“The best thing is having nothing to do and an end of all seeking. When hungry you should eat, when sleepy close your eyes. Foolish people may laugh at you but the wise will understand.” – Linji
“There’s a difference between doing nothing and waiting.” – John Locke from LOST
“If you’re not sure, don’t act.” – Bodhidharma
Possibly my favorite Zen Master is Linji (Jap.:Rinzai), head of the Linji/Rinzai school of Zen Buddhism. The Rinzai tribe and the Soto tribe are known as the top two Zen traditions. I find myself going back to his words again and again, because he always reminds me of the practical advice of “having nothing to do.” He called this the work of “the noble man,” which differs from our meaning, as someone who accomplishes so many big and great things.
He wasn’t advocating laziness, but he was giving no room for the false self to have any activity in our lives. You see, the true self, the real you, lives with the consciousness that everything is okay as it is, and then it spontaneously acts from that fortress of safety and security. Having nothing to do doesn’t mean we don’t live our lives, but we intuitively know first, that everything is perfect as it is, and from that knowing, our life isn’t lived in the fear of missing out or not attaining the elusive goal of (fill in the blank).
The false self, on the other hand, sees the glass half empty. The false self doesn’t know its own inherent security. It views itself as an independent entity, who must rely on itself to find and/or attain completeness, wholeness, peace and joy. The false you is playing the game of life with the wrong rules. It thinks everyone is out to get him. It is living in a delusional world of its own making. A big, fat lie is the the false self’s compass, the lie that it is alone and separate from everything and everyone else; when the eternal truth is that we are all connected and interdependent, inside of, and with, what Thich Nhat Hanh calls, “the Ultimate Dimension.”
The true self does do things, but because she is not doing to get,and because her doing is an outflow from a place of Complete Perfection, she does indeed feel like she isn’t doing anything. She doesn’t feel like she is owed anything, like she deserves good things because she “put in the work.” She knows good things and rewards are free gifts, for all of us. If the true self were to be given nothing for the things that she did, she wouldn’t be upset, because to her, “it was nothing,” a common reply given to people who thank us for something that we felt like doing. (Of course you are owed a purchased item when you pay for one, and things like that. (Stating the obvious, just in case.))
The true self only does what she feels like doing. She doesn’t get peer pressured. She doesn’t do things to fit in, or portray an image that the group says is acceptable and good. FOMO is not an acronym in her vocabulary, but she does like to have fun. She lives spontaneously in her own sovereign freedom. This doesn’t mean she is a bum with no income, couch surfing and mooching as a profession. The noble person, with nothing to do, knows money doesn’t grow on trees! When you begin to starve, you’ll feel like working, trust me.
The true self does what is natural, and what makes sense. Her life isn’t contrived, artificial or fake. She knows that life has a flow, a Way, and it is natural for her to follow It. It’s in her DNA. Linji didn’t say stare at a wall 24/7, although times of wall staring are indeed encouraged. He said when you’re tired, go to bed, and when you’re hungry, eat. We can add, when you’re bored, entertain yourself; when you’re lonely, hang out with friends; and when you’re horny, fuck your partner. You get the idea.
The foundation of Linji’s having nothing to do is the fact that you are enlightened as you are, and the only thing keeping you from experiencing that, is your constant search for the Buddha outside of yourself, and outside of your natural way of being, outside of you. If you aren’t hungry for Buddha, maybe you just think you lack love, so you throw yourself on the best looking person at last call. Have nothing to do with that behavior, because love is one with you, and you are one with love. Maybe you are thirsty for attention, so you step on the little guy to get a promotion at work. Have nothing to do with that conduct, you are important, as you are. Maybe you crave acceptance, so you act like something you’re not. You are accepted! These and similar behaviors are the opposite of the person who has nothing to do.
We all should have our moment when we realize we need a higher power, something other than ourselves that can make our world and our own lives better. That should be something we do, something we realize; but the quest for such a Reality can be quick, if we find the right Teachers who can show us that what we need isn’t at the top of the mountain, but is right here, right now, and that we just need an eye transplant, so that we can see what we already have. We need new glasses, because we are on the mountain top. Can’t you see it??
With this new prescription, we see the world in a whole and new way. The things we thought we had to do are realized to be useless. Our lives become simpler, yet fuller; less, but filled with a lot more. Instead of a constant struggle to find peace and feel okay, we find that we have nothing to do, and the things we do do, are enjoyable, and don’t feel hard, they feel like nothing.
The person with nothing to do is free to love, free to listen, free to give, free to enjoy. She is not a nihilist, she is an alive-ist! She is not idle, she is a queen on her throne. She is not a waste of space, she is an expression of Unlimited Spaciousness Itself, brimming with Glory and Life, whether she does something or not.
Put on your robe as a free person. When it is necessary to walk, walk. When it is necessary to sit, sit. Do not for a moment yearn for Buddhahood. -Linji