The Fruits of Zen Practice

The Fruits of Zen Practice


What is zen? Zen is about paying attention, and in doing so, awakening to the dynamic
reality of each present moment. This is a way of life whereby we are able to give ourselves time on a daily basis to just be still. And in that stillness, listen. If someone is able to do this in a sustained
way, there are three fruits that come to bear in
such a person’s life. This is what we call, “The Three Fruits of
Zen Practice.” The first fruit involves a way of life that
comes from the center of one’s whole being. It is a way whereby one is able to live fully
in the here and now. The word we use here is, “concentration.” But I like to put a hyphen between, “con” and “centration” to emphasize the centering aspect of this. Namely, we come back to the center of our
being, namely the here and now, where our life is actually happening. It is a way whereby we are no longer hankering
after a past that we long for, nor being driven towards a future that is not yet. But is able to simply return to our home in the here and now. So that is the first fruit: living life, in there here and now. In our daily life, when we are taking a meal, we are taking that meal and enjoying it in all its aspects. When we are talking with somebody, we are
fully there, listening, and sharing, and giving our part in the conversation. When we’re washing dishes, we’re simply washing dishes. When we’re sweeping the floor, we’re sweeping the floor. In other words, we are attentive to what is
happening and are able to respond with alertness and spontaneity. As one deepens this sense of attentiveness
to the here and now, the second fruit of zen is more easily opened
up. This is what we can describe as a glimpse of what one truly is. A glimpse of one’s true nature. And what is this true nature? A very helpful way of putting this in words
is that it is a realization of our non-separateness a realization of our relatedness with each
and everyone, and with each and every element in this whole
universe. Let me give an example that strikes me at this point as an experience of this realization of interrelatedness and of non-separateness. Thomas Merton talks about an experience of
his when he was visiting the city of Louisville
in Kentucky, standing on a busy street corner called, “Fourth
and Walnut.” There, just watching all the people pass by, all of a sudden, he writes in his journal, he came to a realization that he loved all
these people and that they also were bound to him in that, unconditional love, that also enveloped his whole being and everyone
else. That experience was a turning point in Merton’s
own life. Those who know the trajectory of Merton’s
life see that that glimpse of non-separateness enabled him to really engage himself in the
world, outpouring with love for the world in a way that sought to transform the world
toward its betterment. Another example that comes to me is that of my own teacher, Yamada Koun Roshi, who writes in his journal that he was on a train from Tokyo to his home in Kamakura, that’s about an hour
away. And, around the middle of the train ride, he is reading a book by zen master Dogen of
the 13th century Japan, and his eyes fall upon a passage that said, “Mind is no other than, mountains and rivers, the great wide earth, the sun, the moon, the stars.” And as his mind really saw through that passage, and as he realized what it was pointing to, he suddenly burst into laughter. And, since it was a public place, there was his wife beside him, sitting on
the train, and there were other people. He tried to muffle that laughter, and kept it to himself for a while. And that night, as he lay in bed, awake, all of the sudden it came to him again, in a loud burst of laughter, realizing that mind is no other than mountains and rivers! the great wide earth! The sun! The moon! The stars! In other worlds realizing that, the mountains, the trees, the heavens, everyone on earth, is no other than me! That’s me! And they are I, and I am them! In that realization, he saw through that separateness, and realized precisely that, we are one. That realization can come to us in other ways. It can come from just hearing a sound. Hearing the bark of a dog. Or looking at a flower. Or, hearing a story of a friend who is in a state of struggle. And somehow in those moments it can come to us. that sense that we are not separate. So this is an experience that can come to
one who is accustomed to paying attention on a daily basis. Once one has glimpsed this world of non-separateness this world where we are interrelated with
everyone, we are then able to turn our lives around
and no longer feel anxious or insecure or feeling the need to have more or to grab more. But now, we are able to experience that unconditional love from the whole universe. And experiencing that unconditional love, we are now in a place of peace, and that also empowers us to give back that love to each and everyone in the way that we can relate to them in the most concrete way from day-to-day. And this is the third fruit. Then, in that context, we can really see how zen is an experience
of unlimited love, is something that can be activated on a day-to-day
basis. It is not something abstract, but it is an invitation to really experience that love with a capital, “L” in every breath, in every step, in every encounter, in every tree, every rock, every pebble, everything we see around us. And see ourselves embraced in that love, and the only we can do is to embrace back. So it leads us to a life of compassion whereby our life is no longer something that is centered on seeking what I can get out of this or that but simply, living in quiet joy and quiet peace and enabling myself to give all that I can and all that I have so that others may find their well-being and that I may be able to contribute to the well-being of the entire world. Zen, is an experience of unlimited love. Taste it and see. Give yourself those moments of stillness, and it may just open up to you.