Friday, November 16, 2012

Dark Paths of Light

(sections 12-13)

Hello All,

 It isn't a coincidence that we are looking at this text together. Hundreds of thousands of millions of circumstances had to cohere for us to be sitting around this table sipping tea and coffee and studying. I do not know if we were connected in the past or not but we will, in some ways, remain together from here on. I look forward to walking this ancient path with you. Yet, also keep in mind, we have known each other through time because the original mind is your mind and my mind. It is Hui-neng's mind.

Before embarking on the next stage of the text, Hui-neng reminds us to purify our minds again so that we can listen and hear what is being presented without any prior ideas, constructs and perceptions. This is a similar manner to how the Diamond Sutra Buddha presented his words to the assembly of monks sitting near him in the very early going of that sutra. He brought his mind to what was right before him and then asked those present to listen deeply and carefully consider his words. This is a wonderful way for us to practice now...& in each new situation we find ourselves in. Sometimes folks say, 'yes, I know how to practice on the cushion but in my busy, full life I don't have the time'. Actually, we all have the time and means--simply purify your mind (which means take a deep breath and let go of your own perceptions and preferences, let go of your likes and dislikes) and listen, listen and then carefully consider what you have just heard.  You will find that your conversation might slow down some, your thoughts might slow down, you might slow but what are you rushing towards anyway? Your death will meet you at the same time and place no matter how quickly you move. Put your worries and hesitations to the side and come to this place, and come to this moment.

 Hui-neng isn't presenting anything new. He isn't talking about something you have to study and work on. It doesn't come in a book or newspaper. It isn't to be found inside a school or workshop. It is hard to realize, however, when we are scurrying and scampering from one thing to the next like dried leaves falling and blowing in a stiff wind. Stop for a moment. There it is... in the morning's stiff cold. It comes as the sigh of the person sitting across from you. It comes in the winter thrush's rustling along the leafless branch of the plum tree. And it doesn't matter if you are quick or slow, bright or dull, female or there are no excuses. It is simply a matter of purifying your mind, listening and considering carefully what you have just heard (or smelled or saw).

In section 13, I found myself translating 'meditation' as zazen. Meditation has become shorthand for many, many things and quite a few of those things have little to do with zazen. How do we know we are doing zazen? Hakuin Zenji says when we are truly doing zazen we wipe away beginningless crimes and all dark paths are filled with light. This sounds like another definition for 'purifying the heart-mind', doesn't it? Yet, I think Hakuin's wiping has little to do with the precept teacher's wiping each piece of dust moment after moment as it lands and blots the mirror.

My sense, too, is that Hui-neng's 'wisdom' includes or is a synonym for compassion. I think compassion is the feeling side of wisdom, kind-of-like the front and back of the hand...not quite the same, but not different either. I found that reading this section with these alternate translations made it more personal, more specific, more direct. If we think that zazen leads to wisdom-compassion, we are assuming that wisdom-compassion is something that we get or attain rather than what we are. If we are filled with 'attaining' mind, it will be easy to miss what is right before us. When our goal is to reach the mountain top, it is easy to miss the deer and bobcat that cross the trail. It is easy to disregard the sun rising and setting. And it is easy to miss the joy of being alive now, not later. When we practice with 'zazen is  wisdom', often what we find is more apropos to the reality of life and death than what we thought we were searching for or needing. It is important to have an intention &/or aspiration, but we should hold them lightly and be willing, in each moment, to let them a gatha written on the wind.

In this section, I have the sense that Hui-neng is responding to an argument that is occurring among his contemporaries. I found myself not really being interested in that side of things but I did find myself wondering are 1. zazen, wisdom & compassion the three pillars of zen, or are the three pillars 2. buddha, dharma & sangha or are they 3. teisho, dokusan & zazen, or 4. meditation, morality & wisdom or 5. zazen, skillful means & wisdom-compassion?  What do you think are the pillars or the foundations of what we are doing here? What gives us/you stability?

And, wondering a little further afield with Hui-neng's words, can you have zazen without wisdom-compassion? Or can you have wisdom-compassion without zazen?

I look forward to your comments and am interested in hearing about the pillars of zen...
take care

1 comment :

  1. Good morning, I too am now reading and getting value and some clarity from multiple translations. I finally picked up my copy of The flatbed sutra of Louie Wing. It has been illuminating. A fable and story modeled on the Platform Sutra. So far Ted has made Louie a lovable and a character that feels real. I feel a desire to connect with the stream that is Louie.

    When I read here about the 3 pillers of zen, meditation, morality & wisdom, I was floored. This encapsulates zen for me. These are the qualities I uncover by exploring them. The feed off each other in a loop-back system. Time spent with any one of the three exposes the other two. There is more to flush out here, and I look forward to our discussion this morning.


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