In Zen tradition, when we talk about Buddha, it has multiple meanings, which depend on different contexts. Zen masters use these meanings and contexts to connect us with Buddha and Buddha’s heart.
The enlightened being
This is the basic meaning of Buddha, which implies that every human being is possible to become Buddha – the awakened one. Once we start to practice along his path, we are awakening for mind of no-self and no-boundary.
The Buddha Nature
A Zen practitioner used to ask:” What is Buddha?” The master replied: “The current mind is Buddha.” If you ask: “when my mind is in chaos, where’s Buddha?” The master may reply: “The Buddha is never away no matter the mind is calm or noisy.” It means both the calm mind and the noisy mind contain the Buddha Nature – the latent capacity to enlighten the essence of existence.
In a poem of a Zen poet in Song Dynasty, it was said: “The sound of streams is the preaching of Buddha, the scenery of mountains is the body of Buddha.” Here the Buddha means the essence of existence, and everything in the world manifests in the way of this essence – dependent co-arising without independent self.
Follow the way of Buddha
When a Zen master tells you in sitting meditation: “Sitting is Buddha or to sit is to be Buddha.” It doesn’t mean sitting itself is Buddha or to imagine you are Buddha in sitting, it is guiding you to sit in the mind of Buddha, and the sitting is just a representative of everything you do. When you follow the way of Buddha’s practice, you are cultivating your Buddha Nature and getting closer to the enlightenment.
As a Zen master said: “Don’t ignore that we sleep and get up with Buddha everyday!”