The true person of no rank is a slab of red meat.
Great thousands of realms of sand manifest on the tip of a hair.
Obviously it is a matter of not borrowing from someone else’s house.
This is how all achievement functions.
The true person of no rank is a slab of red meat.
‘You, just as you are, and your life right here and right now, are all there is and all you need to know. You don’t have to do anything special. Mostly, you have to be open to meeting face-to-face, and even dancing with, the truth that pertains to your life right now. You have to find a way to collect your fractured pieces, examine them and accept them as part of who you are. Spiritual practice is about transformation, but it’s also, and more important, about working with what is. All of us must learn to honor our whole selves just as we come, just as we are.’ (Being Black)
Among the other pleasures of my recent house-sit has been the chance to delve into a quite extensive Buddhist library. There were many books that I haven’t read before, and Rev angel Kyodo’s was the one I went for first. While the book – not least in the paragraph above – is largely addressed to people of colour as a way to bring zen practice to them, the directness of the writing makes it a joy to read. If you have been finding some of the recent historical posts a bit severe for your tastes, look out for more selections from Being Black coming along.
‘An ancient master said, “When delusive thoughts cease, tranquility arises; when tranquility arises, wisdom appears; when wisdom appears, Reality reveals itself.”
If you want to eliminate delusive thoughts, you should cease to discriminate between good and evil. Give up all affairs with which you are involved; do not occupy your mind with any concerns nor become physically engaged in any activity. This is the primary point to bear in mind.
When delusive objects disappear, delusive mind dies away. When delusive mind disappears, the unchanging Reality manifests itself and we are always clearly aware. It is not extinction; it is not activity.
Therefore, you should avoid engaging in any arts or crafts, medicine or fortune-telling. Needless to say, you should stay away from music and dancing, arguing and meaningless discussion, fame and personal profit. While composing poetry can be a way to purify one’s mind, do not be fond of it. Give up writing and calligraphy. This is the fine precedent set by practitioners of the Way. This is essential for harmonizing the mind.’ (Zazen Yojinki – Things We Should Be Careful About Regarding Zazen)
Like Koun Ejo, Keizan is a successor of Dogen, and some of his language echoes his more illustrious predecessor (I don’t remember Dogen saying anything about fortune telling but I suspect this would have been his line; Keizan goes on to talk about fancy clothes and fine food, which Dogen definitely expressed opinions about).
Keizan is often ranked alongside Dogen, since he founded Sojiji, Soto Zen’s other main training temple alongside Dogen’s Eiheiji, and the consensus chant of the Buddhas and male Ancestors ends with him, as after that the Soto lineage divided; I remember reading, probably in the Gyo Ji Ki Han, that if you had monks visiting from other lineages, it would be rude to chant the names of ancestors who were not theirs.
‘Just sit as if you were the boundless empty sky or a ball of fire. Trust everything to the inhalation and exhalation. Even if eighty-four thousand idle thoughts arise, each and every one may become the Light of prajna (undiscriminating wisdom) if you do not pay them any attention and simply let them go.
Not only in sitting, but every step you take is the movement of the Light. Step after step, no discrimination… To inhale or to exhale, to listen or to touch, being without thoughts and discrimination is nothing other than the tranquil illumination of the Light in which body and mind are one. Therefore, when someone calls, you answer. This is the Light in which ordinary people and sages, the deluded and the enlightened, are one.
Even in the midst of change, the Light is not hindered by it. Forests, flowers, grass, and leaves; human beings or animals, big or small, long or short, square or round: all manifest themselves simultaneously, independent of discriminating thoughts or will.’ (Komyozo-Zanmai -Samadhi of the Treasury of the Radiant Light)
Koun Ejo was Dogen’s successor (if you want much more detail, Wikipedia as usual has it – generally speaking it is really helpful for reading up on some Buddhist facts), and we should be grateful to him for recording Dogen’s spoken words in Shobogenzo Zuimonki, Eihei Koroku, and Eihei Shingi (Dogen wrote down the fascicles of the Shobogenzo himself, which is what makes them that much harder to grapple with). I was particularly drawn to the last line, harking back a few more generations to Dongshan (Tozan in Japanese).
Last week I had dokusan with Fu, which is a way for me to check in about my practice, and stay accountable with Zen Center. The last time I met with her in December my mood was a little fragile, and I felt unsure about several aspects of my life. As I thought about the things that have happened since then, and the internal shifts I have made, it was a salutary reminder that moods are no more stable than the weather.
Our little corner of California has been sunny and warm for some time now – though the temperatures dropped a notch on Sunday as I discovered to my cost when I went riding in the morning and wished I had thought of winter gloves and a hat – and my disposition has also been good. The weather is a contributing factor for that, without a doubt; the fact that I could ride around in shorts, T-shirts and espadrilles most of last week gave me a real sense of ease.
There is also the fact that I have been house-sitting for a couple of weeks, and the part of Berkeley I am in is conveniently close to where I work, and to a couple of friends, so I have been enjoying rides on streets that are basically traffic-free – quite a contrast to my rides around San Francisco on the whole.
Another factor is that there are two dogs and five cats as part of the household I am taking care of. After the longish ride over the East Bay Hills on Sunday, which I have only ridden a couple of times before (though it was also where I spent some time helping with filming a couple of years ago – and I was also very aware again of how covering the terrain on a bike leaves a much deeper impression than driving it), I spent most of the day on the couch watching football with two cats lying on me and two dogs next to me – I could not help but be relaxed.
There are other things which are going well also; I am being more sociable than usual, and that feels good. No doubt the rain will come again (California certainly needs it), but I will enjoy this fair weather while it lasts (just typing out the words brought that old-loved song to mind).
I took my camera with me to Green Gulch when I went to see Fu, hoping for blossoms. It was a certainly a fine morning:
‘When you are deluded and full of doubt, even a thousand books of scripture are still not enough. When you have realized understanding, even one word is already too much. Zen is communicated personally, through mental recognition. It is not handed on directly by written words.’ (quoted in Zen Essence)
‘Whatever thought through which an object is thought of as a substance, that indeed is a fabrication. It is not evident.’ (Thirty Verses of Vasubandhu, 20)
The sun rises across the mountains,
The moon is full at the door;
It’s not that he has no body –
He doesn’t want to show it all.
‘Yunyan asked Shishuang, “Where have you come from?”
Shishuang said, “From Weishan.”
Yunyan asked, “How long were you there?”
Shishuang said, “One year.”
Yunyan said, “So you could have become the head of the monastery.”
Shishuang said, “Although I was there, I didn’t learn anything.”
Yunyan said, “Weishan didn’t learn anything either.”
Shishuang had nothing to say.’
I think Shishuang was very smart to keep his mouth shut at the end.
‘You’ve indicated you want me to instruct you by letter in the direct essentials. This very thought of seeking instruction in the direct essentials has already stuck your head into a bowl of glue.’ (Swampland Flowers)
For maximum value, I feel I should stop the quote right there (plus right now I am too lazy to type out the rest of the letter that Tahui wrote to his disciple). The gist of his response is to meet things with the curiosity of a three-year-old, and then keep contemplating it without thinking about such useless fripperies as ‘direct essentials’. Got it?