I watch over
the spring night –
but no amount of guarding
is enough to make it stay.
I watch over
the spring night –
but no amount of guarding
is enough to make it stay.
‘Desire – grasping, clinging, greed, attachment – is a state of mind that defines what we think we need in order to be happy. We project all of our hopes and dreams of fulfillment onto some object of our attention. This may be a certain activity or outcome, a particular thing or person. Deluded by our temporary enchantment, we view the world with tunnel vision. That object, and that alone, will make us happy. Who has not been greatly infatuated with some idea or some person, only to look again two months later, six months later, a year later, and think, “What was that all about?” (Lovingkindness)
I would only add that not only do we all do it, but we all do it all the time.
‘The Heart Sutra tells us that form is emptiness and emptiness is form; if that’s true, then our practice is to try to recognize the integration of form and emptiness, and to let ourselves sit in the utter discomfort of that. From this discomfort emerges a greater capacity to hold space for contradictions. Ultimately, we are not these identities, which is awesome. But relatively, we are, and that’s awesome too! Privileging one over the other is not the practice here. The practice is to bridge the relative truth of I am with the ultimate truth of I am not, to hold them together while exploring the tendency to want to bury ourselves in one extreme. This practice can be deeply unsettling, but if we can hold the ultimate truth together with our relative truth, then space opens up within our identity locations, and we can recognize them without being firmly planted. For example, for me to identify as Black is to first recognize what it has meant to be conditioned as a Black body; at the same time, I see that ultimately I am not Black but still conditioned to perform and to relate to the Black cultural conditioning.’ (Taken from Lion’s Roar website)
In my teaching and studying, I spend a lot of time grappling with the co-existence of form and emptiness, or the harmony of difference and equality. With so much current talk about identity politics, it is great to read a cogent teaching piece on how this looks from a dharma perspective.
I have also been wanting to post a link to this since I read it; I go to the Establishment regularly to learn views that are different to my own, and found this a helpful exercise. I said yes to several questions.
‘Old Yellow Face (Buddha) has said, “When the mind does not vainly grasp past things, does not long for things in the future, and does not dwell on anything in the present, then you realize fully that the three times are all empty and still.” You shouldn’t think about past events, whether good or bad; if you think about them, that obstructs the Path. You shouldn’t consider future events; to consider them is crazy confusion. Present events are right in front of you; whether they’re pleasant or unpleasant, don’t fix your mind on them. If you do fix your mind on them, it will disturb your heart. Just take everything in its time, responding according to circumstances, and you will naturally accord with this principle.’ (Swampland Flowers)
Another fine demonstration of energy saving…
Regarded from one side, an entire range;
From another, a single peak.
Far, near, high, low, all its parts
Different from the others
If the true face of Mount Lu
Cannot be known,
It is because the one looking at it
Is standing in its midst – Su Shih
In a recent roam we passed by the foot of the Sutro Tower, which looks impossibly large when you are so close to it. Not long after, meeting someone for lunch on a sunny day downtown, I wandered for a while with my camera around the constant construction that is going down there; I watched workers hauling barrows and carts at the entrance of the Salesforce tower, which rose high into the blue sky – a reminder that no matter how glossy the building looks when it is finished, it still depends on huge amounts of basic physical labour to reach that state.
At other times, these built landmarks can be seen from all across the city and beyond. When the fog descends on the city, sometimes the Sutro Tower, or even just its three tips, is all that can be seen from the clear slopes of Mount Tam which rise clear of the fog. From the east bay, coming home on BART as the sun sets, it silhouettes the skyline atop the range of hills that frame the city. I have a particular fondness for it; in its somewhat unique shape, it seems to represent the city – not as clearly as the Golden Gate Bridge does, but in other representations I have seen.
The Salesforce Tower, by contrast, and perhaps just because it is new, seems like a terrible mistake. There are many places I have been since it reached its topping-out height where it alone juts up above the skyline. Even in the Zen Center dining room, it is the only thing that peaks above the neighbouring roofs. In the Presidio, from the Legion of Honour, where you can feel at a remove from the busier side of the city, it seems to loom as an unwelcome reminder. Coming home by bike from Mill Valley recently, it was the only thing that rose into view from one scenic spot.
Perhaps age and custom will wither this dislike, though I suspect it is going to end up alongside the unlikable hulk of the Bank of America building rather than the elegant TransAmerica pyramid. Perhaps it is just a visible sign of the priorities of this city these days, which were not the ones that made me feel it would be a lovely place to live, almost two decades ago. Perhaps older residents still feel the same about the Sutro Tower, an alien robotic shape imposed over the natural contours of the city, but I have not anyone who says so.
The Sutro Tower from an adjacent path through the woods.
The Salesforce building from 2nd St.
This is a view I think of often – returning to town on the freeway at sunset.
This was returning from Marcia’s shuso ceremony on Monday. Look for the tallest building.
‘The mind of the Buddhas and the minds of ordinary people are not two different minds. Those who strive earnestly in their practice because they want to attain satori, or to discover their self-mind, are likewise greatly mistaken. Everyone who recites the Heart Sutra knows that “the mind is unborn and undying.” But they haven’t sounded the source of the Unborn. They still have the idea that they can find their way to the unborn mind and attain Buddhahood by using reason and discrimination. As soon as the notion to seek Buddhahood or to attain the Way enters your mind, you’ve gone astray from the Unborn – gone against what is unborn in you. Anyone who tries to become enlightened thereby falls out of the Buddha-mind and into secondary matters. You are Buddhas to begin with. There’s no way for you to become Buddhas now for the first time.’ (The Unborn)
‘Until we can see for ourselves that our own actions of body, speech and mind are creating the pain, we think that someone or something outside ourselves (over which we have no control) has to change in order to put an end to the pain. When we notice that it is our own thoughts that make us want the world to change, so as to accommodate our own desires or aversions, we then have choice.
We can cling to that thought, believe it, feed it, and watch it grow from irritation to rage, or from attraction to thirsting desire. Or, in zazen, we can note the first arising of the thought, remember it can lead to severe pain, and decide to let it go by returning our attention to breath, posture, or physical sensations (which are all occurring in the present moment). In other words, we can see that we do have some control over which thoughts we feed and cling to and which ones we let go.
This is easier said than done. Many of us have some pet thoughts and attitudes, especially about “me” and the world according to “me”, and we are very reluctant to let them go. It is useful when we hear ourselves insisting on our point of view to say to ourselves, as my teacher often did, “Maybe so.” He also said, “You don’t have to invite every thought to sit down and have a cup of tea.”‘ (Seeds for a Boundless Life)