by Rev. Koshin Schomberg

Chapter 9
Great Potentiality

To look on life as different from death or on motion [activity] as different from stillness is to be partial [stuck in one-sided clinging]. To be impartial [unattached; all-accepting] means to look on suffering as no different from nirvana [liberation from suffering] because the nature of both is emptiness [the Great Immaculacy].

from The Zen Teaching of Bodhidharma
translated from the Chinese by Red Pine

The Fog

Spiritual confusion is like a fog that makes it very difficult to read the inner compass that always points in the direction of true spiritual North--the Eternal. The spiritual fog is generated by a great mass of spiritual need--above all, a great mass of grief and self-judgment.

When this fog surrounds and engulfs us, it is a sign to turn within in pure meditation--and then offer everything into the hands of the Eternal. When we do this, we can read the compass of the Heart (which is faith) and hold fast to the Eternal. When we hold fast to the Eternal, the Eternal can help our spiritual need.

The Buddha Nature of the Fog

The fog hides the pain that is wound up within spiritual need. Therefore, a very deep fog is indicative of a very great need.

Deep fog is dangerous. Yet even the fog has the Buddha Nature. It provides a context in which we can get a good workout in the positive use of the will.

If we willingly undertake that positive use of the will, we put ourselves directly on course toward seeing the causes of suffering. We must not try to tear away the veil. It is enough to patiently take one step at a time. The causes of suffering will then be seen when all conditions have ripened fully.

Thus a deep fog can be a great teacher of faith.


A deep fog hides not only pain, but also the potential of spiritual need to transform into enlightenment. Thus, a deep fog heralds the possibility of the most profound and wonderful of all adventures.

Do not believe that enlightenment is not possible for the trainee of today. Do not believe that a great burden of grief and longing cannot be helped by the Eternal. Do not underestimate your own potential to realize the Truth that has been realized by every Buddha and every Ancestor.

Within life there is great potential for enlightenment; within death there is great potential for enlightenment. Both life and death are of the Great Immaculacy.

The spiritual fog of confusion can manifest in life and it can manifest in death. Yet it cannot change the Great Immaculacy, and it cannot remove from either life or death the potential for enlightenment that is inherent within them by virtue of their essential oneness with the Great Immaculacy. Therefore, in life and in death we can turn toward the Eternal and open our heart to Its boundless Compassion. This is the real reason for meditating.



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