Zen Student's Fate

Student: What’s Zen’s opinion on fate?

ZMSB: Fate is like karma. It depends on our like and dislike — that means our condition, our like and dislike guide our life. For example, this man who likes to have an affair with his secretary but has a wife and a child — his like controls his action. When his wife finds out, she leaves him and takes away the child. Then he has suffering. That suffering is his fate. But this fate is all controlled by his like and dislike – “I like a good feeling so I get together with my secretary; I am bored with my wife.” That becomes his fate.

Many people like to go to fortune tellers because they want to understand their fate, their future or their past. But fortune telling is not difficult. All of you can understand your past and your future. If you want to understand your past, look at what you are doing now. If you want to understand your future, what are you thinking now?

But Zen has no past, no present, no future. Meaning is what you see, what you hear is what you get. This is moment world. A Zen student’s fate is moment world. Nobody believes this. So slow, slow, slow, practicing, practicing, practicing … then you believe 10%, 15%, 90%, finally 100%. Once you believe this 100%, believe and disbelieve disappear, which means when you attain your true self – who are you — then this “I” disappears. Then there’s no differentiation between you and I because there is no “I”. There is no difference between you and the universe. So the whole universe becomes yours, and you belong to the whole universe.

So moment to moment, the universe is dependent on you and moment to moment you are dependent on the universe, that name is called “harmony”. The sick dog, with foam in its mouth, chases you. You run from it and climb up a tree. That name is called the universe telling you what to do. Someone brought me hot water, and I said, “Thank you very much.” Here I am dependent on this universe, which means, moment to moment, everything is telling me what to do. I said: “Good morning.” And somebody said: “Good morning, how are you?” That’s the universe being dependent on me.

If we can see clearly, then we understand what to do. If we cannot see clearly, then we don’t understand what to do and make mistakes. Practicing means how do we use our true self moment to moment, perceive our situation, our condition and our opinion, and not become attached to “my situation, my condition, my opinion”. Not attached to anything, and making it correct — that’s our practice.

(October 1993, Hong Kong Zen Center)