Sincerity is the Railway Track

“The Bodhisattva’s way is called “the single minded way,” or “one railway track thousands of miles long.” The railway track is always the same. If it were to become wider or narrower, it would be disastrous. Wherever you go, the railway track is always the same. That is the Bodhisattva’s way. This way is in each moment to express true nature and sincerity.

“We say railway track, but actually, there is no railway track. Sincerity is the railway track. It is a beginingless and endless track. There is no starting point, no goal, nothing at all to attain. Just to run on the track in our way. This is that nature of our Zen practice.

“But when you become curious about the railway track, danger is there. You should not see the railway track. If you look at the track you will become dizzy. Just appreciate the sights from the train. That is our way. Someone will take care of the track; Buddha will take care of it. There is no secret. Everyone already has the same nature as the railway track.”

Shunryu Suzuki roshi, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, p. 54

This statement feels really reassuring in some way, in the heart. But the mind’s natural tendency is to question, to balk a little bit. Maybe we say, but how will anything get done? How would we have science, or art? How will we solve the climate crisis?

If we turn fully toward Buddha Dharma, some of this attitude has to be surrendered. And often enough, that can be a relief. We can seem to work through a lot of stuff internally, but often, the circumstances of our life simply dictate whether we turn left or right. We are just riding on the track, fully encountering and occupied with what shows up along the way. Considering that the whole universe can be seen as “one great pearl” or “10,000 miles of white jade,” we can potentially enact awakening in all instances. Which we don’t even need to do, because maybe it is awakening us.

I like Suzuki roshi’s explanation here. It is suffused with this attitude of cheerful patience that I think many of us aspire to rest more within. As perhaps we’ve noticed, it doesn’t always just spontaneously arise in all circumstances. A regular zazen practice, especially connected with other people sharing this intention to ride more smoothly on the tracks of Buddha Dharma, can simply provide context and circumstance for us to encounter the grace and intelligence that is already unfolding in our midst.



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