Chapter 10: No Goal, No Effort
The first question:
As you know the old Zen custom was that a monk should stay with his master for ten years before he went out on his own teaching. There is a Zen story about a monk who had completed his ten years and one rainy day the monk visited his master, Nan-in. After Nan-in had greeted him, he said to the monk: “No doubt you have left your shoes in the vestibule. On which side of your umbrella did you leave your shoes?” For a moment the monk hesitated, and through that hesitation realized that he was not in every-minute Zen.
You have told us that life has a pulsation - in and out, yin and yang. Do we have to keep trying for every-minute awareness, or can we too pulsate with life, and at times let go of our trying?
The first thing to be understood: awareness should be moment to moment, but it can be only when it has become effortless. With effort you will lose contact again and again, with effort you will have to rest. Effort cannot be continuous, it is impossible. How can you make an effort continuously? You will get tired and then you will have to relax. Every effort needs relaxation. So if awareness is through effort, then awareness cannot be a constant, continuous flow. There will be moments when you will have to lose awareness. Those will be the moments of relaxation from the effort.
Life pulsates. Life always moves to the opposite. Effort, then you have to rest. Again you make the effort, then you have to rest. But there is an awareness which goes beyond life - the transcendental. Then there is no pulsation, but it is effortless, it is spontaneous.
What happened to this monk, this disciple of Nan-in? The master asked: “Where have you left your shoes - on the right or on the left?” He hesitated. And he realized that in the moment of leaving the shoes he was not aware - otherwise he must have known where he had left them, on the left or on the right. His consciousness is not yet continuous. That shows only that his consciousness is not yet effortless. He has still to remember, consciously make effort. His mindfulness is still with a tension. He has not yet become mindful. So sometimes he succeeds, sometimes he fails.
Nan-in is only asking: “Is your awareness now natural?” You need not manipulate it? You need not do anything about it? It is there - whatsoever you do it is there - or do you have to make an effort for it to be there? If the effort is there it is a strained thing, and a strained thing is bound to be unnatural. An unnatural awareness is not really awareness - it exists only on the periphery, not in you. If it exists in you there is no need to make any effort.