Monday, February 21, 2011
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
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.
To the ascending buddhas —
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
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.
...it was [the realization of] buddhas alone, together with buddhas.
Haiku for Busso:
Together with buddhas — past,
Present and future.
Friday, February 4, 2011
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.