‘A way to gain a heart that accepts reality is to treat each thing with respect (mono o daiji ni suru). To be aware of the value of things requires an open and accepting heart. A person’s heart, in turn, becomes more accepting the more she sees the importance of things. To appreciate the value of something requires paying careful attention to it.’ (Bringing Zen Home)
Echoes, of course, of the words of Suzuki Roshi, which I appear to have posted only once, right at the beginning of the blog, but which I refer to frequently.
‘The name is a false name. Beneath this false name is the real body. The paramita of wisdom proclaimed by the Buddha is verbal wisdom. But from verbal wisdom arises insight wisdom, by means of which we see that all things are empty, including wisdom. Thus, the paramita of wisdom is not the paramita of wisdom.
But when we see that wisdom is empty, we see the real form of all dharmas. This is real wisdom. Thus, the Buddha calls it the paramita of wisdom.’ (commentary on the Diamond Sutra)
I might have to go back and read the entire book again to see how I find it now.
‘If you try zazen, you will quickly realize that as long as you regard knowing and the self as the same, you cannot simply accept knowing as knowing. There will inevitably be a reaction against the contents of knowing and you will end up being dragged around by this. And then, you will end up forgetting the essential effort of upright sitting because the center of your intention will shift to managing the contents of knowing. Moment to moment in our zazen, we are standing at a crossroads: will we be deepening into zazen or will we become occupied with knowing? In most cases, little by little and without being aware of it (or while being aware of it), people tend to go tottering off in the latter direction. It is through fully tasting this difficulty in zazen, that we experience over and over again the strength, the depth, and the persistence of our habit to regard knowing and the self as being the same.
However, it isn’t possible for those of us who practice zazen to stagnate there. In any case, there is nothing else we can do except to make the effort over and over again of awakening from our infatuation with knowing by retracing our steps and heading in the direction of upright sitting. When our diligence bears fruit and gradually our zazen ripens, we will be able to distinguish between the condition of knowing and that of non-knowing (the totality of zazen equals the true nature of the self).
Then, upright sitting and knowing will no longer get involved in the habitual entanglements and confrontations and knowing will become of use to upright sitting. Actually, the root of the problem is not knowing itself, but rather the attitude we have toward knowing and the manner we deal with it. When this changes, then we are no longer disconcerted or manipulated by knowing. Rather, we will be able to use knowing as a key for regulating the body, breath, and mind, and in this way effectively make use of it in zazen. Furthermore, knowing will be an indispensable part of zazen that will merge and unite with it. In this way, knowing is fully integrated with zazen and it becomes zazen’s knowing (the knowing of “the actualization in nonthinking”) and then a new development will occur in knowing itself.’ (Polishing A Tile)
‘Contemplative practices that do not directly address the relationship between trauma and identity run the risk of doing the greatest harm in diverse populations… because the experience and impact of oppression is an embodied experience. The way people experience their identities in society will have great bearing on whether they are discriminated against, and all forms of discrimination are traumatic.
If we are to direct our awareness toward our embodied experience with love, compassion, and forgiveness, we must include the parts of ourselves that suffer in relationship to our identities as well.’ (quoted in The Heart Of Who We Are)
As I continue to think about how the teachings are going to continue to be passed on, takin on these kinds of ideas is essential.
‘So purpose of– most important point of practice is to experience things directly, one by one. And one experience should be whole universe. To experience one– one right now– to experience one right now on this moment is to experience whole world. So this is the only approach to the emptiness. This is very important point. That is why we practice.
So even though you realize things are one, that is very, you know, very, you know– kindergarten [laughs, laughter] understanding. And then you start how to treat things one by one, each different way, with full care. That is, maybe, I think your practice, you know.’ (from the Suzuki Roshi archive)
‘Anyone who has practiced Zen for a while knows that it takes some time to discover that practice is about “me.” It comes from an individual place and is not some generic thing about meditating, bowing, or walking in a certain way, nor is it working with some generic thing called “ego.” This is also true of working with the precepts.
“But I thought Zen was about letting go of ‘me,” you might say. This is true, but we can’t let go of something until we know what it is we are hanging on to. Once we know what we’re hanging on to and are able to thoroughly welcome it- in fact, be it – it will let go of us instead of the other way around.’ (Opening to Oneness)
This was the book recommended to me when I stopped at the Zen Center bookstore the other day. As it happens, my student group was talking about studying the precepts, so I could not resist picking up a new book on the subject, especially one that promises to lean into Dogen a lot.
‘In our time, many respond to the specter of complexity, relativity, and change by recoiling against the threat of “relativism.” This word and the morass of intellectual dangers that it signifies tend to evoke fear and other unhelpful reactions rather than thoughtfulness. When that happens, the two extreme positions mentioned above- blind assertions of dogmatic certainty and hopeless confessions of arbitrary relativism are common outcomes. Neither response is functional, however. Wisdom demands a more thoughtful conclusion, one that appropriates whatever elements of insight may have motivated both positions, while moving through and beyond them.
The partial truth that lends credence to the reaction of “arbitrary relativism” is that human beings are indeed finite, not unlimited in mental powers, and we do live in the midst of an always changing reality that is shifting in accordance with the complex of relations within it. Our concepts are therefore always articulated from particular points of view and always insufficient to a comprehensive and definitive grasp of what they seek to understand. But to conclude from these realizations that our concepts and decisions are therefore arbitrary is an enormously mistaken response to the issue, one that interprets the “relations” in which we stand as insurmountable barriers to understanding rather than as the very connections that make understanding possible. The dangers presented by that naive view lead some people to embrace the opposite view since, without thinking carefully, they see it as the only other option. But assertions of dogmatic certainty do not fare any better. They are equally immature attempts to avoid facing the issue directly. Merely asserting that the understanding currently most persuasive to my mind or the perspectives afforded by my culture are absolute and unconditional does not make it so, and such assertions fly in the face of substantial evidence to the contrary.’ (The Six Perfections)
I am sure I have said this before, but it is hard to open this book anywhere and not encounter strong thinking like this.
‘Now let us attend to the verse Nagarjuna uttered. It says “Body manifesting a round moon shape, Expressing thereby the body of the Buddhas.” Because the manifesting body is, as such, expressing thereby all Buddha-bodies, it is the shape of the round moon. Hence, all sizes – longs and shorts – and all forms – round and square – are to be studied in his manifesting body. To be unaware of [the nondualistic relation of] body and manifesting is not only to be ignorant of the shape of the round moon; it is not the body of Buddhas either. The ignorant think, “He is temporarily manifesting a Transformation body – that is what is meant by a round moon shape.” But that is an illusory notion, held by those who have not received authentic transmission of the Buddha Way. Where, and when, could you manifest another body not your own?
You should know without any doubt that at that very time Nagarjuna was just sitting there on the high seat. The form in which he manifested his body was no different from the form of any one of us sitting here right now. Right now our own bodies are manifesting a round moon shape. The “manifesting body” is not square or round, is not existing or nonexisting, is not revealed or concealed, is not a compound of 84,000 skandhas – it is just a body manifesting itself. As for the round moon shape, “Where do you think you are, speaking of the fineness or roughness of the moon?”
Since self and ego are from the first excluded from this manifested body, the manifesting body is not Nagarjuna; it is the body of all Buddhas. Since it is expressing thereby, it breaks through beyond all Buddha-bodies. Because of that, it is completely free of Buddhahood. Although clearly and distinctly embodying the form of the full moon/Buddha-nature, it is not a round moon shape set out on display. Much less is there any sight or sound in the preaching it expounds. The manifesting body is not form or mind. It is not a skandha, base, or field.’ (Shobogenzo Bussho)
It was lovely to get back to the Dogen study group this week, and come face-to-face with this. There is a lot in here, but my sense of what he is saying here is that the present moment manifestation explodes any sense of trying to contain it or name it. The question, “Where do you think you are…” was, according to the scholarly notes we refer to, a common expression in Chinese culture in the golden age of Zen. A thousand years later, it is still just as true – can you keep the self and ego out of the way here?
‘Even if you get better at having your time be protected, that doesn’t answer the question of what you want to use your time for and what your values are. There’s also this irony where, in situations in the past, I felt like I needed to protect my time more so that I could do things that I wanted, and it obscured the fact that what I wanted was a sense of connection and meaning, and in order to get that I would have to do something that looked like giving my time away. Since you mentioned kids: A couple of weeks ago, I was hanging out with a friend who has a 3-year-old, and it took us half an hour to walk two blocks. There is a way in which, as you were saying, you could view that experience as potentially boring, but you could also see that the reason we were walking slowly is that kids are looking at stuff in a weird way! It’s a way I appreciate trying to imagine. For time spent like that, the whole question of “What are you getting out of this?” would be absurd…
For me, there’s the question of why you do anything. That can lead into difficult territory like, What do you want your life to be? Ideally your answers to that question are what guide your decisions about how to spend your time. You would hope that you are spending less time on things that you don’t want to be doing so you can do things that you’ve decided are meaningful to you, and I think that there’s something about that culture of making everything more efficient that risks avoiding that question of why. A life of total efficiency and convenience? Well, why? What is left if you were to make everything superconvenient? It is helpful to make certain things more efficient, but that can tip over into becoming its own end, which moves the focus away from that larger question of why.’ (from the New York Times)
Several comments to this article pointed out the privileged nature of even being able to pose these kinds of questions, but I think there is great value in not losing ight of why we do anything in life. After leaving Zen Center I have been pretty explicitly allowing myself more time, even though it means I have less money.
‘These vows are not something we promise just when we’re sitting in the zendo or after we choose to be ordained. Maintaining them in our daily interactions in society is the most important thing we can do with our lives.
The Buddha lived humbly, not caught on fashion, wearing rags and eating sparingly, giving anything extra to others in need. Only a small handful can live an ordained life, but whether we’re ordained or not, we can vow to live humbly for all people. This is our true way of living our repentance.’ (Not One Single Thing)