What is Original Enlightenment?

Original. Authentic. Genuine. Enlightenment, awakening, wisdom, clarity, prajna, bodhi, freedom, truth…

You can pick whichever word combination gets your rocks off, they all point to the same thing: you.

Buddha-nature is one of the fundamental teachings in Zen. If you had to select only one teaching to go with, this would be the frontrunner.

It’s deceptively simple: all beings are Buddhas. We don’t have to do anything to become Buddhas. In fact, doing is the issue. Doing, seeking, striving, conceptualizing, those are the only obstacles in our way, and they’re not even actually in our way.

It’s extremely difficult to not seek, and to not make up stories. The seeking, storytelling mind helped us survive. When we practice, we’re going against millions of years of conditioned instinct.

Because the tools that help us survive and propagate the species, don’t leave any room for unconditional joy, well-being, tranquility, and clarity. Our instincts are conditional, so abiding by them can only give us conditional satisfaction.

Original enlightenment means uncreated enlightenment. It doesn’t rely on our senses or anything we can sense. It’s the bedrock for those senses.

Anyway, so if we’re already enlightened, then why aren’t we already enlightened? Why do we need to practice?

Well, really you don’t need to practice. But that doesn’t you don’t have to practice.

Imagine that you’re in a chariot. Cool right? Fuck yeah. So you’re in this chariot, and the horses are running wild. They take you through rivers, canyons, ditches, marshes, just all over the fucking place.

The whole time, you’re freaking out and screaming, “Charioteer! Get these fucking horses under control! They’re gonna kill us all!” The horses are the mind, and the charioteer is you.

Our lives are full of suffering because we’re Buddhas, Buddhas who aren’t doing their jobs. Just like a charioteer not driving the chariot.

When we pick up reigns and start steering the horses, we’re not suddenly charioteers, we were already charioteers, we just forgot and imagined that someone else was supposed to be driving this thing.

So practice isn’t about becoming Buddhas, it’s about not becoming anything else. Buddhahood is what remains when you’re out of labels.

If we approach practice with a seeking mindset, that just plays into the wild horses running amok. But we also can’t stop seeking, because that plays into it as well.

When we stop seeking, that can give us a little satisfaction, but it’s fragile and takes vigilant mindfulness to keep going. What we need is the insight that, “I’ve never sought. I’ve never thought. I’ve never told a story.”

Because we’re not really charioteers either. We’re those rivers, canyons ditches, and marshes the horses have been dragging us through.

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