When our parents pass away, or when a relative dies, we may receive an inheritance from them, some material possession that has been in our family. But there is an inheritance that everyone receives, not because somebody’s life has ended, but because our life has begun. It is our true inheritance.
The quality of our true inheritance is spiritual; we can only recognize it when our attitude is spiritual, when we practice our spirituality. And when we practice, we recognize who inherits, who gives the inheritance, and how to pass on the inheritance. To practice our way means we join with the spiritual lineage of our teachers, our ancestors, and Buddha. Then we can receive our true inheritance, then Buddha’s enlightenment is our own enlightenment. Zazen practice is how we discover, accept, use, take care, and continue our true inheritance.
If we buy some antiques at a shop and display them in our home, it is misleading to claim that they are part of our family inheritance. In the same way, if we have a collection of historical art treasures that have been in our family for generations, it would be a mistake to believe that it is our true inheritance. If we think so, we are overlooking our true inheritance.
We like to have antiques and old things, for a sense of cultural tradition, meaning, and continuity. We feel touched by something old, so we say it is “valuable.” We give it value in an economic sense. But our true inheritance does not touch us in that way. We have our true inheritance before we start to think, before we feel touched, before we have any idea of economic value.
A material inheritance that we may receive can sometimes be quite large. It may be a house, real estate, jewelry, furniture, money. On the other hand it may be small, such as grandmother’s sewing basket or grandfather’s carpenter tools. Size is not important; how we use our inheritance is important. Our true inheritance is neither large nor small.
When our life does not feel so good, we may feel that we have inherited karma. Even if we don’t feel good, it makes no difference: we must recognize our true inheritance, accept it, use it, and pass it on. Karma is not our true inheritance. It is only like some unpaid bills, or debts. And even though we feel that it was passed on to us by someone else, it would be a misunderstanding to believe: “This is not mine.” We have to take care of it. If we do not take care of karma, we cannot receive our true inheritance.
We cannot keep our true inheritance to our self. If we try to do so, it is no longer our true inheritance. It is just because we cannot keep it that it is our true inheritance. If we inherit a vast house, we have to live in it. Then we can take care of it and make it possible for others to live in it also.
True inheritance exists in each activity. When we carefully brush our cushion or make our bed, we are using our true inheritance. When we drive our car mindfully, we are accepting our true inheritance. When we listen attentively to whomever speaks to us, we are using our true inheritance. When we prepare a meal, wash dishes, work, or study with a ready mind, we are continuing this true inheritance. When practice exists in each activity, we are using, accepting, and continuing our true inheritance.
If we believe that true inheritance has a particular shape or size, we will not recognize it. When we are without an idea of shape or form, true inheritance can appear. And its value will be understood. Its depth and breadth never vary: it has no limit; its shape varies with each situation. This is what is meant by “skillful means.” When we see true inheritance, we know who gives it. To meet the giver face to face means to possess true inheritance. But if we think that there is a giver, an inheritance, and us, we will squander our true inheritance.
Because of Buddha nature, true inheritance is there. Because there are people and things, we have true inheritance. Our legacy is endless practice. True inheritance is the ceaseless expression of our true nature. There is no need for us to assert our ego. This is our true inheritance, our greatest treasure.