rivers into islands

rivers into islands

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Radiance: Glow Of Unknowing

PARAPHRASING DOGEN: Zen practice: To study the self=To forget the self=To be actualized by/inhabit the ten thousand things=To drop away body and mind

But Dogen’s last point:
            (5) No trace of realization remains, and this no-trace continues endlessly.
Dogen, “Genjo Koan,” Section 5, [translation from Moon In A Dewdrop]

A heretofore unseen, certain light of awakening inhabits all, A tarnish, an inescapable mistake if you will allow, a “dharma-sticking blindness.”

And yet, perhaps maturation to a transcending blindness:

Ignorance and awakening as undistanced—a persistent glow of unknowing

Reaching this point, when you observe closely, even if you use a thousand eyes you do not find a particle of anything that can be called skin, flesh, bones or marrow; there is nothing to divide into mind, cognition, and consciousness…. Therefore it has been said, “When you see, there is not a single thing.”
            Keizan, Transmission Of Light

The mountains, rivers, earth, grasses, trees, and forests, are always emanating a subtle, precious light, day and night, always emanating a subtle, precious sound, demonstrating and expounding to all people the unsurpassed ultimate truth.
            It is just because you miss it right where you are, or avoid it even as you face it, that you are unable to attain actual use of it.
Yuansou, from “Expedients and Reality,” in Thomas Cleary, Zen Essence

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Koan & No-Koan

EVERY THOUGHT AND SENSORY experience is a koan [J.]/kong-an [K.]/gongan or kung-an [C.]/cong-an [V.]. 

In Zen practice, koans-as-every-experience becomes a more formal, intentional method to confront the experience of separation. 

They often reference commonplace phenomena such as a finger or a hand, a turd, flax, a flower, a stick, a tree, a dog, or a bowl.  And despite the familiarity of such phenomena, the solution to the statement that contains the term such as flower is trans-logical. 

Koans challenge the popular sense of a separable landscape of objects and events and oneself in relationship to each other as reality.  While these dimensions are expressions of authentic reality, our experience tends to be conceptions of reality. Koans are useful because they produce a sense of doubt that we have true a grasp on reality. 

Koans are found in all Zen practice, including Soto Zen Buddhism that tends to downplay their use.  Generally referenced as the founder of Soto Zen (although not himself making that claim or association), Dogen’s writings such as his collection of essays entitled Shobogenzo contain intense koans [e.g., “Time-Being (Uji),” “Painting of a Rice-cake (Gabyo),” “Mountains and Waters Sutra (Sansui-kyo)”], as well as repeatedly reference Chinese gongan from his training experiences in China.

Descriptions of awakening experiences—often short verse—can be koans.  Koans can focus on specific issues such as absolute reality or causality, and offer insight and refinement.  There is a longstanding history of passing through layers of checking gates that attend, for example, to the relationship of awakening to phenomena [e.g., Kikan, J.] or clinging to awakening [e.g., Hachi Nanto, J.]  There is a stench of mentality and regulation to this checking or staging of realization.  Ultimately, Zen awakening is totally personal, not verbal, and finally, not Buddhism or Zen at all.

No-Koan: Considering the awakening of Hui-neng and others in Zen Buddhism as well as awakening experiences that occur outside Zen practice, a phrase from a Buddhist sutra (for Hui-neng, as well as for others such as Pojo Chinul [K.]) or the cracking sound of a pebble, the turn of a head might offer that which Thomas Cleary, in No Barrier (p.xi), terms the “Border Pass” through the wide open Gateless Gate, awakening to “true nature” or “true home.” 

And likely the most crucial koan/no-koan might be the first one in that which was to become Buddhism—the mythical account of Siddhartha awakening when viewing the morning star.  What did Siddhartha see?  The nature of reality is either seen or not.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

No Beard

IN THE 5TH OR 6TH CENTURY, Buddhist monk Bodhidharma traveled from India to China and initiated the meditative sect that evolved into the Ch’an sect of Buddhism. 

Bodhidharma is pictured with a beard. 

Why then would Ch’an master Huo-an Shih-t’i ask, Why does Bodhidharma have no beard?

Lance Kinseth, Why Does Bodhidharma Have No Beard, 1995

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Direct Experience

If a cup of tea is offered, its flavor can be described. Tea can be hot or tepid or cool, but the truth of the flavor and temperature is in the sip.

The temperature and flavor will be different for everyone.  Commentaries cannot offer this experience no matter how well intentioned.

The original waking experience of Siddhartha seeing something, perhaps as mythologized in the morning star, is like tasting tea.

That which Siddhartha sees cannot be taught or transmitted.  It cannot finally be categorized as Zen.  It is an inherent human experience of the nature of self.  And all must be passed through and dropped to get the taste.

We are free, every one of us. We are born free, and the bondage, restrictions,
 and limits that we find in our life are self-created.  The edges we perceive
 have been placed there by the way we use our minds.  There are fundamentally no edges, no boundaries. But this practice has nothing to do with believing.  We don’t have Zen believers.  It also has nothing to do with understanding.  Understanding implies a separation between the knower and the thing that the knower knows.  It has to do with direct and intimate experience itself.  Your experience.  Not Shakyamuni Buddha’s, not mine—yours.  Only you can make yourself free.  No one can do it for you.  The only one with the power to do it is you yourself.  “Only a Buddha can realize Buddha”—and it is nowhere to be found other than on top of the seat that you’re sitting on. 

John Diado Loori,  Mountain Record Of Zen Talks

Monday, February 2, 2015

Stepping Through A Doorway

Luminous sparrow oak stone grass cloud moon
Leaps up, smiles
A billion years a second