Friday, January 25, 2013

Lighting the Way

Sections 32-33 #13

Hello Folks,  The Platform Sutra is broken into 3 parts and we are nearing the end (sections 1-37) of part 1. Maybe one of the Palouse regulars could read into part 2 (Sections 38-48) and you folks can decide if we should continue on or take a short pause and pick up another text. I look forward to your direction. I am happy to wade into Sections 38-48 but I am just as happy to pick up another text.

The true body never leaves this present moment or place because it is each and every thing. Approximately 10 years ago, the Seattle community hosted the Diamond Sangha Teacher Circle meeting. In the early years of that group's meetings, Aitken Roshi always attended. As he aged, however, his attendance was less and less frequent. By the time we met in Seattle I was sure he would not come but I, of course,  extended a great welcoming to him. He said through the mail, "I will be there, but you won't see me." His reply was a lovely and shortened echo of Tung-shan's waking up poem which goes like this, " Earnestly avoid seeking without,/ Lest it recede far from you./ Today I am walking alone,/ Yet everywhere I met him./ He is now no other than myself,/ But I am not now him./ It must be understood in this way/ In order to merge with Suchness." Yet everywhere I meet it or her or him...I will be there but you won't see me...those who obtain my dharma (in the future, past or present) will find that my true body never leaves their presence. What a sweet echo from our dear ancestors.
 Although this realization is all-important and wonderful, it isn't enough. We then need to pass it on. Yet Hui-neng warns that we should be careful in this exchange. We should only share it with others who make great vows. I do not think that limits this transmission to folks who only do 'our' great vows but it is open to anyone who has the great desire or yearning to know more deeply themselves and those around them. It is for those who want to live intimately and in ever deepening relationship with self, with other, with the world. There are a couple ways to think of this passing-on. Some cast seeds far and wide and assume the seeds that land in good conditions will grow and those that land in thin, weak soil will blow away in the first winter wind. Their life is to cast and scatter seeds, and the growing is left to conditions and circumstances. Others are much more deliberate in sowing and it sounds as though Hui-neng might be of that camp. What is important is that you do as your character allows. You do not do it one way or the other because someone else does it a certain way. In the Lotus Sutra, some buddhas had thousands of students, some hundreds, some tens and some one or two. The important thing is that you are dedicated to this waking-up path which includes sharing your gifts freely and openly. Remember the 10 oxherding pictures are holographic where each contains the others. We are, all of us, walking into the market place with gift bestowing hands. That is our attitude and intention, always. Of course, this does not mean we proselytize but we do carry our lighted candle with us at all times and when the conditions are right other candles are naturally lighted.

During the Winter Bones sesshin, we had a lovely midnight ceremony with candles and no other lighting to remember the Buddha's enlightenment under a tree thousands of miles and years away. There were @ 20 of us in attendance and 21 lighted candles.  We recited the 16 Bodhisattva Precepts as part of the ceremony, and after each individual read one of the precepts out loud, s/he blew out her candle. The last few folks said some words related to the precepts and on finishing, blew out their respective candles. We sat for some time with only one lighted candle, the cold wind, the bone white moon, and the black night & with each other silhouetted in fits of darkness... and then with the accelerando of 2 different bells interspersed with the han, each person came to the altar to light his or her candle. We went from the thickness of dark into a room of brilliant candle light; each taken from only one candle...the candle the buddha lit under the tree so many nights ago.

When speaking of dokusan, Aitken Roshi would sometimes say the exchange in the room was a chance for sparks to fly...and who only takes one spark to light your dharma candle so please come, whether you have something to say or not. The saying is not important, the showing up and sitting knee-to-knee, candle-to-candle is where the real action occurs. And dokusan does not only happen in the dokusan room and it does not only happen between teacher and student although that is essential in our practice. It, too, occurs when you are sitting on the train, when you greet your neighbor or when you go to the store for milk. With practice, your candle is always present and available and any (& all) encounter can light it thus making the world a little brighter. This lightens the Way for all of us...& what a blessing. THANK YOU for your straightforward (honest, direct, sincere) practice.



  1. As this revealing unfolds there is a natural exclamation. How wonderful is this Way! Such exclamations are a sowing of seeds, but there is the trepidation that wrong views still abide in ones understanding. Yet, even the dirt must be aired out before the wind can blow it away. In the end, who knows what is dirt and what is the germ that makes the seed grow into life!

  2. I wonder that any of my intended 'crops' ever take root, much less result in a harvest. Whether broadcast sown or deliberately planted in carefully prepared rows, outcomes may not be what was planned or hoped for at planting time. How many of these sown seeds originate in ego negotiation? Perhaps that is why they don't find their way to fertile soil, instead getting washed away in the rain. Or sprout and then die as seedlings for lack of attention, as focus shifts to the next item on the agenda.


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