‘To perfect my truthfulness I need to be able to tolerate seeing clearly all of who I am and all of what is happening. I need to not feel ashamed or afraid. If I pay attention calmly and steadily, my mind will be unbiased and its secrets will reveal themselves to me in an honest, gentle way. I will not be distressed. The pleasure I’ll experience by not hiding from myself will inspire me to create the intimacy of non-judgmental gentle honesty with everyone.’ (Pay Attention for Goodness’ Sake)
‘Fear is the primary mechanism sustaining the concept of the “other”, and reinforcing the subsequent loneliness and distance in our lives. Ranging from numbness to terror, fear constricts our hearts and binds us to false and misleading ways of viewing life. The fallacy of separate existence cloaks itself in the beguiling forms of our identifications: “This is who I am,” or “This is all I can ever be.” We identify with a fragment of reality rather than with the whole.’ (Lovingkindness)
I might add that often we are very choosy about the fragment we identify with, and make an effort to push away other parts of our selves that don’t fit that narrative. I have many parts of my self that aren’t especially flattering, but I try to keep them with me rather than push them ‘out’ through shame. I also try to keep with me kind things that wise people have said about me, rather than choosing not to believe them because that would not fit my self-story. And also trying to stay with the slippery realisation that all of these are just fragments of an unknowable and ever-changing whole.
‘It is only due to our concepts that we feel separate from the world. We are isolated by ideas of inadequacy, ideas of danger, ideas of loneliness, and ideas of rejection. While we may indeed face external difficulties, our thoughts can amplify them – or even create them, leading us deeper into delusion. If we do not want to e enslaved by our thoughts, we can choose to transform our minds. In any given moment, do I choose to strengthen the delusion of separation or the truth of connection?’ (Lovingkindness)
Within a circle of one meter
You sit, pray and sing.
Within a shelter ten meters large
You sleep well, rain sounds a lullaby.
Within a field a hundred meters large
Raise rice and goats.
Within a valley a thousand meters large
Gather firewood, water, wild vegetables and Amanitas.
Within a forest ten kilometers large
Play with raccoons, hawks,
Poison snakes and butterflies.
Mountainous country Shinano
A hundred kilometers large
Where someone lives leisurely, they say.
Within a circle ten thousand kilometers large
Go to see the southern coral reef in summer
Or winter drifting ices in the sea of Okhotsk.
Within a circle ten thousand kilometers large
Walking somewhere on the earth.
Within a circle one hundred thousand kilometers large
Swimming in the sea of shooting stars.
Within a circle a million kilometers large
Upon the spaced-out yellow mustard blossoms
The moon in the east, the sun west.
Within a circle ten billion kilometers large
Pop far out of the solar system mandala.
Within a circle ten thousand light years large
The Galaxy full blooming in spring.
Within a circle one billion light years large
Andromeda is melting away into snowing cherry flowers.
Now within a circle ten billion light years large
All thoughts of time, space are burnt away
There again you sit, pray and sing.
You sit, pray and sing.
A Love Letter
‘If there be any who receive and keep, read and recite, rightly remember, practice and copy this Law-Flower Sutra, know that such are attending on Sakyamuni Buddha as if they were hearing this sutra from the Buddha’s mouth; know that they are paying homage to Sakyamuni Buddha; know that the Buddha is praising them – ‘Well done’; know that the heads of such are being caressed by the hands of Sakyamuni Buddha; know that such are covered by the robe of Sakyamuni Buddha. Such as these will not again be eager for worldly pleasure, nor be fond of heretical scriptures and writings, nor ever again take pleasure in intimacy with such men or other evil persons, whether butchers, or herders of pigs, sheep, fowl, and dogs, or hunters, or panderers. But such as these will be right-minded, have correct aims, and be auspicious. Such will not be harassed by the three poisons, not be harassed by envy, pride, haughtiness, and arrogance. Such will be content with few desires, and able to do the works of Universal Virtue.’
The sutra contains a number of passages like this, bestowing merit in advance on those who uphold it in various ways. I am endeavouring not to have ulterior motives by copying it; more to the point, I am still harassed by some of the negative traits that I am assured will not afflict me, and I may even hang out with panderers from time to time. As elsewhere in the sutra, some of the language can be problematic (I chose this one because it was one of the few that did not default to the men-only language that does pervade other parts), but the important take-away is the intimate connection to Buddha and his experience. This is the same connection that Sekito affirms at the beginning of the Sandokai , and that Dogen insists on in the Jijuyu Zanmai: ‘This being so, the zazen of even one person at one moment imperceptibly accords with all things and fully resonates through all time. Thus in the past, future, and present of the limitless universe this zazen carries on the Buddha’s teaching endlessly. Each moment of zazen is equally wholeness of practice, equally wholeness of realization.’ Wonderful benefits, and can we do this without ulterior motives?
‘With my superknowledge, Subhuti, I recall that in the past period, long before Dipankara, the Tathagata, Arhat, fully Enlightened One, during incalculable, quite incalculable aeons, I gave satisfaction by loyal service to 84, 000 million milliards of Buddhas, without ever becoming again estranged from them. But the heap of merit, Subhuti, from the satisfaction I gave to those Buddhas and Lords without again becoming estranged from them – – compared with the heap of merit of those who in the last time, in the last epoch, the last five hundred years, at the time of the collapse of the good doctrine, will take up these Sutras, bear them in mind, recite and study them, and will illuminate them in full detail for others, it does not approach one hundredth part, not one thousandth part, nor a hundred thousandth part, not a ten millionth part, nor a one hundred millionth part, nor a 100,000 millionth part. It does not bear number, nor fraction, nor counting, nor similarity, nor comparison, nor resemblance. If moreover, Subhuti, I were to teach the heap of merit of those sons and daughters of good family, and how great a heap of merit they will at that time beget and acquire, beings would become frantic and confused. Since, however, Subhuti, the Tathagata has taught this discourse on Dharma as unthinkable, so just an unthinkable karma-result should be expected from it.’
This is the Buddha’s take on what Shohaku was talking about yesterday. When I opened the sutra to copy this section, I once again fell into deep appreciation for the flowing language of Dr Edward Conze’s translation, which I was so used to chanting every Friday morning at Zen Center.
‘The Buddha addressed Sariputra: “Such a wonderful Law as this is only preached by the buddha-tathagatas on rare occasions, just as the udumbara flower is seen but once in long periods. Sariputra, believe me, all of you; in the Buddha’s teaching no word is false. Sariputra, the meaning of the laws which the buddhas expound as opportunity serves is difficult to understand. Wherefore? Because I expound the laws by numberless tactful ways and with various reasonings and parabolic expressions. These laws cannot be understood by powers of thought or discrimination; only the buddhas can discern them. Wherefore? Because the buddhas, the world-honored ones, only on account of the one very great cause appear in the world. Sariputra, why do I say that the buddhas, the world-honored ones, only on account of the one very great cause appear in the world? Because the buddhas, the world-honored ones, desire to cause all living beings to open their eyes to the Buddha-knowledge so that they may gain the pure mind, therefore they appear in the world; because they desire to show all living beings the Buddha-knowledge, they appear in the world; because the desire to cause all living beings to apprehend the Buddha-knowledge, they appear in the world; because they desire to cause all living beings to enter the way of the Buddha-knowledge, they appear in the world. Sariputra, this is why it is only on account of the one very great cause that buddhas appear in the world.’
Just as in the previous quote, this is the heart of what the Lotus Sutra is about. A footnote in my edition draws attention to the four different stages of meeting the teachings, which elsewhere I have heard as hearing, reflecting, understanding and manifesting.