“Why must we practice to obtain enlightenment, if we all are innately enlightened?”
Practice is not merely a means to the goal of enlightenment; when viewed correctly it is enlightenment. “Practice,” and hence “realization” along with it, should here be seen as referring to all of a Zen practitioner’s activities and not merely times of formal meditation. But in what sense are all of one’s activities practice? Surely not everyone’s activities count as practice—so what is the distinction? For Dōgen, the difference lay in the attitude of the Zen practitioner. Zen practice, which Dōgen referred to as “ceaseless practice” (“gyoji”), is primarily the continuous maintenance of a specific frame of mind.
Daniel Zelinski, Ph.D.