When You Are You, Zen Is Zen
In the late sixties when the back-to-the-land, “turn-on, tune-in, drop-out” counter-culture was in full swing—when the People’s Baker baked bread and gave it away for free—Suzuki Roshi told us in a lecture, “Your culture is based on ideas of self-improvement... Improvement means that instead of going to Japan by ship, now you can go by jumbo jet. So improvement is based on comparative value, which is also the basis of our society and our economy. I understand that you are rejecting that idea of [material] civilization, but you are not rejecting the idea of improvement. You still try to improve something. Isn’t that rather materialistic? ...Buddhists do not hold so strongly to the idea of improvement.”
Some months later when I tried to use that as an excuse not to practice hard, he said, “Ed, if your practice is not advancing, it’s going downhill backwards—fast.”
So what is this advancing that is not getting caught up in improvement? (And wouldn’t that be the real way to improve?) Everyday mind is the way.