Living In Vow

On Monday I will be giving the first of four dharma talks in San Rafael. I had in mind to speak about the four Bodhisattva Vows. I don’t imagine I will be able to exactly cover one vow per talk, though that was part of my initial thinking; I am guessing (not having put pen to paper yet, but having been turning ideas over in my head for a couple of months), that the first talk will mostly be about the vows, why we take them, and how to deal with the impossibility of them.

One of the first things that came to mind was Katagiri Roshi’s poem, A Peaceful Life, which I posted a couple of years ago – and again find no reason not to bring it back to the front page.

Being told that is impossible
One believes, in despair, “Is that so?”
Being told it is possible,
One believes, in excitement, “That’s right.”
But, whichever is chosen,
It does not fit one’s heart neatly.
Being asked, What is unfitting?”
I don’t know what it is.
But my heart knows somehow.
I feel an irresistible desire to know.
What a mystery “human” is.
As to this mystery:
Clarifying,
Knowing how to live,
Knowing how to walk with people,
Demonstrating and teaching,
This is the Buddha.
From my human eyes,
I feel it’s really impossible to become a Buddha.
But this “I,” regarding what the Buddha does,
Vows to practice,
To aspire,
To be resolute,
And tells myself, “Yes I will.”
Just practice right here now,
And achieve continuity,
Endlessly, forever.
This is living in vow.
Herein is one’s peaceful life found.

Assuming that most of my readers are not in striking distance of San Rafael, I will try to put a recording up soon after the event.

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Katagiri Roshi

‘Whatever you do, wherever you may be, you are doing it in the Buddha’s world. Buddha’s world means the universe. The universe is nothing but the total manifestation of the truth by which all sentient beings are supported, upheld, naturally, if we open our hearts. If we don’t open our hearts, it’s a little bit difficult. Difficult means it takes a long time’ (Returning to Silence)

Katagiri Roshi

“We can see the functioning of the universe in all our activities – walking, standing, sitting and sleeping – not just in zazen. When you act wholeheartedly, your activity becomes very clear, calm, flexible and magnanimous. It is boundless, and simultaneously it is you. So studying the boundlessness of activity is studying the self. This is called intimacy.
How can you know the meaning of intimacy? You cannot see it objectively because intimacy is not the result of activity; intimacy blooms right in the midst of activity itself. If you try to understand intimacy intellectually, as a concept, you never know real intimacy. Delusion and enlightenment are also concepts, but the perfect supreme state of enlightenment is completely beyond concepts. You are already enlightened, but you can never conceptually know what enlightenment is because when you think of it you create a gap between yourself and enlightenment” (Each Moment is the Universe)

Byakuren Judith Ragir

‘What needs to be renounced as we enter a spiritual path? In the West, Buddhist practice is often an odd combination of monastic visits and householder lives. When I was ordained, I was already married and had two children. I did not leave my family, but I learned to practice with my story-filled life by transforming the basis of operation in my mind. I have had to work with my egocentricity; my attachments and clinging; and my greed, anger, and delusion right in the middle of the mess of household life and an urban zendo. After forty years of practice, I am still practicing home-leaving within the confines of a home, as Yasodhara did. I take heart from a the story of a Tibetan teacher’s mother who got enlightened, as she tells it, by “practicing in the gaps” of her everyday life. Or as my root teacher, Katagiri Roshi, would encourage us by saying, “In every moment, merge subject and object into the very activity that is arising.”‘ (The Hidden Lamp)

When I lived at Tassajara, there would almost always be some women there who had waited until their children were grown before committing themselves to intensive monastic training. As Byakuren points out, the conditions of life at home are also deep opportunities for practice: the personal issues that arise at home are no different from those that arise at the monastery, it’s just that when you live at the monastery, there is usually more time to reflect and absorb what is going on.

 

 

 

Katagiri Roshi

‘A diver jumping off the cliff, a mountain climber, an artist, a poet, or a musician creates a beautiful form that manifests the maturity of his or her life. But spiritual life doesn’t have that same sense of performance. So creativity in religion cannot manifest in the same way. Of course you do manifest maturity because, as Dogen says, ‘you cannot avoid detachment from the zazen posture’. But then, next you must be free from that manifestation. In Japanese we say gedatsu, meaning emancipation, or freedom. Moment after moment you must be free from the beautiful form you created, because the moment in which the form existed has already gone, and the next moment is coming up. Life becomes mature, constantly. You cannot stop it, not even for a moment, so you have to keep going. You must keep practicing to create this beauty again and again. This is spiritual creativity.
So, what is this zazen practice that we do? It’s not doing zazen. If you believe it’s doing zazen, then practice is just a task, and that task becomes a really big burden for you. That is not a true understanding of practice. Buddhist practice is to constantly create beauty. Beauty is the functioning of wisdom. That’s why Dogen Zenji says that you have to abandon the usual understanding of the form of zazen and touch the heart of zazen. Otherwise you cannot maintain this kind of practice. That’s why I have to explain it and why you have to understand very deeply what practice means. Then, if you understand even slightly, you should keep going. That makes your life mature.’ (Each Moment is the Universe)

Katagiri Roshi

‘Try to realize that you have already set yourself out in the vastness of the Buddha’s world because you exist as a human being, So all you can do now is make every possible effort to live in Buddha’s world with a way-seeking mind. Usually we don’t want to do this. If we step outside the familiar patterns of our lives we are scared. But we have to do it sometimes, so we should do it positively. This is very important for us. If we do it positively, we realize how great our capability is. That doesn’t mean to become strong by expressing our ego. Expressing the ego seems to make us strong, but it is the complete opposite. In Zen monasteries the ego is always being hit on the head, like pouring water over a burning fire. Immediately pffft! Nothing is left. It’s pretty hard, but this is the way to become strong.’ (Each Moment is the Universe)

I had this paragraph written out in my notes, and wondered if I had already posted it, but a search for ‘pffft!’ brought up nothing. I seem to recall using it in a dharma talk, and reading it again now, it seems to point to the same process that Pema Chödrön is talking about.