Saturday, October 27, 2012

Chasing the Bowl?

Hello Everyone,
The Platform Sutra version of  'the bowl and robe event' is different than the koan story that we take up in the Gateless Barrier. To my ears, the Wu-Men version has an emotional truth that is compelling. Imagine chasing after a thief who has left with something, who has taken something that you hold true and dear. The thing stolen is essential to your life. It gives your life meaning and reason to live. (What is that, I wonder?) He has left under cover of dark with it and as soon as you realize that the next morning, you and your friends spread out and give chase to take it back with force if necessary. Night after night as the stars spin on their axis, from new moon to full and back again, you search and chase. Imagine how dearly you must hold that object which was wrongfully taken. At times, during the chase, you lack food and water and yet you press on. At some point, all the others turn back but you continue. Some days, you lose track of what you follow, but then, almost by mistake, you stumble on a hint of a trail again. It is like sesshin or a longer sitting retreat, isn't it? Sometimes you have a sense of what you are doing and at others you have lost all sight of the ancient path you are following. You, like the head monk, must care deeply about this path you are stumbling meet here, on this cold, wet and dark late October day. And the head monk does this not for a day or week but for 2 months.
       This attentive, single-mindedness is exactly what the Diamond Sutra Buddha was expressing when he said, 'give your full attention to what is right before you.' This is the 4th paramita, Virya. Virya means "the advancement of single minded spiritual vigor". This is adhering to what is right before you. Ming was fully attentive to the chase and you are fully attentive to mu, to Who Hears, to counting numbers. Each time you come back to your practice, each time you come back here, you are developing and strengthening virya. In a sense, virya is not something you do but something you are and become...a person with spiritual vitality. And with that development of virya on the cushion, we can more fully walk into our 'off the cushion' life and be guided and directed. This is how the head Monk was able to stay on track even when he had not a whiff of the trail for days on end. He was held by his intention and purpose. This is why an early morning practice is so very important. It can hold you through the day. Trust your early morning practice to guide you as you walk the day's path of your ever unfolding life. It shall if you will.
        And then, one day, perhaps suddenly, the Head Monk came upon the young layman who had taken off with the robe and the bowl that Bodhidharma gave to Hui-ko who gave it to Seng-t'san and so on to the present head of the temple. This is quite a moment, isn't it? The thing you have been single-mindedly pursuing for 2 months, for your entire life, is right here, in reach. Yet somehow, in all the work, the devotion, the aching, the sleeplessness; the letting mu do mu; something has been stripped away. When looking at the bowl and robe, you know intuitively--you don't want the representation! You want, need, desire, the thing itself.  You don't want a picture of food to fill your belly. You don't want a story about water to quench your own parched throat. You want mu to say mu. You want the sounds to sound you. Shivering and trembling, the monk Ming said to the young man, "I came for the dharma, not for the robe. I beg you lay brother---please open the way for me." Hui-neng said, "Don't think good. Don't think bad."
       At this very moment--what is your original face before your parent's were born?


1 comment :

  1. PZC Discussion, Saturday Oct. 27

    Some notable aspects of this week’s meeting were our discussion of virya, “the advancement of single-minded vigor,” and how this is exemplified in life: we constantly return to practice, even off the cushion. This lead someone to recall the “dust is mirror/mirror is dust,” and we followed some twists of this saying through our minds. Are our daily jobs the dust, practice the mirror? We talked about suffering as arising from what ever interferes from practicing the dharma. As usual, we pulled from all available texts to weave the discussion – the sutra, the commentary, and Jack’s epistle – includes those texts we’ve woven into our own minds and hearts. We read from the three poems in the sutra; we shared our experience of reading the text, and discussed the difference between the “legend” of Hui Neng it portrays, and the “truth” of the biological human being (if there is any difference). In particular we were drawn to the anecdote about writing the gatha on the wall, and how “writing” (for the illiterate Hui Neng) becomes a way to see his mind/nature. We discussed his dilemma – should he show his mind, and risk being perceived as desiring power, of trying to show off his knowledge? This may encourage us to examine our own intentions, and we related this to our own discussions as a group – the different levels of comfort we feel with sharing, drawing attention to ourselves: is it selfish? Or can we make room for the necessity of ourselves/others to speak his or her or our thoughts, so to see and know our own mind and nature?


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