming or going.  It is the gate into the feeling that everything is “just arising” with no duration. Each event is totally fresh. When I can feel this, it changes how I move through my day and through my life.

For many decades in my Zen life, I have been stuck on the dichotomy of being and non-being.  There has been a misunderstanding in me that somehow emptiness is better than form or, in other words, non-being is better than being.  Perhaps this is so because earlier in my life, I really wanted to escape my karmic life.  To transcend into a higher being.  I directed my practice towards the search for emptiness.  Even when I found it, I would cling to it and not want to return to form.  So seeing the phrase, “No being and no nonbeing” has pushed me into a different type of contemplation of non-duality.  I begin to see that they are not separate realities, but One Whole Works.   They are working mutually together in every moment and that this is the mystery of life I have been so searching for, right in front of my nose, always.  To know and digest that being and non-being are mutually assisting each other in every moment, breaks down our mind’s ideas of difference and sameness and begins to show us a way to live vitally, annihilating nothing.  To live in peace, we can be supported by the largest knowledge of universal functioning and at the same time, take care of the smallest detail of this one day in front of us.  This simultaneity is the Buddha’s door to no birth, no death.

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