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.