I will warn you in advance, this is going to sound/look contrived. When I write about something one day, and then discover it in my Dogen reading the following morning--which keeps happening to me--I always feel obliged to report it, bogus though it may seem.
...This kind of synchronicity keeps smacking me in the face. What can I say?
We find ourselves together, for this moment, in Chapter 48 of the Shobogenzo, "Expounding the Mind and Expounding the Nature."
For those who do not believe that intellect is a real and material force, necessary for the full understanding of truth, this chapter is essential reading. However, today we're just going to take a look at what Dogen says in book 3, page 46: (Nishijima and Cross translation, Dogen Sangha Press.)
"...from the time we establish the bodhi-mind and direct ourselves towards training in the way of the Buddha, we sincerely practice difficult practices; and at that time, though we keep practicing, in a hundred efforts we never hit the target once. Nevertheless, sometimes following good counselors and sometimes following the sutras, we gradually become able to hit the target. One hit of the target now is by virtue of hundreds of misses in the past; it is the maturation of hundreds of misses. Listening to the teachings, training in the truth, and attaining the state of experience are all like this. Even though yesterday's attempts to expound the mind and to expound the nature were a hundred misses, the hundred missed attempts to expound the mind and to expound the nature yesterday are suddenly a hit today."
A little later, Dogen continues: "The Buddha-way, at the time of the first establishment of the will, is the Buddha-way; and at the time of realization of the right state of truth, it is the Buddha-way. The beginning, the middle, and the end are each the Buddha-way. It is like someone walking 1,000 miles: the first step is one in 1,000 miles and the thousandth step is one in 1,000 miles. Though the first step and the thousandth step are different, the 1,000 miles are the same."
These comments reinforce and underline the oneness of everything: every result is composed of all the efforts that went into it, not just the last one. All efforts and all results are part of truth.
Even the "failed" effort cannot be separated from the Truth.
So there are no failed efforts; there are only efforts, and there is only Truth. The first effort is as important as the middle effort, and the last effort.
In "Branching Streams flow in the Darkness," Suzuki Roshi speaks of how his own dullness and stupidity ultimately became a vital asset in his search. They were what supported his own persistence, long after the shining stars around him had burned themselves out.
This means, for me, that when I have a disorganized and seemingly unproductive sitting, like the one that I had this morning, I can accept it in the surety that a good coin, even when bent, is still made of true metal.
And I think that perhaps, in the end, it is not the silver, brass, or gold that we pay with, but rather the willingness to pay that matters.
May your trees bear fruit, and your wells yield water.