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.

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