Friday, February 8, 2013

Bodies of Merit

Sections 34-35 #14

Hello All, This is our penultimate section on the Platform Sutra. The
Palouse folks are looking at a few other reading possibilities so that we
can continue our 'study' into the later part of the Spring. we'll keep you
all informed as we move forward.

In today's sections, the Magistrate, for the larger community, had some
concerns and he brought those to Hui-neng. I wonder, at this point in the
teisho, what questions you might bring to the front of the room? If
Hui-neng were sitting in the One World Cafe and you had to ask something,
what would you inquire about? I am very aware that his questions are not
at all the ones that I would have brought forward but, as Red Pine said,
there were probably concerns that needed addressing by the publisher and
by 'the lineage' and these questions allowed those items to be brought to
the fore.

Bodhidahrma said, "No merit". Hui-neng said, "Merit concerns the dharma is your own dharma nature that possess merit." My understanding
goes like this...because the dharma body has no eye, ear, nose, tongue,
body, mind; because it is as vast and wide as space; because it has no
walls, no mental formations, no substantiality, no hindrance, no fear and
so on; it has no merit at all. But the dharma body sees through your eyes,
hears with your ears, tastes with your tongue and thinks with your brain.
And you can directly show or express this dharma body (of merit) by being
respectful and kind in all relationships or you can blur its clarity by
expressing your pre-conceived notions and self-centered concerns in each
encounter with this moment.

The body of merit is not suggesting a specific body but is more like a
field or like a body of work that an artist or composer might create over
time. Each time you light a stick of incense and sit a round of zazen you
are adding to the body of merit. This body is what encourages and holds us
when our practice is tired, arduous or quite painful. It is your deepest
intuition and intention and it is what guides you when the going is dark,
the surroundings unfamiliar and the taste of fear and dread near. It is,
also, the lovely sliver of red on the just-returning blackbird. It is the
twined necking of a pair of swans. It is the bounding delight of a kitten
encountering snow for the first time.

It is something I feel when I enter the gates of Kairos, Mountain Lamp,
Palolo or any other true place of practice. It also resides quite
obviously in the Queen Charlotte Islands, Canyon de Chelley, the North
Cascades & thousands of other places of beauty and power. It also resides
in and near the precepts, paramitas and the noble truths. Each time we vow
or turn our intention to the precepts, for instance, it is like throwing a
small rock on a cairn or next to a dolmen. The cairn grows. It becomes
broader and higher and can be seen, over time, from farther and farther
away thus attracting others some of whom, too, throw a rock. Some may even
sit down for awhile. Over a long period, maybe, some will set up camp for
the summer and then for the summer and autumn. Animals will be attracted,
and birds, and reptiles and so the power, the field of merit, widens.
Maybe, then, someone will stay and live there and begin to tend the cairn
which is now much more than that. Others might join her and so on. The
field of merit isn't any one individual's. It exists for all of us, it
encourages all of us, and ultimately it resides in (as) all of us, yet in
a way, it isn't anything at all. This is the same process that takes place
with our zazen. Each time we sit down, even for a moment, the body of
merit is activated. We may not feel it but someone or something will. Each
time you come back to your breath or Mu, the field is more deeply
cultivated. This is why practice is so important. It creates an energy
that moves freely through space and time and it enlightens beings and
buddhas...maybe you, maybe me, maybe somebody else.

Hui-neng says just purify your mind and it is right here. You do not have
to recite something, you do not have to change anything, you do not have
to search and dig. Simply return to Mu, or to Who Hears, or to what is
right before you and you will find that you are an expression of the great
body or field. It isn't somewhere else at some other time. Hakuin's words
are familiar to us all--this very body. This very place. Here. Now. Each
thing is filled with light as it is. It is we who have to purify our minds
so that what is obvious can be seen. It is never far away...just with this
breath. Then with this one. Then...



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