HOW TO GROW A LOTUS BLOSSOM: Reflections in a Disciple's Life

by Rev. Koshin Schomberg

Section XXII

Follow the Path that leads to the Treasury of the Law and truly enter into Nirvana.


No Special Knowledge, No Special Attribute

How is it that I, an ordinary human being with no special qualities, no special knowlege, can write of Eternity--and can know that somehow, from some place within me, I write truly? Doesn't one have to be a very enlightened person, or a saint--someone special, someone rare--in order to know of Eternity?

I do not know anything about special people, special qualities, saintliness. I know something through experience about the pain of existence. I have known something of ecstasy as well. Yet as I write today, I am neither in great pain nor ecstatic. Yet I have come to know something precious, something wonderful of Eternity. And I long to say something about It in these Reflections in a Disciple's Life.

My master knew of and about Eternity. She entitled her first book Zen is Eternal Life. And she showed in the way in which she lived her life that there is Eternity and that It is worth more than anything.


Fame and gain, reputation, worldly achievment, security, happiness--all of this is dust in the eyes, dust that blinds us to Eternity if we get caught up in striving to possess it, or in striving to hold on to it when, for a short time (and it can only ever be for a short time), we do possess it.

This dust is unreal, fleeting, ephemeral in nature. This does not make it evil; it does not make it something to despise. It just means that it can never be a true refuge.

That which is unreal is not necessarily of no use. The Eternal makes use of everything in Its work of Cosmic Compassion. The suffering that comes from wholeheartedly pursuing a false refuge enables us to experience the great relief and gratitude of finding our True Refuge.


The idea of personal immortality is a form of that dust of unreality, as is the the idea of personal extinction. Both of these classic opposites share the same premise--that of the reality of an ego, enduring personal identity, or separate self.

As I have emphasized elsewhere in these essays, this idea of the reality of a separate self has no basis in actual experience and, in fact, constitutes a kind of spiritual prison if we cling to it in any way. When the illusion of the separate self begins to dissolve, we enter a great spiritual darkness. In the first half of How to Grow a Lotus Blossom, Rev. Master describes the way in which she entered and passed through that great darkness looking up. We may find that darkness to be painful and terrifying, yet it is our true spiritual friend. But to know this we must look up spiritually; we must refuse to look down in despair. We must trust with every fiber of our being: "Whether I am well or sick, brightly alive or dying, hold fast to the Lord of the House."

If we take refuge in our own True Nature through pure meditation in the midst of that great darkness, we come to know both the fragility and impermanence of every aspect of our humanity and the indestructible and eternal Reality of our True Refuge. As the Mahaparinirvana Sutra affirms, "To fully penetrate the truth of no-self is to realize the True Self."

There is Immortality; there is Eternal Life. It is not my or your immortality; It is not my or your Eternal Life. Yet if we give up the "What's in it for me?"--if we let go of all clinging to the illusion of personal gain (and desire for personal immortality is a form of desire for personal gain)--we are not left with a negative nothingness: we are left with "the fullest Nothingness you could ever imagine," as Rev. Master expressed it.

The brain cannot comprehend It; words cannot express It. Yet It is, and It is Infinite Love, Infinite Wisdom--and infinitely beyond what man can conceive or say of love and wisdom. We can raise our heart to It in silent longing and in silent prayer. We can come to recognize Its mercy in the midst of joy and grief, happiness and pain, life and death. It is our very own True Life, yet if we clutch at It, It is nowhere to be found. Yet when we just live to the very best of our ability, and when we willingly and uncomplainingly pay the full price of true spiritual adulthood, we know with blood and bones that Its Life is our life, and that Its Eternity is our true Immortality.

Ecstasy and Happiness

A few months before she died, Rev. Master told me, "Koshin, we don't need happiness: we know ecstasy." In the second half of How to Grow a Lotus Blossom, Rev. Master describes deep ecstasies and the wealth of Teaching that flowed forth during these experiences.

Happiness is the temporary result of temporary conditions in which desire is fulfilled. Ecstasy is the reaping of merit and is not dependent on external conditions: one cannot be happy in hell, but one can experience ecstasy in hell.

Genuine spiritual ecstasy is the opening of the window of our little, fragile body and mind to the Eternal. Ecstasy does not transmute body and mind and give them eternal life: they remain fragile, transitory. At the same time, ecstasy reveals that that very fragility and impermanence of body and mind is the external appearance of That which is eternal.

Thus, it is not a matter of impermanence or eternity. There is impermanence and there is Eternity: All is Different and All is One.; "I am not God and there is nothing in me that is not of God."

If we would know ecstasy, we must be willing to let go completely of all clinging to happiness. When we train truly, we beckon to our karma to come due so that all the spiritual need within us can find its way to the Help of the Eternal. This guarantees that the trainee will not live a happy life as the world understands happiness. This does not matter. The Eternal always knows the true and deepest wish of our heart. There is something immeasurably better than happiness, something immeasurably more real than self, something immeasurably more enduring than the life of body and mind.

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