Q: What is Tathata?
A: The The.
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Sometimes we think this kind of narrative really is our life. We think that the narrative others have created for us, or even the one we create for ourselves, is who we are. The story becomes us, our biography becomes us, our autobiography becomes us. It takes our place, and instead of a life we have literature—or caricature.
But that isn’t your life. This is your life, what’s happening right now, here and now, always here and now. It’s not the sum total of your experience: it’s not your curriculum vitae. That’s your karma, not your life.
There’s a wonderful poem by Wislawa Szymborska, the Nobel Prize winning Polish poet, called “Writing a Curriculum Vitae.” It talks about how when we write a CV we only put those things in that will sell us, so that when we are applying for a job, for example, we put in only the loves that resulted in marriage, the children that were born, destinations not journeys, and so on. “Write as if you never talked with yourself, / as if you looked at yourself from afar.” We put down what creates the impression of “the one you are supposed to be.” What is the sound of the totality of this portrait, the totality of this life of yours? Szymborska says: it’s the sound of a machine shredding paper.
When we do zazen that is the sound we hear: the sound of shredding paper. We shred the paper of our curriculum vitae. We deconstruct all that and allow it to drop away into the garbage bin, into the trash.
Read the rest of Richard's Sweeping Zen blog entry, "Tathata: The The."