Everything is the Way: Ordinary Mind Zen
By Elihu Genmyo Smith
Shambhala Publications 2012; 240 pp., $17.95 (paper)
A commentary on various Zen koans and teachings, Everything Is the Way is at heart about awakening from the delusions that cause us suffering and pain. “Buddha is never anywhere else, never anything special or extra,” says Elihu Genmyo Smith. “So, this Buddha life is always being who you are in the midst of these circumstances and conditions.” Smith is the resident teacher of the Prairie Zen Center in Illinois and cofounder of the Ordinary Mind Zen School. He has studied with many of the luminaries of contemporary Zen, including Maezumi Roshi and Charlotte Joko Beck. In recent years, popular media has confused the public about what Zen really is—equating it with anything enigmatic or even relaxed. A meaty text, Everything is the Way sets the record straight.
Mahamudra cannot be taught, Naropa,
But your devotion to your teacher and the hardships you’ve met
Have made you patient in suffering and also wise:
Take this to heart, my worthy student.
For instance, consider space: what depends on what?
Likewise, mahamudra: it doesn’t depend on anything.
Don’t control. Let go and rest naturally.
Let what binds you let go and freedom is not in doubt.
When you look into space, seeing stops.
Likewise, when mind looks at mind,
The flow of thinking stops and you come to the deepest awakening.
Mists rise from the earth and vanish into space.
They go nowhere, nor do they stay.
Likewise, though thoughts arise,
Whenever you see your mind, the clouds of thinking clear.
Space is beyond color or shape.
It doesn’t take on color, black or white: it doesn’t change.
Likewise, your mind, in essence, is beyond color or shape.
It does not change because you do good or evil.
The darkness of a thousand eons cannot dim
The brilliant radiance that is the essence of the sun.
Likewise, eons of samsara cannot dim
The sheer clarity that is the essence of your mind.
Although you say space is empty,
You can’t say that space is "like this".
Likewise, although mind is said to be sheer clarity,
There is nothing there: you can’t say "it’s like this".
Thus, the nature of mind is inherently like space:
It includes everything you experience.
Stop all physical activity: sit naturally at ease.
Do not talk or speak: let sound be empty, like an echo.
Do not think about anything: look at experience beyond thought.
Your body has no core, hollow like bamboo.
Your mind goes beyond thought, open like space.
Let go of control and rest right there.
Mind without projection is mahamudra.
Train and develop this and you will come to the deepest awakening.
You don’t see mahamudra’s sheer clarity
By means of classical texts or philosophical systems,
Whether of the mantras, paramitas,
Vinaya, sutras or other collections.
Ambition clouds sheer clarity and you don’t see it.
Thinking about precepts undermines the point of commitment.
Do not think about anything; let all ambition drop.
Let what arises settle by itself, like patterns in water.
No place, no focus, no missing the point —
Do not break this commitment: it is the light in the dark.