Sunday, November 13, 2011

Reflections: Ceremony of Aid

Today my Sangha performed a Ceremony of Aid. This ceremony usually includes two repetitions of Heart of Perfect Wisdom and five repetitions of Ten-Verse Kannon Sutra. During the Ten-Verse Kannon Sutra prostrations are made during the second, third, and fourth repetitions. We honor that within each of us that is eternally joyous, selfless, pure and free from the defilements that are part of our inheritance being the imperfect human beings that we are. This is followed by what sometimes seems like innumerable repetitions of the Disaster-Preventing Dharani during which people approach the altar to make offerings of incense and donations and, then, the Ceremony of Aid Dedication which for informative reasons I've placed at the top: 

Ceremony of Aid Dedication:
Today we have offered incense, candles, fruit, grain and tea, chanted sutra and dharani.
Whatever merit comes to us through these offerings
We now turn over to those suffering from hunger and want.
May your hunger be satisfied!
May your suffering cease!
May all beings attain Buddhahood!

Ten directions, three worlds,
All Buddhas, Bodhisattva-mahasattvas
Maha Prajna Paramita.

Heart of Perfect Wisdom
(Prajña Paramita Hridaya)

The Bodhisattva of Compassion
from the depths of prajña wisdom
saw the emptiness of all five skandhas
and sundered the bonds that cause all suffering.
Know then :
Form here is only emptiness ;
emptiness only form.
Form is no other than emptiness ;
emptiness no other than form.
Feeling, thought, and choice—
consciousness itself—
are the same as this.
Dharmas here are empty ;
all are the primal void.
None are born or die,
nor are they stained or pure,
nor do they wax or wane.
So in emptiness no form,
no feeling, thought, or choice,
nor is there consciousness.
No eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, mind,
no color, sound, smell, taste, touch,
or what the mind takes hold of,
nor even act of sensing.
No ignorance or end of it,
nor all that comes of ignorance :
No withering, no death, no end of them.
Nor is there pain, or cause of pain,
or cease in pain,
or noble path to lead from pain ;
not even wisdom to attain :
Attainment too is emptiness.
So know that the Bodhisattva,
holding to nothing whatever,
but dwelling in prajña wisdom,
is freed of delusive hindrance,
rid of the fear bred by it,
and reaches clearest nirvana.
All buddhas of past and present,
buddhas of future time,
through faith in prajña wisdom,
come to full enlightenment.
Know then the great dharani,
the radiant, peerless mantra,
the supreme, unfailing mantra,
the Prajña Paramita,
whose words allay all pain.
This is highest wisdom,
true beyond all doubt ;
know and proclaim its truth :
Gate, gate
bodhi, svaha!

Ten-Verse Kannon Sutra
(Emmei Jikku Kannon Gyo):
Kanzeon !
Praise to Buddha !
All are one with Buddha ;
all awake to Buddha.
Buddha, Dharma, Sangha—
eternal, joyous, selfless, pure.
Through the day Kanzeon—
through the night Kanzeon.
This moment arises from Mind ;
this moment itself is Mind.

Shosai Myokichijo Darani
(Disaster-Preventing Dharani):
No mo san man da
moto nan
oha ra chi koto sha
sono nan to ji to
gya gya
gya ki gya ki
un nun
shifu ra shifu ra
hara shifu ra hara shifu ra
chishu sa chishu sa
chishu ri chishu ri
sowa ja sowa ja
sen chi gya
shiri ei so mo ko.

Although the Disaster-Preventing Dharani is chanted without translation its power said to depend more on its sounds. Here is one translation of questionable accuracy I copied from Buddhism:
The incomparable Buddha-power that banishes suffering. Om! The Buddha of reality, wisdom, Nirvana! Light! Light! Great light! With no categories, this mysterious power saves all beings; suffering goes, happiness comes, Swaha!

Link to the Rochester Zen Center's Site where folks can find both a pdf version of the Chant Book and the Chants themselves in mp3 format.  

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Reflections: Mind Cannot be Grasped (IV) and Why Dogen Went to China

The phrase 'Mind Cannot be Grasped', the title of Shobogenzo Chapters 18 and 19, is from the Diamond Sutra. An implication of the Diamond Sutra I'm still processing is that, in any given moment, the best way to keep the Four Vows, including 'Beings are numberless, I vow to save them' is to be in the moment without projecting a self onto the moment and simply responding to each moment as it arises. And I can see how living each moment by dropping off our expectations for the moment allows the energies of Indra's net to pass through us in a manner that causes the least obstruction and suffering for ourselves and others.

But 'Buddha mind', 'true self' or 'no-self' is unself-conscious. As I understand it 'Buddha mind' is pure awareness and perception prior to thinking, interpretation or judgement. Even the mind detecting Buddha mind when it arises, or the attempt to attain or maintain Buddha mind, is self-conscious and isn't Buddha mind.

In addition, the unself-conscious state is not acting selfless. To act selfless, in the conventional sense, a person would have to have a sense of self too.

Living as a hermit monk in the mountains of China doesn't guarantee Buddha mind either. And once we're born we have a place as a node in Indra's net and I think non-action or removing oneself to a mountain monastery also sends ripples through the energy field that can't be predicted as much as we might hope, even though it might grant some peace of mind. My own experience going to Antaiji and the reactions of some friends and family are an example from my own experience.

Here's why I'm still processing:

For awhile now I've had the feeling that being a bodhisattva and being a buddha aren't necessarily the same thing.

While I may be projecting myself onto the Shobogenzo, my understanding is that a similiar conviction is what motivated Dogen to go to China. 'Buddha mind' or unself-conscious no-self can't be the whole story. If it were the whole story then practice, the precepts, and the eight-fold path would be pointless for the enlightened being.

The bodhisattva, seeing Indra's net, can't leave the world and its suffering. This realization appears to me to be the motivation for practice based on enlightenment. Practice, following the precepts and the eight-fold path from an enlightened perspective, ie with an understanding of Indra's net and the causes of suffering is the direction that guides us forward in time. From this perspective I can see why Dogen felt such a reverence for the Buddha-dharma and practice.

I have to admit, to some extent, the Diamond Sutra has felt like I've been handed Kryptonite because dropping off expectations for the moment and present moment awareness is actually something I've been naturally good at and has been a source of peace and strength for me. I've become self-conscious about what came easily for me in ignorance. Was Dogen similarly plagued? I have no way of knowing. But here is my working strategy for the moment: Trusting in practice is my direction. And zazen gives us practice in dropping off thinking mind and returning to the ground that is emptiness and awareness of 'Now'.

Not coming or going, the pure awareness and perception that is Buddha mind is always present. The entity that is 'me' only has to get out of the way. I think that trusting in practice is a good way to allow that to happen.


Haiku for these Chapters:

Mind with no abode —
Buddha throughout the three times
And ten directions.

Constantly the mind
Comes, goes, living and dying —
Constantly the earth.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Reflections: Mind Cannot Be Grasped (III) - A Gatha

Buddha mind is just connecting. Connecting with what is present.

Connecting without expectation. Connecting without expectation for the moment.

Connecting without trying to project a self onto the moment, be it past self, present self, future self, or Buddha self.

Connecting with now.

Reminds me of Dogen :

Driving ourselves to practice and experience the myriad dharmas is delusion.

When the myriad dharmas actively practice and experience ourselves, that is the state of realization.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Reflections: Mind Cannot Be Grasped (II) — Mind like the Sky

The mind likes to make and tell stories. But what I've begun to sense as I've gotten further into the Shobogenzo is that the thoughts and stories that underlie behavior and mind-state from moment to moment, including the story of a permanent self, are like clouds drifting through the sky — the sky of awareness.

The more I sit the more it seems like it's not the story of 'self' or any other story that's permanent, rather it's this awareness, or our awareness of this, that we sometimes tap into while sitting that's the constant presence. We are this awareness more than any specific story. Moreover, I think our ability to be content and happy depends on our ability to be present within this awareness.

Nonetheless making and telling stories is one of the functions of the brain. The brain takes what it perceives in each sensory system and tries to organize the different types of information into a unified picture that serves as the basis for a plan of action. Some of stories are necessary for our survival. The extent to which that's true, however, appears to me to be only a fraction of what our mind would like us to believe.

I get the sense that the more tightly we grasp onto or after stories, the more separation we create and this separation leads to suffering. Stories are typically self-centered and limited by our tendency to selectively attend to those bits of reality that, according to our stories, are most important to us. The resulting disconnect between the stories and reality creates an almost continual sense of dissatisfaction with things as they are. That sense of dissatisfaction functions a bit like a negative feedback loop that provides the motivation or drive for corrective adjustments (or the setting of goals) that aim to bring things in line — in line with our stories about self.

It not that 'self' doesn't exist. We have bodies and minds to prove it. And it's not that stories should be, or even can be, eliminated. I think our stories are part of what makes the experience of being human beautiful. Rather with zazen I think it's possible to relax our tendency to grasp as we begin to trust the constancy of awareness. The sense that I get is that trusting in awareness allows 'self' to be more flexible by being more present and in tune with our immediate reality. Trusting in awareness allows us to see more of the whole sky.

I admit I still have my stories. Right now, all things considered, my trust in this awareness feels like the most important one.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Reflections: Mind Cannot Be Grasped (I)

In any given moment the extent to which we are able to let go of our expectations for that moment determines our ability to access peace, contentment, freedom and happiness in that moment.

It's not that we shouldn't have thoughts, goals, dreams and hopes for the future, it's the nature of the mind to create them. Society capitalizes on that tendency. It's also not that conditions and circumstances should be denied if they are less than perfect or that we shouldn't make an effort to improve conditions and circumstances if we can. But it is my current sense that the gate to contentment and happiness can only ever be found in the present, in the here and now, irrespective of conditions and circumstances.

In each moment we have a choice of whether we are going to attribute the presence or, more usually, absence of contentment and happiness during the specific moment to external conditions and circumstances beyond our momentary control or whether we are willing to take responsibility for our own state of mind by relaxing our expectations for the moment and allowing ourselves to be.

Zazen is a good way to learn how to drop off expectations for the moment and take responsibility for our state of mind. There is no good sitting or bad sitting. Zazen is just sitting, sitting without expectation of how zazen should be and, in fact, can be... when we let go of our expectations during any given round of zazen.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

A Poem: For September

September skies and a mist hanging over the grass tug me back towards the lost and lonely, though that isn't exactly the truth.

Something in me knows the time will soon come to wave goodbye one by one to all things summer, reposition the clothes in the closet, all the while recognizing I have not divested myself of enough.

The small losses are a sonar against which I ping.

I count my blessings only to trade them. I count my blessings to give them away.

Prayer flags flap in the blue skies of higher altitudes and I ask what are the essential fictions?

After all these years solitude is a well-worn jacket I stuff my fists into. My favorite. The first one hanging ready on the peg.

I will set out my boots for a serious waterproofing.

It's a bit of a contradiction, but the crisp air of September departures encourages my presence as the one who remains.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Reflections: In case you've been wondering where I am

The reality that exists as it is is a treasure, is brightness, is a seat of truth... - Dogen

It's been awhile since I've written so I thought I'd report that I'm battling in the hell realms of tupor and resistance to what is. I admit I'm exaggerating, but not by that much. It is part of the truth. The biggest item on my list this summer, dismantling and dealing with the results of over twenty years of inattention and evasive maneuvering, i.e., getting our house ready to rent or sell, is like trying to climb a mountain made of scree. Until the For Sale sign is up though, I won't be free of this daily battle. And my own resistance or avoidance of the task will only cause me to lose ground.

Moments exist when I am free, for example zazen and when I'm concentrating at work. And I'm getting out on the water windsurfing at least once a week, my best record for windsurfing in more than a decade. I am extremely thankful for those moments. These are moments when "brightness" exists for me.

If I have a wish right now, for myself, it is to learn how to bring this "brightness" to my battle.

If I figure it out, I'll be sure to let you know.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A Poem: The Sun at One O'Clock

Found in the memory of that day,
Is a moment, a point in time when
The sun stood still,
A precise moment when the sun,
Suspended at one o'clock, expanded in sky
And became, of itself, eternity.

All color was washed out
By the brightness that is sun.
At the sea wall, painted with graffiti
And cracked by quake some years before,
Fishermen stood, still as statues, tribute
To the reality of sun's substance and sustenance.
The sea became glass that slowly rolled,
Brighter than bright, and the whiteness of gulls,
That whiteness that is not white, became shadow
Then vanished into all that is sun.

In that moment day was consumed
By everything sun, the sun
Turning back on itself, announcing
And echoing an immeasurable This -
The precise moment when
The sun was at one o'clock.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Reflections: A Personal Working Definition of Equanimity

Over the last couple of years I have been questioning myself about the nature of equanimity and have found that the following two responses, when combined, are allowing me to be more accepting, and even feeling free and alive, in the situations and circumstances I find myself in.

Equanimity is...


— Turning into and fully engaging with whatever I encounter in myself in response to life, whether it is comfort or discomfort, fear, anger, joy or suffering. As opposed to denying, running away from, or evasive maneuvering that generates unwanted karma in the future.


— Maintaining a broader awareness. This is the awareness and attitude of zazen. This is the buddhas and bodhisattvas.

This is the definition of equanimity that I've been trying out and it seems to be working for me at least at the moment.

Offered with a smile.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Reflections: Blue Lotus Flowers Open Inside Fire*

When I envision a 'perfectly enlightened' person I don't see them sitting, though they may spend a lot of time sitting.

Instead I envision character traits, traits like selflessness, equanimity, wisdom and compassion... although these days I'm not as certain as I may have been in the past about what those traits might look like.

Selflessness, equanimity, wisdom and compassion are manifested as actions towards others. But actions alone, however well-intentioned and no matter how hard we try, run a risk of being insincere, unhelpful and even counter-productive when even the smallest trace of the perspective of an unenlightened self exists.

We can't get rid of 'self' because self is a part of who we are. So, it seems to me, the 'traits of enlightenment' have to bloom from within, from true self and emptiness, which some people experience while sitting.

We choose to sit, an action that takes place in the phenomenological world, and the flowers or sparks of true self and emptiness grow into a fire, a fire that is strong enough to engulf the self and transform it.

After reading Hokke-ten-Hokke and Kuge, Chapters 17 and 43 of the Shobogenzo, I can't help but think that Dogen felt this way too, at least for a time.

...Of course the wisdom that we might experience while sitting is the selflessness, equanimity, wisdom and compassion of 'nothing to attain'.

*In Kūge, Dogen quotes and then expounds on a line of verse by Master Do-an Josatsu: "Blue lotus flowers open inside fire." The blue lotus flower often stands for wisdom.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Reflections: Dogen's World (II) - umm, errr... my world?*

Once we get a sense of true self and emptiness, it's pretty easy to develop a preference, or even outright addiction to them. And it's easy to think that if we could only live our lives one hundred percent as true self in emptiness we would be perfectly enlightened!

Some of us may start thinking if we sit in front of our white walls long enough, if we manage to attain and maintain the perfect zen posture, if we manage to quiet our minds long enough, if we experience those states often enough, one of these days by some magic we will be that, will be there, will be perfectly enlightened. In other words, when we get up off of our zafu our experience of true self and emptiness won't disappear.

When we think that way we create a whole new set of dualities. Instead of experiencing unity with all things, we create more separation. Instead of being free, we've trapped ourselves solid.

Because it's impossible to avoid the phenomenological world — it's where we are!

And it's impossible to escape self — it's who we are!

So this is the impression I get of the motivation behind practice-enlightenment:*

If we want to integrate or re-integrate true self with self and emptiness with the phenomenological world, how do we go about it?

I'm pretty sure at least one thing Dogen recommends is zazen. Because when we are sitting our bodies and the phenomenological world (typically a white wall but any color is probably okay) are right here with us. In fact, if we haven't been working out enough, ate too much for dinner, or are sitting long hours at a retreat or sesshin, our bodies are pretty good at reminding us bodies can't be denied — at least not forever.

The phenomenological world can't be denied either... It may be too hot or too cold, a fly or June bug may be banging on a screen, someone's stomach may be growling, dogs may be barking, a cat may want to sit on your lap... and thoughts will come and go. Can we learn to be at peace with, and even appreciate, these aspects of self and the phenomenological world while sitting?

Clue: A first step may be to appreciate that we are not appreciating these things!

*after reading the first 17 chapters plus Chapter 43 of the Shobogenzo, combined with a whole lot of stuff that is difficult to describe or quantify.

**posted from my phone using Dragon Dictation and BlogPress

Monday, May 16, 2011

Reflections: Dogen's World*

The following post is my attempt to synthesize a cohesive set of notes reflecting my understanding of the concepts self, true self, emptiness and the phenomenological world, an understanding that is based on my readings of the Shobogenzo to date. This synthesis was made shortly after attending a Genzo-e on Kuge offered by Rev. Okumura and, therefore undoubtedly has been influenced by his efforts and expertise in the study of Dogen, an area in which I am a beginner. My reading of the Shobogenzo is far from complete and therefore this post likely contains many inaccuracies if it is taken as a summary of Dogen. It is more accurate to say this post is a temporary framework or point of reference for the rest of my readings.

In Kūge, Chapter 43 of the Shobogenzo, Dogen discusses the interdependent nature of flowers (representing phenomena and cause and effect) and space (emptiness). Dogen's discussion of the interdependent nature of phenomena and emptiness also can be applied to the relationship between self and true self and can be summarized in the following statement:

Flowers give rise to emptiness and emptiness gives rise to flowers.

In terms of true self and self, Dogen suggests that true self and emptiness, in isolation, would be static and sterile. Specifically, true self and emptiness are not phenomenological because of the absence of coming and going — in other words, the nature of true self and emptiness is always the same, but true self and emptiness are phenomenological because our experience of true self and emptiness arise out of the phenomenological world, which includes self.

Once we perceive emptiness and true self (or no self) we have to integrate the perception with the phenomenological world or self — otherwise we are not experiencing the unity of all things, we are only creating another duality.


A second complimentary way to view the opening statement is from the perspective of a single flower, where the entire flower represents Indra's net (or the plasma field/grid I referred to in an earlier post) and you and I are individual petals of that flower. We each have our own identity as a petal, but the flower itself is a phenomenon or reality that is greater than the sum of its parts, our Universe. This is suggested by the chapter title Kuge — Space Flower or Emptiness Flower.

The existence of the flower, Indra's net, is real in spite of the coming and going, impermanent nature of the phenomena it describes. Experience proves it — although the exact nature of the proof in this cause and effect world differs depending on who you are and your actions.

The awareness of true self and emptiness, to the extent it stays with us, gives rise to another dimension in our perception of reality. This awareness can be very helpful in understanding our lives and as a guide for our actions. This awareness can also insulate us in that we are more able to stay grounded as we walk within the phenomenological world.


Interdependent —
The space-flower blooms and falls
In our triple world.


* Previous posts along similar lines:
Keisei-Sanshiki - ...Enlightenment Again
Weird Plasma Field Dream, Gridlines, and the Ten Thousand Things
Sansuigyō - Water: Not Matter, Not Not Matter

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Reflections: Kūge (I) - Flowers in Space & a few thoughts on self

A good friend I used to have Dharma discussions with once posed the question of whether true self is one and the same for everyone.

It's a question that has stayed with me. Because, logically, in the state of emptiness we experience oneness with all things. No separation exists in this unity because the views and habitual responses we hold as a natural by-product of living are let go of while we sit.

So, logically, from this perspective it makes a certain amount of sense that your true self and my true self are not any different. And that may very well be true during zazen.

Yet, intuitively, I have never believed this to be an accurate understanding of the truth for most of us when we get up off the zafu. Why? Because just about everything naturally realized, as opposed to artificially manufactured, is unique in it's expression of self.

This evening I went on a walk by the smaller of several lakes in our area. On the walk back I noticed the tinge of bright and soft greens of various shades now covering the branches of most of the trees since the most recent rain. Even the oaks, which typically seem to be the hardest to convince that winter has come to an end, have started to bud. And even within a species, each tree is unique in it's expression of self.

Over the last couple of weeks I've been reading Kūge (translated as Flowers in Space, a chapter of the Shobogenzo that focuses primarily on the phenomenological world) in preparation for a Genzo-e by Shohaku Okumura on this chapter. In Kūge Dogen says:

Although there are originally no flowers, now there are flowers—a fact which is true for peach and plum trees and true for apricot and willow trees... Apricot and willow flowers inevitably bloom on apricot and willow trees; looking at [apricot and willow] flowers we can identify apricot and willow trees, and looking at apricot and willow trees we can distinguish [apricot and willow] flowers. Peach and plum flowers never bloom on apricot or willow trees. Apricot and willow flowers bloom on apricot and willow trees, and peach and plum flowers bloom on peach and plum trees.

In case you're wondering, Dogen is referring to more than trees, flowers and fruits, he's referring to people, to us:

Penetration of the truth of a flower is “I originally came to this land to transmit the Dharma and to save deluded emotional beings.”...“I entrust effects to effects themselves”: this expresses “natural realization.” “Natural realization” means enacting causes and accepting effects. The world has causes, and the world has effects. We enact the cause-and-effect that is this world, and we accept the cause and-effect that is the world. “The [natural] self” is “itself,” and the self is inevitably just you...

Realizing that phenomena are empty doesn't mean we should deny the phenomenological nature of the reality we live in. Or that we should deny our own nature while operating in this reality.

..when the common and the stupid hear the Tathāgata’s words that “What is seen by clouded eyes is flowers in space,” they imagine that “clouded eyes” means the upset eyes of ordinary beings. They imagine that sick eyes, because they are upset, perceive “flowers in space” in a pure void.

Picking up a flower and winking an eye are all the universe, which is realized by clouded eyes and flowers in space. The right Dharma eye treasury and the fine mind of nirvana, which have been authentically transmitted to the present without interruption, are called clouded eyes and flowers in space. Bodhi, nirvana, the Dharma body, selfhood, and so on, are two or three petals of five petals opened by a flower in space.

In other words, our delusions and phenomena mediate not only the bad things we experience, they also mediate realization and enlightenment. To me, this suggests we accept and are compassionate towards our self for who and what we are, as well as accept others.

Sometimes acceptance doesn't mean we do anything differently — rather it means we acknowledge and respect our individual truths.


Five petals open,
The natural self is just you —
Each flower a truth.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Reflections: The Four Vows, A Poem, and The Green Tara Mantra

Today is Earth Day, a weekend of religious holiday, and April 22, 2011. Of this much I am certain.

As far as the rest, I recognize that I'm am often desperately trying to connect dots to make sense of a life that probably can't be made sense of. I go in circles. I misunderstand what people are trying to tell me, so that in spite of my best intentions, I make mistakes. A fun analogy might be the game of Twister I sometimes played as a little girl. I end up being so contorted I fall over. In Twister we used fall over, giggle and/or laugh. In life, it is typically frustrating.

All of a sudden kinhin makes sense to me in a way it has not made sense before. We are walking in circles, just like Muho-san said. In kinhin, walking in a circle is accepted, appropriate and, in fact, required. During kinhin, we are mindful of our posture, each step and the movement of fellow practioners. There is a quiet peacefulness or stillness during kinhin given that we accept that we are not going anywhere.

These are the Four Vows:

Beings are numberless; I vow to free them.
Delusions are inexhaustible; I vow to end them.
Dharma gates are boundless; I vow to enter them.
The buddha way is unsurpassable; I vow to realize it.

Look again and dig way down into the ground of them.

It's real simple when I get down into them. I look at these vows and just accept they are impossible, just accept that I am going fail. That I am not going to get anywhere, just like during kinhin. That I am going to fall over just like in Twister.

What remains when I accept that I am going to fall and fail? I realize my truth, and that truth is I am still going to try anyway. That I have committed myself and that, for me, there's is no way of backing out of the commitment. This is what a vow is. And out of the acceptance of failure and the recognition of that truth, unconditional confidence arises, blooms, and shines forth like the sun.

From this state, all things are possible — even success. Then I take another step.....

And another circle or cycle begins. But today, April 22, 2011, I am out finding Kwon Homun:

Two Poems On Fishing - Kwon Homun

Should I go drinking and wenching?
Oh, no. It isn't proper for the poet that I am.
Shall I go hunting wealth and honor?
I am not inclined that way either.
Well, let me be a fisherman or shepherd
and enjoy myself on the reedy shore.

When it stops raining at the fishing site
I will use green-moss for bait.
With no idea of catching the fish
I will enjoy watching them at play.
A slice of moon passes as it casts a silver line
onto the green stream below.

(This today's poetry selection on the Knopf website.)

Green Tara Mantra:

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Shobogenzo Ch17 (III) Hokke-ten-hokke - The One Great Matter

Does the One Great Matter matter? Yes — the one great matter is the most important matter of all: The matter is the one and only matter that really matters. The matter is great.

So exactly what is the One Great Matter? Hokke-ten-hokke is the chapter of the Shobogenzo in which Dogen refers to the one great matter most frequently. Dogen says:

This is why [the Buddha] has “manifested himself in reality,” calling “sole reliance” on the “One Vehicle” “the one great matter.” Because this manifestation in reality is itself “the one great matter,” there are [the words] “buddhas alone, together with buddhas, just can perfectly realize that all dharmas are real form.” The method for that is inevitably “the One Buddha Vehicle,” and “buddhas alone” necessarily teach its “perfect realization” to “buddhas alone.” “The many buddhas” and “the Seven Buddhas” teach its “perfect realization” to each individual buddha, buddha-to-buddha, and they cause Śākyamuni Buddha to “accomplish” it.

It is “the One Buddha Vehicle” in which “sole reliance” is decisively “the one great matter.” Now it is “manifesting itself in the world.” It is manifesting itself at this place.

(Referring to the Lotus Sutra:) The fundamental point of this sutra is the purpose of [the buddhas’] appearance in the world. Although it expounds many metaphors, [the sutra] does not go beyond this. What is that purpose? Only the one great matter. The one great matter is just the Buddha’s wisdom itself; it is to disclose, to display, to realize, and to enter [the Buddha’s wisdom]. [The one great matter] is naturally the wisdom of the Buddha and someone who is equipped with the wisdom is already a buddha.

Because [the Flower of Dharma turning] is the “sole existence of the One Buddha Vehicle,” and because it is the Flower of Dharma with “form as it is,” whether it is the turner or the turned, it is “the One Buddha Vehicle,” and “the one great matter.”

When I read Hokke-ten-hokke I sense two subtlety different interpretations of what the one great matter is:

(1) The one great matter is the Buddha's wisdom and sitting meditation (zazen) is the one vehicle — the white ox cart and the best, most reliable vehicle — with which we can realize the wisdom of a Buddha. As per the preceding post, 'riding' is applying the wisdom we experience during sitting in real life.

(2) The one great matter is sitting. In this case, "perfect realization" is something we only ever experience during zazen. The only time we can be free of our own delusion and the delusion of others is during zazen.

That zazen is the Buddha's wisdom and an expression of the one great matter is definitely something I sense is true. For me, the question is whether we can only ever enter, experience and express the Buddha's wisdom by sitting.

I can find quotes and evidence in the Shobogenzo and elsewhere to support either answer to that question. At the moment, I think maybe allowing the ambiguity is more important than answering the question.


The one great matter —
True wisdom of the buddha
Realized through zazen.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Shobogenzo Ch17 (II) Hokke-ten-hokke - Riding the One Vehicle

When the mind is in delusion, the Flower of Dharma turns.
When the mind is in realization, we turn the Flower of Dharma.
...Without intention the mind is right.
With intention the mind becomes wrong.
When we transcend both with and without,
We ride eternally in the white ox cart.

When the mind is in the state of delusion, the Flower of Dharma turns.
When the mind is in the state of realization, we turn the Flower of Dharma.
If perfect realization can be like this,
The Flower of Dharma turns the Flower of Dharma.

The above quotes come from near the beginning and at the conclusion of Hokke-ten-hokke. A major focus of the chapter is on delusion. The 'white ox cart' is a metaphor for the one vehicle and is taken from the Parable of the burning house in the Lotus Sutra. 'Riding the white ox cart' represents perfect realization. Recalling that the 'Flower of Dharma' is 'the enlightened Universe', what is Dogen telling us about delusion?

Dogen recognizes that within our world just as it is — the world in which we act — there is no freedom from delusion:

There is mental delusion in the burning house, there is mental delusion just at the gate itself, there is mental delusion outside the gate, there is mental delusion just in front of the gate, and there is mental delusion within the gate. Mental delusion has created “within the gate” and “outside the gate” and even “the gate itself,” “the burning house,” and so on..

Once we have insight or realization into no-self and emptiness, we can step back and see that our intentions and actions are bound to be based on assumptions and delusion no matter what. We can't reach a place and time or perspective that is free from delusion. How are we then supposed to incorporate this insight or realization into our daily lives? Dogen recognizes this conundrum:

When we think of entry as “adornment” on this carriage, should we hope for “open ground” as the place to enter, or should we recognize “the burning house” as the place to leave? Should we reach the conclusion that the gate itself is merely a place of momentary passing? Remember, inside the carriage, there is turning [of the Flower of Dharma] which causes us to disclose, to display, to realize, and to enter the burning house; and on the open ground there is turning which causes us to disclose, to display, to realize, and to enter the burning house. There are cases in which the turning activates disclosure, display, realization, and entering through the whole gate as the gate here and now; and there are cases in which the turning activates disclosure, display, realization, and entering through a single gate which is [an instance of] the universal gate. There is turning which discloses, displays, realizes, and enters the universal gate in each instance of disclosure, display, realization, and entering. There are cases in which the turning activates disclosure, display, realization, and entering within the gate, and there are cases in which the turning activates disclosure, display, realization, and entering outside the gate. There are cases of disclosing, displaying, realizing, and entering open ground in the burning house.

Dogen goes on to ask:

Who could make the turning of the wheel of the triple world into a carriage and ride it as “the One Vehicle”?

The 'triple world' is the world just as it is and, to me, the similarity in the phrases: 'turning of the wheel of the triple world' and turning of the 'Flower of Dharma,' suggests the triple world and the Flower of Dharma are one and the same. To me, the question is not so much who as how.. It helped me to look at the passage at the top of this post:

...Without intention the mind is right.
(This seems to refer to the no-self and emptiness we realize in sitting zen.)
With intention the mind becomes wrong.
(This seems to refer to actions in the 'triple world.')

When we transcend both with and without,
We ride eternally in the white ox cart.

How do we transcend both with and without? We practice "disclosure, display, realization, and entering" having recognized the reality of delusion. Dogen says: not worry about the mind being deluded. Your actions are the bodhisattva way itself; they are to serve the buddhas which is original practice of the bodhisattva way. What you disclose, display, realize, and enter is, in every case, an instance of the Flower of Dharma turning.

When we practice having recognized the reality of delusion it seems to me, at first, to create a space from which we can step back and question our views, intentions, and actions from the perspective of the Precepts and the Noble Eight-fold Path. When we are whole-heartedly committed to taking this step and committed to the path then we are the 'Flower of Dharma', and the following is true:

The Flower of Dharma turns the Flower of Dharma.

To conclude:

Who knows that [even] within the burning house,
Originally we are kings in the Dharma.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Shobogenzo Ch17 (I) Hokke-ten-hokke - Introduction

Hokke-ten-hokke is translated as "The Flower of Dharma Turns the Flower of Dharma".

What is the 'Flower of the Dharma'? It is just the 'Lotus Universe'. And the Lotus Universe is just this Universe — our Universe viewed from an enlightened perspective.

The content of the buddha lands of the ten directions” is the “sole existence” of the “Flower of Dharma.” Herein, “all the buddhas of the ten directions and the three times,” and beings of anuttara samyaksaṃbodhi, have [times of] turning the Flower of Dharma, and have [times of] the Flower of Dharma turning.

From an enlightened perspective, we can see that when we are in the state of perfect enlightenment (anuttara samyaksaṃbodhi), we turn the Flower of the Dharma. In contrast, when (or perhaps even when) we are not in the state of perfect enlightenment, the Flower of the Dharma turns our Universe and us.

The Lotus Universe is grounded in an all-inclusive view of time and space. It is the manifestation of 'emptiness' in form. Because it is all-inclusive in time, because it is all-inclusive in space, because sometimes we turn the Flower of the Dharma and sometimes the Flower of the Dharma turns us, the Universe is in a state of equilibrium from which there can be no regression or deviation:

This is just the state in which “original practice of the bodhisattva way” neither regresses nor deviates. It is the “wisdom of the buddhas, profound and unfathomable.” It is the “calm and clear state of samādhi...”

The Dharma Flower’s turning may be preaching it as the “disclosure, display, realization, and entering” of buddhas who are rightful successors, and of rightful successors of buddhas. This [real wisdom] is also called the Sutra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma, and it is “the method of teaching bodhisattvas.” Because this [real wisdom] has been called “all dharmas,” “Vulture Peak” exists, “space” exists, the “great ocean” exists, and the “great earth” exists, with the Flower of Dharma as their “national land.” This is just “real form”; it is “reality as it is”; “it is the wisdom of the Buddha”; it is “the constancy of the manifestation of the world”; it is “the real”; it is “the Tathāgata’s lifetime”; it is “the profound and unfathomable”; it is “the inconstancy of all actions”; it is “samādhi as [the state of] the Flower of Dharma”; it is “Śākyamuni Buddha”; it is “to turn the Flower of Dharma”; it is “the Flower of Dharma turning”; it is “the right Dharma-eye treasury and the fine mind of nirvana”; and it is “manifestation of the body to save living beings.” As “affirmation and becoming buddha,” it is maintained and relied upon, and dwelled in and retained.

The last line above suggests to me that once we have a sense of the Lotus Universe, it has a lasting effect on our perception of ourselves and our actions. That 'sense' imparts wisdom from which there is no going back -- a wisdom that "is maintained and relied upon, and dwelled in and retained."


Turner or the turned,
The one buddha vehicle,
Flower of Dharma.

Lotus Universe —
True wisdom of samadhi,
Dwelled in and retained.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Reflections: We're All Connected - Visualizing Metta and the Metta Sutra

With the speed of 'news' these days it's easy to get caught up in large scale tragedies, especially natural disasters. Whether we know people directly affected or not, our ability to respond to such events with actual help is limited by distance and other conditions and circumstances.

The truth is we're all connected. When we can't provide actual physical assistance, we have a choice: We can respond by getting tangled up in these events to a degree that negatively affects our ability to respond to what our own circumstances confront us with or we can respond with metta (loving-kindness).

If one visualizes the spreading wave of pain and suffering it becomes a little easier to see that getting tangled up in and adding to the outcry of pain and suffering is unlikely to be helpful. And it becomes easier to see the helpfulness of metta as a restorative calming influence:

The Metta Sutra

This is what should be done
By one who is skilled in goodness,
And who knows the path of peace:
Let them be able and upright,
Straightforward and gentle in speech,
Humble and not conceited,
Contented and easily satisfied,
Unburdened with duties and frugal in their ways.
Peaceful and calm and wise and skillful,
Not proud or demanding in nature.
Let them not do the slightest thing
That the wise would later reprove.
Wishing: In gladness and in safety,
May all beings be at ease.
Whatever living beings there may be;
Whether they are weak or strong, omitting none,
The great or the mighty, medium, short or small,
The seen and the unseen,
Those living near and far away,
Those born and to-be-born —
May all beings be at ease!

Let none deceive another,
Or despise any being in any state.
Let none through anger or ill-will
Wish harm upon another.
Even as a mother protects with her life
Her child, her only child,
So with a boundless heart
Should one cherish all living beings;
Radiating kindness over the entire world:
Spreading upwards to the skies,
And downwards to the depths;
Outwards and unbounded,
Freed from hatred and ill-will.
Whether standing or walking, seated or lying down
Free from drowsiness,
One should sustain this recollection.
This is said to be the sublime abiding.
By not holding to fixed views,
The pure-hearted one, having clarity of vision,
Being freed from all sense desires,
Is not born again into this world.

~ The Buddha

(obtained from: Thanks Jordan.. for citing the Sutra, for any involvement you may have in relief efforts, and for your dedication to practice..

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Shobogenzo Ch16 Shisho (II) - More on the Certificate of Succession

Quoting Dogen's Master:
There are few who have even seen and heard of the causes and conditions of the certificate of succession and the succession of the Dharma. Among a hundred thousand people there is not even one!

So what is the "concrete situation of the certificate of succession"? Dogen writes:

...some succeed to the Dharma on clarifying the sun, the moon, and the stars, and some succeed to the Dharma on being made to get the skin, flesh, bones, and marrow..

...some receive a kaṣāya; some receive a staff; some receive a sprig of pine; some receive a whisk; some receive an uḍumbara flower; and some receive a robe of golden brocade. There have been successions with straw sandals and successions with a bamboo stick.

This suggests that the causes and conditions giving rise to succession vary (and also suggests we should not view succession as something we're entitled to after completion of a program of study). Not surprisingly, the forms of certificates recognizing succession also vary:

When such successions of the Dharma are received, some write a certificate of succession with blood from a finger, some write a certificate of succession with blood from a tongue, and some perform the succession of Dharma by writing [a certificate] with oil and milk; these are all certificates of succession.

Dogen was able to view several certificates of succession during his travels. The specifics of these certificates varied tremendously. However, that he did not regard all certificates as valid should not come as too much of a surprise. He comments:

They receive the Dharma from fellows of fame and repute of the present generation, or from old veterans who are intimate with kings and ministers, and when they do so they have no interest in getting the Dharma but are only greedy for fame and reputation.

they have become uselessly entangled in the net of theory, and so they do not know the method of liberation and they do not hope for the opportunity to spring free.

While reading I found it difficult to judge which of the certificates of succession Dogen described was valid, if any. I wonder if that ambiguity was intentional since Dogen harbored doubts of his own, although it seems that he gained some insight during these encounters.

Dogen quotes his master as saying: ..wherever [people] are sincerely pursuing the truth they are able to see and to hear that the certificate of succession exists. “To have seen and heard” may be “learning the state of truth” itself.

In the end, Dogen admits that it was not until he understood, through the teaching of his Master which resonated deeply, that succession of the Dharma between master and disciple arises co-dependently that he "accepted, for the first time, the existence of Buddhist patriarchs’ succession of the Dharma, but also got rid of an old nest."


Sprig of pine, a whisk,
Or udumbara flower ―
Signed with blood or milk.

Simple and so real ―
Co-dependent arising ―
Succession of truth.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Shobogenzo Ch16 Shisho (I) - The Certificate of Succession

Buddhas, without exception, receive the Dharma from buddhas, buddha-to-buddha, and patriarchs, without exception, receive the Dharma from patriarchs, patriarch-to-patriarch; this is experience of the [Buddha’s] state, this is the one-to-one transmission, and for this reason it is “the supreme state of bodhi."

In our time, and Dogen's as well, masters give certificates of succession — documentation of Dharma transmission — to disciples that have studied with them. A certificate of succession, however, is not a diploma, which is received after completing the requisite coursework, it is recognition of one-to-one transmission and "..[this] is realization of the truth before the Seven Buddhas; it is the same realization of the truth shoulder-to-shoulder with, and in time with, the many buddhas; it is realization of the truth before the many buddhas; and it is realization of the truth after all the many buddhas."

The different views of time, as described in Uji, are significant in our understanding of the succession from buddha to buddha. For example, Dogen writes:

..without buddhas it has no time.

[It] profound and eternal; it is without regression or deviation and without interruption or cessation.

One-to-one transmission and succession occur in linearly in time as we commonly view it — in other words, in coming-and-going time, and also occur in Now, both the immediate moment and the eternal Now. The Buddha's truth also moves via us, much in the same way as time moves via us. If we understand succession in terms of these different views of time, we can begin to understand the truth of the following:

The fundamental point is this: although Śākyamuni Buddha realizes the truth before the Seven Buddhas, it has taken him a long time to succeed to the Dharma of Kāśyapa Buddha...There is also the principle to be mastered in practice that Kāśyapa Buddha succeeds to the Dharma of Śākyamuni Buddha. Those who do not know this principle do not clarify the Buddha’s state of truth.

The state is like, for example, stones succeeding each other as stones, jewels succeeding each other as jewels, chrysanthemums succeeding each other, and pine trees certifying each other, at which time the former chrysanthemum and the latter chrysanthemum are each real as they are, and the former pine and the latter pine are each real as they are.

Transmission of the Buddha's truth and succession arise co-dependently. Their origin and existence are rooted in the interdependence of all things.


Not grouped together
Nor succession in a line —
The gift of Dharma.

Profound, eternal
Passage of truth, no regress
Or deviation.

Monday, February 21, 2011

A Poem... A longtime favorite: The Changes

The Changes
by Robert Pinsky (from The Figured Wheel)

Even at sea the bodies of the unborn and the dead
Interpenetrate at peculiar angles. In a displaced channel

The crew of a tanker float by high over the heads
Of a village of makers of flint knives, and a woman

In one round hut on a terrace dreams of her grandsons
Floating through the blue sky on a bubble of black oil

Calling her in the unknown rhythms of diesel engines to come
Lie down and couple. On the ship, three different sailors

Have a brief revery of dark, furry shanks, and one resolves
To build when he gets home a kind of round shrine or gazebo

In the small terraced garden of his house in a suburb.
In the garden, bees fumble at hydrangeas blue as crockery

While four children giggle playing School in the round gazebo.
(To one side, the invisible shaved heads of six priests

Bob above the garden's earth as they smear ash on their chests,
Trying to dance away a great epidemic; afterwards one priest,

The youngest, founds a new discipline based on the ideals
Of childlike humility and light-heartedness and learning.)

One of the sailor's children on his lunch hour years later
Writes on a napkin a poem about blue hydrangeas, bees

And a crockery pitcher. And though he is killed in a war
And the poem is burned up unread on a mass pyre with his body,

The separate molecules of the poem spread evenly over the globe
In a starlike precise pattern, as if a geometer had mapped it.

Overhead, passengers in planes cross and recross in the invisible
Ordained lanes of air traffic—some of us in the traverse

Passing through our own slightly changed former and future bodies,
Seated gliding along the black lines printed on colored maps

In the little pouches at every seat, the webs of routes bunched
To the shapes of beaks or arrowheads at the black dots of the cities.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Shobogenzo Ch15 Busso (II) - Confidence

A few additional thoughts on confidence, faith, and trust have come up while I've been thinking about the following quote from Busso:

The realization of the Buddhist patriarchs is [our] taking up the Buddhist patriarchs and paying homage to them. This is not of only the past, the present, and the future; and it may be ascendant even to the ascendant [reality] of buddha. It is just to enumerate those who have maintained and relied upon the real features of Buddhist patriarchs, to do prostrations to them, and to meet them. Making the virtue of the Buddhist patriarchs manifest and uphold itself, we have dwelled in and maintained it, and have bowed to and experienced it.

In particular, the phrase "it may be ascendant even to the ascendant [reality] of buddha" seems significant. Why would Dogen say that paying homage to the buddhas is superior even to the reality of buddhas?

Paying homage to the Buddha ancestors is something we do in the present moment. Especially during prostrations raising the palms above the forehead means I am giving myself up to this practice, giving up doubt, giving up resistiveness. Moreover, I am recognizing that practice is more important than any beliefs or doubts I have about any specific Buddhist patriarch in the lineage.

There are Buddhist ancestors and Buddhist patriarchs that lived to the point. We can never know all the details about any one specific individual and whether they were constantly buddhas in perfect perfection. What we can have confidence, faith, and trust in, however, is that the extent to which these individuals were buddhas in perfect perfection reflects the extent to which they were sincere in their practice. In other words, the 'real features' of Buddha ancestors include sincerity in practice.

Practice is right here and now, it's not some attainment or goal in the future we aspire to.
Practice involves maintaining a soft and flexible mind.
Our own practice is something we can have confidence, faith, and trust in.


Ascendant even
To the ascending buddhas —
Honoring buddhas.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Shobogenzo Ch15 Busso - The Buddha Ancestors

In many ways Busso and the following chapter, Shisho, seem so obvious that I was tempted not to cover them. Because of that feeling though, skipping these chapters may be exactly the wrong thing to do.

Every Sunday at my Center we honor the buddhas with a chant containing a list of named similar to the list presented in Busso. As Dogen says, by paying homage to the Buddha ancestors, we cause, or at least assist in, their realization:

The realization of the Buddhist patriarchs is [our] taking up the Buddhist patriarchs and paying homage to them.

According to the introduction, Busso can be translated as Buddhist Patriarchs or Buddha Ancestors. Indeed, the list of names contains those patriarchs who have found their way into the lineage of Dogen's tradition, and is not that different from the ancestral line in our chant, so in this sense 'Buddhist Patriarchs' seems okay. However, Dogen also states:

This is not of only the past, the present, and the future; and it may be ascendant even to the ascendant [reality] of buddha. It is just to enumerate those who have maintained and relied upon the real features of Buddhist patriarchs, to do prostrations to them, and to meet them. Making the virtue of the Buddhist patriarchs manifest and uphold itself, we have dwelled in and maintained it, and have bowed to and experienced it.

In my view, the above quote conveys a broader intent to pay homage to all buddhas, not only patriarchs recognized by a given tradition, so in this sense at least 'Buddha Ancestors' seems more appropriate. Moreover, who are the buddhas of past, present, and future? They are just us in our buddhahood. was [the realization of] buddhas alone, together with buddhas.

Haiku for Busso:

Honoring buddhas
Together with buddhas — past,
Present and future.

Friday, February 4, 2011

A Poem: Recall the Sound that Water Makes

Recall the sounds that water makes ―
The slow hiss, pop and sputter of water
Moving up a faucet, long disused, or
The steadiness inherent in chaotic drip
That would threaten some to madness.

Or, should you prefer, the multitude of sounds
That accompany torrential rains in summer,
Pelting splatters on a sidewalk, roaring swirls
Along roadsides brown with mud, torn leaves,
And assorted broken bits, or yet,
The softer sound of hot steam rising
Off sunstruck rooftops like smoke.

Yet none of these is the true sound
Of water, which makes no sound at all,
But is transformed to sound
By movement, movement to and movement from,
The sound of subject and object in collision, the sound
Of the erosion of differences, until there is
Not a single grain of sand left.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Shobogenzo Ch14 (III) Sansuigyō - Water: Not Matter, Not Not Matter

In the first part of Sansuigyō Dogen draws parallels between the existence of mountains and human existence. Here, in the second half, Dogen is drawing a parallel between water and the human spirit, soul or even, to go a step further, agape — unconditional, absolute love. Maybe its just the romanticist in me, but I like using those terms here because I sense it so readily in this Chapter, even though the more Buddhisty terms are Buddha nature, true self, Universal self, unconditioned self, etc... I say 'human' spirit, but I don't see any reason why we can't include all spirit. Water is the bones and marrow of the Buddhist patriarchs and it is by virtue of riding on the water that the mountains, even though they are physically stuck in the same place are 'unstuck':

Great Master Unmon Kyōshin says, “The East Mountain moves on water.” The point realized in these words is that all mountains are an East Mountain, and every East Mountain moves on water.

“The East Mountain moves on water” is the bones and marrow of the Buddhist patriarchs. Waters are realized at the foot of the East Mountain; thereupon mountains ride the clouds and walk through the sky. The crowns of the waters are mountains, whose walking, upward or downward, is always “on water.” Because the mountains’ toes can walk over all kinds of water, making the waters dance, the walking is free in all directions and “practice-and-experience is not nonexistent.”

Dogen describes many qualities or virtues of water, which, to me, seem to parallel qualities we associate with spirit. The following quote is just one example of several in this Chapter:

Water is neither strong nor weak, neither wet nor dry, neither moving nor still, neither cold nor warm, neither existent nor nonexistent, neither delusion nor realization. When it is solid it is harder than a diamond; who could break it? Melted, it is softer than diluted milk; who could break it? This being so, it is impossible to doubt the real virtues that [water] possesses.

When I think of spirit or true self, I get the sense that spirit, instead of being contained or caged within our individual selves, is something that we share with all of the rest of the Universe. In fact, we tap into spirit in our experience of 'emptiness' when we sit:

..water is the palace of real dragons; it is beyond flowing and falling. If we recognize it as only flowing, the word “flowing” insults water, because, for example, [the word] forces [water] to be what is other than flowing itself. Water is nothing but water’s “real form as it is.” Water is just the virtues of water itself; it is beyond “flowing.”

Although Dogen tells us not to think of water as flowing, water does, in fact, flow and Dogen recognizes this in the following quote:

We can say that the way of water is beyond the recognition of water, but water is able actually to flow. Water is [also] beyond non-recognition, but water is able actually to flow.

What happens when water flows and falls? It forms clouds, rain, puddles, rivers, lakes, and oceans. This is the cycle of water...:

Common and stupid folk today assume that water is always in rivers, streams, and oceans. This is not so. Rivers and oceans are realized in water. Thus, water also exists in places which are not rivers and oceans; it is just that when water descends to the earth, it takes effect as rivers and oceans.

So in the parallel to human existence, what are these clouds, rain, puddles, rivers, lakes, and oceans that water results in the realization of...?

None other than cause and effect.

And it is in this context that the quote "although there are many kinds of water, it seems that there is no original water, and no water of many kinds" makes sense to me. We all have spirit/soul/agape/true self, but the way that spirit falls and flows is cause and effect realized in our lives. Spirit is transformed by our selves and the way we're able to connect with others as that spirit is converted into cause and effect.

It is also in this context that "Because the mountains’ toes can walk over all kinds of water, making the waters dance, the walking is free in all directions" gains meaning. Without the mountains that make the waters dance, water would just be water, and clouds, rain, puddles, rivers, lakes, and oceans would not be realized. Even though the mountains are stuck as mountains, by virtue of their walking on water, their walking becomes free in all directions.

If cause and effect are just the manifestation of spirit or true self, why does life seem so difficult at times? Because the transformation/conversion processes are not clean, they are contaminated by our desires, distortions and errors in our perception and conceptualization (how we fit perceptions into the ongoing stories in our head), as well as by our inability to communicate/connect with others clearly due to habits we've been taught or suffer from due to injuries we've sustained. And its not only our own transformation/conversion processes we have to consider, but those of everyone we come into contact with.

Once we have incorporated the teachings of the mountains and water into our understanding, the following quote gains special significance for our practice, or my practice anyway...:

For the present, we should learn in practice the moments in which it is possible to put on the eyes and look in the ten directions at the water of the ten directions. This is not learning in practice only of the time when human beings and gods see water; there is learning in practice of water seeing water. Because water practices and experiences water, there is the investigation in practice of water speaking water. We should manifest in reality the path on which self encounters self. We should advance and retreat along the vigorous path on which the external world exhausts in practice the external world, and we should spring free.

To summarize some of what I've learned from Sansuigyō so far:

1. Most of us in our lives are stuck just like mountains. Moreover, each of us has flaws and faults just like mountains do, and these flaws and faults are also what makes us beautiful and unique.
2. But like mountains we flow in our forward and backward walking.
3. Like the mountains, our walking causes water, or our true self or spirit, to dance and to be manifested as cause and effect.
4. Once we begin to accept the "mountain-like" aspects of our existence, once we recognize that cause and effect are just true self manifested, and once we see that it's the transformation/conversion processes of ourselves and others that are the main cause of the difficulties we encounter in our lives, we can acknowledge things as they are, "spring free", and begin to work on those processes.

Haiku for the second half of Sansuigyō:

The toes of mountains
Make waters dance, walking free
In all directions.

Water knows water
Yet water knows not — it flows
From clouds to oceans.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Shobogenzo Ch14 (II) Sansuigyō - The Meaning of Water

This song, also named 'The Water Song', is one of the most beautiful songs I've discovered in the last year. I can just hear the sun shimmering on the surface of the water, the love and forgiveness of it, how water wears away all differences. Wherever the water is -- a river, a lake, an ocean, or held in the clouds. If I die today or 30 years from now, I hope this song is played for me.

Peace to us all...

...and don't you just love Blixa's thump on the bass? So simple. So perfect.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Reflections: SkullCandy and Nothing to Attain

Yesterday I managed to pick up a new pair of earbuds to replace the ones which were pushing static on one side. I listen to a lot of music as well as podcasts as I walk to and from work and wherever else I happen to be going. They're actually pretty helpful keeping the wind out of my ears as I walk in this cold weather.

Unfortunately I also managed to loose my fav pair of reading glasses. They were pretty cool, but not so cool as to make me stand out as someone trying to look cool. I'm pretty bummed to tell the truth. They're $200/pair!!!  Though the expense seems justified because I use them all the time, like shoes or boots. Unfortunately the store isn't around here either..

It's weird how easy it is to get attached to, sentimental about, this seemingly small scale stuff when we actually know we have the essentials to survive. It's also weird how hard it can be to apply logic sometimes. When we get attached to these things could it be because we don't yet have that over the rainbow something?

For today I'm going to be patient and hope for the best — that the glasses turn up, but I kind of doubt it since they haven't already. My sitting this morning included speculation that, mindlessly, they fell out of my coat pocket while I was walking. Things are impermanant. It was bound to happen sometime. Shikanstupid.

In the meantime, I'm making do. I'm wearing a pair of outrageously cool (but somewhat geekier?) reading glasses — problematic because it takes more effort to coordinate the uncoordinated look if you know what I mean...

And that is making me long for a simpler life sort of like Antaiji (sort of, because yeah life there was hard, physically, but also in terms of peer pressure, like with smoking) where I was uncoordinated in attire with no effort at all!  A life with nothing to attain.