Zen, Karma, and Living in Two Worlds

IBDC2681Two Into One


Though poor, never poor.

Though sick, never sick.

Though aging, never aging.

Though dying, never dying.

Reality prior to division-

Herein lies unlimited depth.

-Uchiyama Roshi


     Living in two worlds is a task that most of us never had to perfect. The conditioned self, that personality, the actor that is developed by society, culture, family, school, neighborhood, state, religion, and nationalism, does such a good job that we don’t have to work at it. We already think we are the conditioned “real” world. The world of “Should” be. Except for brief moments of clarity, we buy into the concept that our world is not the way it is supposed to be, and we are somehow damaged goods from the time we were born. We start that whole process the moment we have language skills and start to identify the “other” thing over there and begin to judge, compare, and develop opinion.


Our Karma ignites and we catch a glimpse of that real world of the concrete, where the body spends it’s existence in breathing. That glimpse is triggered by letting go of the belief that you are your thoughts and finally creating a gap between the thought and what is real. We never forget that experience. Sometimes it pulses and then fades only to return stronger than before. Our genuine self sees that this is a way to diminish suffering. And, we don’t desire to make up our world anymore. 

     My belief is that we are all experience the karmic influences that leads us to focused awareness. This does’t mean we are going to take advantage of allowing the training that supports dwelling in awareness. It means that for some of us, the opportunity to have that insight means the light is worth the attention to keep it on. (There are many paths and means to live a spiritual life. There are many seemingly happy people who are aware and practice a variant of a meditative life. Zen happens to be mine. The important task is to get to where you are.)

     We may decide to take up a practice that will encourage us to develop a perspective.  A perspective  that is difficult to come by and yet is readily available to us all. When we have that perspective there is no separate us or them. We realize that we are part of a thread in a great tapestry. Its all the same weave. Nothing to fear, nothing to judge, no opinion or conclusion about what is right now. 

Many times the question comes up concerning how we manage to develop any interest in stepping outside of conditioning. It is the difficult question of how can a mind that is conditioned step outside of conditioning using a conditioned mind? Here is what I have come to believe.

     We don’t ever think our way out of conditioning. We allow ourselves to experience our way out. And, the very instant that happens, even if it’s one second, we have gained solid ground  from which to continue seeking. Most of what I hear from people indicates that these moments of clarity come in childhood before social/cultural conditioning takes over entirely and we become the official “conditioned people.” The less we are able to articulate the “other” the more we are actually here. You probably remember those day that last forever as a child when you were dwelling in experience. As a child you were dwelling in your first Zen experiences.

     These moments of clarity are so intense that we have little trouble keeping them in our memory. And, in my experience, give me a feeling that they were showing and calling me to my true home. Not the buildings and cities that most of us think of as home, but the real home that is inside of all of  us. You know that empty hole in the middle of all of us, that’s your home. It’s not empty, it’s waiting for you to fill it with awareness and compassion.

     This search for awareness isn’t something that happens to everyone. Some seem born to engage this path and some seem unsure, others never explore at all. I think it makes a good case for a belief in rebirth. The idea that there may be some sort of accumulation of combination that leads us to a specific point. (It’s just my beginnings of a belief. It’s not important.)

     Once we realize that we don’t have to dwell in the land of “Should”, we then begin clearing more room inside to dwell in the land of “Concrete Now.” It is a place of much less thinking. Once we realize that “thinking about” something opens the doors of duality and that “thinking with” something opens the door to the entire spectrum of life as inclusive, we become excited about our practice. Duality means a separate self, entire spectrum means inclusive existence. They both have purpose, we need to reinforce the “thinking with”, since in modern times it has fallen behind.

     We start falling into the practice, the gravitational force of meditation, instead of feeling like we should meditate. We meditate for no apparent reason other than to meditate. We know that’s the opening into the ancient place of home in the moment. We sit for sitting and watching, nothing more, nothing less. There is peace and equanimity. 

     We will always live in two worlds. Conditioned world and genuine self world. I am suggesting that the practice needed to start living in both is well worth the effort. We don’t gain anything, nothing changes, and yet we become more grounded in what we already are minute by minute. We start to experience that reality of two into one, everything is the same and yet different. 

Let me know what you think and keep meditating!


Bryan Wagner

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: