Strip off the blinders, unload the saddlebags!
- Hsueh-Tou Ch’ung-Hsien
Unscrew the locks from the doors!
Unscrew the doors themselves from their jambs!
- Walt Whitman
Nyogen Senzaki…..recorded his last words before he died in March 1958.
Friends in Dhamma, be satisfied with your own heads. Do not put any false heads above your own. Then minute after minute, watch your steps closely. Always keep your head cold and your feet warm. These are my last words to you.
“Every act is a rite,” Thich Nhat Hanh had said……. “When you sweep the garden, you are sweeping your own mind,” the [Soen] roshi said to me…
….lines from Tennyson
Our little systems have their day;
They have their day and cease to be,
They are but broken lights of thee,
And thou, O Lord, are more than they.
Thich Nhat Hanh has said that you are like a TV. If you want a peaceful channel, you can turn to a peaceful channel. If you want some other kind of channel, you can turn to that.
We can enjoy the world without exploiting it, and we need not isolate ourselves. I am fond of the line from the Ts’ai-ken-t’an: “Water which is too pure has no fish.”
Tao-hsin made his bows before Seng-ts’an and said, “I beg the compassion of Your Reverence. Please teach me the Dharma way of emancipation.”
Seng-ts’an said, “Who is binding you?”
Tao-hsin said, “No one is binding me.”
Seng-ts’an said, “Then why should you search for emancipation?” Hearing this, Tao-hsin had great realization.
Hui-neng says that with an enlightened thought, you compensate for a thousand years of evil and destruction.
….a key passage in the “Genjo Koan,” the essay that Dogen placed at the head of his great collection of talks and essays, the Shobogenzo…..
To study the Way is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be enlightened by all things of the universe. To be enlightened by all things of the universe is to cast off the body and mind of the self as well as those of others. Even the traces of enlightenment are wiped out, and life with traceless enlightenment is continued forever and ever.
The Buddha Shakyamuni taught this apparently complex yet actually very simple complementarity more than 2,500 years ago. With the passage of his teaching through many cultures and languages, the original manner and expression of his Way have evolved significantly in a variety of directions. Yet the archetypal message is the same: “Human beings tend to be miserable because they are preoccupied with themselves. When they are free of their self-centeredness they can find happiness.”
The little horse ambles clop-clop
across the summer moor -
I find myself in a picture.
Basho’s disciple Sampu painted a picture of Basho nodding along on his little horse, completely absorbed – subjective and objective fallen away, the inside world enlarged to fill the summer moor; the summer moor filling the inside world.
Something has to give. Either koan study must go, or the path of reason. Thus, early on, the student who elects to pursue the path of Zen Buddhism gives up history and philosophy as basic tools and takes up the way of poetry. The way of poetry is the way of staring at the word or words with only the question “What is it?” occupying the mind. The point either emerges or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, one’s only recourse is to go on staring.
There are many such stories of death used as an upaya, a skillful means of turning the Dharma wheel. Death poems were upaya. Here is Hung-chih’s composition:
Illusory dreams, phantom flowers -
A white bird vanishes in the mist,
autumn waters merge with the sky
Bassui advises a dying man:
If you think of nothing, wish for nothing, want to understand nothing, cling to nothing, and only ask yourself, “What is the true substance of the Mind of this one who is now suffering?” Ending your days like clouds fading in the sky, you will eventually be freed from your painful bondage to endless change.
….Philip Larkin’s despair in his poem “Aubade””
I work all day, and get half-drunk at night,
Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.
In time the curtain-edges will grow light.
Till then I see what’s really always there:
Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,
Making all thought impossible but how
And where and when I shall myself die.
And interrogation: yet the dread
Of dying, and being dead,
Flashes afresh to hold and horrify.
….Bokkei’s presentation with the famous haiku by Issa, on the death of his baby daughter:
The dewdrop world
is the dewdrop world
and yet – and yet.
“It is true that this world is transitory,” Issa is saying. “All beings are ephemeral. I know this, but when I am faced with the death of my baby girl, I look desperately for something to give me hope and comfort.”
It is Geist
that is missing, Landauer says – communal spirit, the volkseele
, or folk soul, the larger self of people in a particular region, culture, or nation. It dwells in the hearts of individuals who give themselves over to the unfolding of this spirit as they work together in communal units that interpenetrate to form a “society of societies”. Geist
can be compared with Plato’s philia
, the friendship of high-minded individuals who are drawn together by their affinity for noble conduct and their rejection of self-centered materialism.
As the acquisitive system burgeons, its collapse is foreshadowed by epidemics, famine, war, and the despoliation of the earth and its forests, waters, and air.
I envision a growing crisis across the world as managers and their multinational systems continue to deplete finite human and natural resources. Great corporations, underwritten by equally great financial institutions, flush away the human habitat and the habitat of thousands of other species far more ruthlessly and on a far greater scale than the gold miners who once hosed down mountains in California.
When we devote ourselves to the Buddha Way, we practice loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity in the market and in our households ….. We internalize these ideals and extend tender care, as Torei Zenji advises us, to beasts and birds – and indeed to plants, pancakes, orange juice, and undershirt. The haiku poet Issa wrote:
Don’t kill it!
The fly wrings its hands;
It wrings its feet