Why Meditate?

What is the dharmakaya? Zhaozhou replied, “What is it that you dislike that you ask that question?”

Go ahead, Google it: Why meditate? All sorts of lists come up extolling the virtues of meditation.

  • It is a way of handling stress.

  • If you meditate your life will improve --

  • your blood pressure will go down,

  • your happiness quotient (whatever that is) will go up, even,

  • you will make more money,

  • or be a nicer person.

The list goes on, and no one list is quite like another: Meditation will cure your insomnia, you will gain inner peace. Maybe…? or Maybe not! It seems that meditate or not, life goes on: sometimes I am stressed, sometimes I feel sort of at peace. At other times it is the same old, same old -- someone cuts me off in traffic and anger rises or I have difficulty with a friend, It might be that I must face a serious medical condition -- I am filled with fear and trepidation. So, why, if it all comes crashing in anyway, why meditate? Well, simply, it is what I do.

What is the dharmakaya? a student asked Zhaozhou. “What is it that you dislike that you would ask me that?” he replied.

Dharmakaya is the seamlessness of life, that before words reality where you feel an intimacy with what is, here and now, with the universe. In the koans we see references: Original Face, True Person of No-Rank or with Jesus, “Before Abraham, I am.” Before you think about it, before you have a like or dislike, or before any plan you might devise to get it, it already is. But, the deal is, mostly we don’t notice it. We sense ourselves to be distant from life, cut off from the Source. Therein is our suffering, this is what we seek to improve as if there were a problem, as if there was something we could do to improve our lives.So, Zhaozhou notices this in his student, he notices the that the student has an idea about dharmakaya, the universe as distant from his life now, and simply asks, “What do you dislike that you would ask me that? How do you see yourself as separate from life?

Now let’s look at the 50 reasons to meditate, or maybe its 10 or maybe 7 -- all good numbers. Usually any list that I make will reflect my dissatisfaction with life, be linked to an idea that I might have for a better, more satisfying life, a life off in the distance that I can achieve if only I try hard enough. When I find myself lacking meditation becomes the plan or the scheme, the means for fixing myself. So, Zhaozhou asks, “What is it that you dislike? I reply, I can fix it.

We often think of our lives as distant from where we are now, that there is a more perfect life, if only I could achieve it -- meditate more, eat less, exercise every day. We think it is about being somewhere else as we careen into a future of our imagining. The problem? The horizon will always recede upon approach. We will miss what is here with us now.

And this is the reason, I have no “why” to my practice. There is no distant more perfect David out there. To be here is enough -- whatever I am doing: washing the dishes, speaking to a group of people, laying in bed at night wondering why I am awake. And Oh, yes, I can sit quietly on my cushion with my koan and meditate. That is life too.

And that is Zhaozhou’s perspective on things: you have what you need, right here in this very moment. No need to be searching far from home -- it is right here. Zhaozhou’s contemporary, Linji, said it like this, “There is nothing I dislike.”

I have been enjoying this from Leonard Cohen lately. It is called “You Have Loved Enough.” I like these lines:

You kept me from believing

Until you let me know:

That I am not the one who loves –

It’s love that seizes me.





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