There is nobody / the fear of letting go

Mondo with Sengyo van Leuven ¦ Saint Thierry, in May, 2015

Q: In this morning kusen, you told us at some point: “There is nobody”. Therefore my question is: “Who is stating the fact that there is nobody? And who is this person? "

S.V.L: “There is nobody who states the fact that there is nobody. Indeed. And because there is nobody to state the fact that there is nobody, we deduct that there is nobody”.

But will this not produce a fear, a dizziness of this state? By telling ourselves that there is a danger of mental madness, of getting lost, of not coming back?

S.V.L: “No, it is necessary to experience death to be able to live. But as long as the body does not decompose itself, it is necessary to come back to life. It is always necessary to experience death; otherwise it is impossible to really live. Thus, let go of the idea we have of ourselves, of the people, of life, of what it should be, of how it should be. To be exactly able to really face the present moment, beyond the intellect, by short-circuiting the intellect which always wants to categorize, to judge etc. …

It is necessary to live from practice to practice, from heart to heart, from Buddha to Buddha. Zazen is practiced within the awakening. It is exactly this: in zazen itself, there is nobody. Actually, there is a coming and going between the four stages of Dhyana, thus there are moments when there is somebody and there are moments when there is nobody. It is necessary to be free to make this coming and going and it is only when there is nobody, no entity which can become attached to anything, that I can say: “there is nobody ". And thus, at that moment, we stop believing that we are an entity, separated from all the rest. But if we go too much in the vacuity, it is necessary to lean on the phenomena. If we are too much attached to the phenomena, it is necessary to see their vacuity. It is always necessary to be able to include it all, to unite the relative and the absolute, to put both in their right place and to understand how both exist together.

You should not badly interpret what was said, on the absolute level or on the relative level. That interconnects. But unfortunately, language is such that we have to exclude something to be able to tell something in one sense and then to exclude it to say exactly the opposite. This is the problem of language …

Therefore it is not that there is no entity which exists or which would not exist. You are really you and I am really I, but theoretically between you and me, there is no difference and especially not in zazen, where we give up the attachment to a concept of “a self", where we let go of the idea that “I do zazen”. Zazen does zazen. At that moment, all the barriers between inside and outside fall. Sounds are just sounds; there is no interpretation, just the universe which produces something, as we are produced in this moment by the universe.

In fact, it is because your mother and your father had sexual relations or my parents had sex together … It is sometimes difficult to believe, but it is because that fact that you are here; and they were there because their parents had sex and because they ate and drank, water, food, because they took advantage of the sun etc. The entire universe occurs in a body. Therefore, even if we see here several bodies, finally there is only one body. It is not in any case our body, it is not a personal body, an individual body, it is the body of the universe, and it is as it is. We have to take care of it, because it is with the body that we can practice the Way, but we cannot give it orders: it follows its own laws. And your body is as it is, mine is as it is, healthy or in poor health. We have no impact of it, at the end. We have to look after it, yes, but we cannot lean on that, it is as it is, and we do the best possible with these data without regretting that it is not different. Because it is exactly that fact which creates our sufferings.


Often in the Zen teachings, the fact of having to let go, not to follow our thoughts can be a little bit frightening, a kind of illusion of loss … In the Shobogenzo, Dogen suggests us to ask ourselves this question: "what is it?" This question seems to me interesting, because it allows us to join a kind of cycle and not to be frightened too much by the fact of having to abandon everything …

S.V.L: “Yes, but we do not have to give up everything, we have to put everything in the right perspective. It is that fact that I tried to translate with the idea of uniting the levels of absolute and relative. If you want to go somewhere, in a country you do not know - not in your village or the district which you know by heart (and even there we can make a mistake), you use a map.

Cartography is such that it includes sometimes errors; it is made in a certain way. If we see the world map on a flat surface, it is different. Nevertheless, we can use it, we can very well see where we are, we can very well navigate with it. Because we know exactly how the map is made.

Thus it is also necessary to know how we are made, how we made ourselves, and to see that it is useful to have an ego, a personality to function in the society, to navigate. But it is necessary to see things in the right perspective. Meaning that – at the end - it is only a mental construction which is born from the appropriation of the body. We say: "this body belongs to me, I am this body ". And it is the same for all the other aggregates, the sensations, the perceptions, etc. It is the base from which we separate ourselves, we part from where we come, from what we are really. Because of the society, the education etc… and because we like to believe it. We begin to believe that what we built is actually the reality, as it is, and not a reality that we built to function well in the society. And thus, keep coming and going is what we try to do.

During zazen, we get in touch with the ultimate dimension of our existence and we realize that it is not our existence, but that it is the existence in itself. Thus life in itself. The meaning of life is to be lived, to be lived completely without interference of an "I" which puts it limitations, compartments, divisions and prevent us to live our life to the full. It is because we noticed this, that we are here again, gathered in this dojo. It is what urged us to cross the threshold. Because it is finally the feeling that we are not what we believe, this kind of individual separated from the world, but that we are much more than that, that we go beyond and create in ourselves the mind of Awakening.

Through the impermanence, on which we have no grip, we begin to realize that there is something else. And this something else, it is exactly not to be separated, to find the unity. Therefore it is not because we have to give up what we are, but it is that we have to find what we are, by giving up our illusions on what we believe to be. And find what we are really.

In that respect, there is no submission, no negation, not at all. It is just finding what we always originally were and that we do not see anymore, because we put veils, coats of paint on it: we do not see the original wood anymore in all its brightness, but we see only the peeling paint with various layers, one above the other.

Thus we are not happy when we see that. But, because it is the only thing that we can know with our intellect and that we trust only the intellect in our society, we believe that we are going to lose everything. But, on the contrary, we are going to find everything and lose the illusion which prevents us from finding everything. Thus it is just the opposite which is going to occur, we are going to enter completeness and not absence, lack, asceticism … that is not asceticism, that is not hurting ourselves, it is not to whip ourselves to draw blood. No, it is exactly the opposite. It is to love, to love so much that there are only tears which can fall.


Tags: Sengyo Van Leuven

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