THE OBSTACLE IS THE PATH
As a meditation on impermanence, after days or weeks of creating the intricate pattern of a sand mandala, the sand is brushed together and placed in a body of running water to spread the blessings of the mandala.
- The title of this article is called “The obstacle is the path”. What has that to do with impermanence? As we all know, a path is the way, a route, a course of action.
‘An obstacle (also called a barrier or a stumbling block) is an object, thing, action or situation that causes an obstruction. There are, therefore, different types of obstacles, which can be physical, economic, biopsychosocial, cultural, political, technological or even military.’ Ok, good enough.
Let’s hear about what Roshi Yasutani says about impermanence;
All things, (in which are included thoughts, feelings and perceptions) are impermanent, arising when particular causes and conditions bring them into being and passing away with the emergence of new causal factors. life is pain. Nothing exists as a whole by itself, all forms in their essential nature are empty, (patterns of energy in flux) yet at the same time are limited reality in time and space. All things are short-lived, never the same from one moment to the next—fleeting manifestations in a stream of ceaseless transformation. These constant changes help us to know that this constant “dying” is the life of everything.
Now, let’s look at how obstacles and impermanence relate.
Our suffering is rooted in a selfish grasping and in fears and terrors which spring from our ignorance of our true nature of life and death…the impermanence of all things. What we term “suffering” is our evaluation of pain. In the practice of “zazen” (sitting in Zen) that pain is courageously accepted as a means to liberation in that it frees our natural sympathies and compassion even as it enables us to experience pleasure and joy in a new depth and purity.
With enlightenment, that zazen brings, we realize that the foundation of existence is a Voidness out of which all things ceaselessly arise and into which they endlessly return, that this EMPTINESS is positive and alive. The obstacle is the path.