Last week I stopped into our local ma and pa donut shop, the Donut Wagon, for some coffee. They offer up the usual tongue-pleasing fare: donuts, bagels, sticky buns, etc. They are also our local over-the-counter gambling establishment – there’s Power Ball, Keno, Lotto, scratch cards and much more. So, as I was standing in line perusing the donut selections, my eyes drifted over to the gambling possibilities. Suddenly one of the offerings jumped out at me. It said: BE AN INSTANT WINNER!!! Then it hit me, “That’s just like Zen!” Anytime you cut off all thinking — wake up just now — you. are an instant winner. And it’s even better than the lottery, because you just don’t win nine million dollars, you get the whole universe. You and the universe become one. You get everything. What a deal! You don’t even have to wait while you scratch off the thin aluminum film to see if you are a winner. In fact, at that moment there is no inside, no outside; no subject, no object; no winners or losers; you are completely IT. No more agonizing months spent sitting around the house wringing your hands waiting for Ed McMahon to pull up in the Clearing House Sweepstakes van to declare you the winner. You already ARE the winner.
When I first started going to Zen Master Seung Sahn’s talks, one thing really struck me. He would often say, “I am not special. I don’t have anything that you don’t have.” I found that very congenial. And, of course, the Buddha says the same thing. Right after his great enlightenment, he taught that everyone already had Buddha-nature; the problem was that they didn’t know it. That means that you are already ready a winner. You just have to wake up to it. How simple.
So, here’s an “I already am a winner” kong-an for you: Long ago on Yeong Sahn mountain, Shakyamuni Buddha held up a flower before the assembly. All were silent. Only Mahakashyapa smiled. Shakyamuni Buddha said, “I have the all-pervading true dharma, incomparable nirvana, exquisite teaching of formless form. Not dependent on words, a special transmission outside the sutras, I give to Mahakashyapa.” Buddha transmitted his dharma to Mahakashyapa. But what if Mahakashyapa had said, “No thank you, Buddha. I already have dharma. Keep your dharma.” If you are Buddha at that time, what could you do? If he is already a winner, what can you do for him?