“A lamp and its light” is a phrase from the Platform Sutra, where the absolute (emptiness) is the lamp and the relative, it’s light. In Zen, the “Middle Way” is addressing the absolute and the relative as one reality. The middle way in Zen also means walking in the path that reconciles the irreconcilable. For example, the relationship of the relative or common sense truth with the absolute or ultimate truth (emptiness). It is the way of non-duality. The absolute is present in the relative, emptiness is form, and the relative is present in the absolute, form is emptiness.
What does this have to do with our ordinary lives? On the surface, this description of the middle way may sound like nonsense. Just words. The question for me is, how do we work with what we have right now? If we are honest with ourselves, we may discover that in many ways our lives are unsatisfactory. We may be tossed about by our desires, likes, dislikes and hurts. We might be angry, have resentments, feel our lives are out of control, and ultimately we are all faced with old age, sickness, and death. How do we reconcile this? By getting to know ourselves. For this we need wisdom in our lives–the wisdom gained from ordinary zazen or meditation practice. Meditation is the essence of wisdom, and wisdom is the function of meditation. Meditation and wisdom are of one essence, not different. By letting go of thought, we gain insight into the pure nature of reality, as well as what makes us tick and pulls our strings! We don’t have to change who we are, we can be free and happy just as we are.
Ordinary Zen practice group meets each Sunday morning in Sarasota, Florida for anyone interested in zen meditation.