Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Ringing of Bells

Hello All, The pictures below are from Kosho-ji, a small temple outside the beautiful tea town of Uji. It is a 40 minute train ride from downtown Kyoto. When Dogen returned from China he settled in a temple in Kyoto but was soon forced to leave because of his heretical teachings...sitting-only & koan. Because he was from an influential and rich family, he was able to settle south of Uji in a lovely, relatively flat site enfolded by three hills. Eileen and I were stumbling around Uji when we came upon this temple entranceway. We had just taken a long walk up one side of the river, crossed a suspension bridge and were heading back to the town proper with our eyes pealed for the kanji which would signal our arrival at Kosho-ji. We soon found the kanji we were looking for and came upon this entranceway. 

Dogen settled in the embrace of the hills and soon established a practice center as monks began to seek him out. He wrote some of his seminal pieces at Kosho-ji but again was forced by other sects to go further into the mountains where he then founded Eihei-ji. Kosho-ji has 8 monks in training and an abbot but since our Japanese was rudimentary at best and their English non-exsistent, I cannot tell you too much more about the temple's current state. We arrived in the middle of the day and a few young monks were weeding the moss and sand leading to the bell tower and we could hear rumblings of laughter coming from the kitchen area. One of the monks signaled us to some tea and invited us to wander about and enjoy his home temple. It felt invigorating to wander about the grounds and buildings where Dogen wrote the early Fukanzazen-gi and some of the Shobogenzo.

We sometimes think Dogen wrote concisely, clearly and deeply without any drafts. We imagine that he came back from China enlightened and each thing he wrote was the complete and final presentation of his experience and practice. We say, "Dogen wrote the Fukanzazen-gi at this temple."  Yet, if you read Carl Bielefeldt's lucid and well researched book, 'Dogen's Manuals of Zen Meditation', it is clear that Dogen continually updated his writing making each edition sharper, clearer and more personal to his own life and experience. The earliest Fukanzazen-gi read like a how-to manual but by the third writing, we have what we read from our sutra book...a piece pierced with poetry, images and statements that come from the depths of insight and mature expression. 

 In a sense, maybe we can say, he continued to carry his mirror with him through his long 100 years of practice continually wiping it clear and looking more and more deeply at what was right before him. Although he had a great falling away of body and mind, breaking the mirror into thousands of pieces, still he carried it with him deepening and clarifying his (in)sight. It is important to carry that mirror for hundreds of years if necessary for it guides and leads us from this place right here, now to this place right here, now...again and again. Of course, at some point we break it for good, but as I just said, we then pick it up again (what is it we pick up?) and let it guide and lead us just as MU guides and leads if we just let go into it again and again without end.

However, it is important to not use the mirror to make us special or different or separate. It can be used as something...'I have a spiritual practice'; I do Zen' keep us aloof and distant. It can then be used to absolve lousy behavior and conduct rather than as something to aid us in forgetting ourselves continually. (This is an aside from a newspaper article I recently read: "Wen-Bin Chiou, a psychologist at National Sun Yat-sen University in Taiwan, has shown in a series of experiments a phenomenon called the licensing effect. As part or a battery of tests, subjects were asked to take a pill; half were told the pill was a multivitamin, while the other half were told it was a placebo. In truth, they were all placebos. In subsequent tests, the subjects who thought they'd taken the multivitamin consistently behaved in less healthy ways. When asked to try out a pedometer, they were more likely to choose a shorter walking route; at lunch, they chose less healthy food. In follow-up studies, Chiou has also discovered that smokers who think they've been given a vitamin smoke more, and people who are given a weight-loss supplement are less likely to stick to their diet..."). 

At some point, the mirror shatters, is broken and swept away. We then hear the bell ringing, the wind ringing, the rain ringing and even the silence ringing. It is, each thing, ringing , whether sentient or insentient, born or not yet born, near or far away. Some say the han cracks at the end of the evening sit, the fish head echos and the cloud bell twangs, but, in fact, each rings. Listen closely next time...through the ringing of your own body, through your breath, through Mu. Our standing is ringing. Our sitting, walking and laying down are ringing. And so we continue to practice lifetime after lifetime deepening and clarifying this great matter which is always looking out of our eye sockets. I am sure Gayasata, Dogen, Keizan and Aitken are sitting in the Tusita Heaven immensely enjoying themselves and their zazen and the ring-ring-ring as they continue to re-write their teisho. Why would we do any less? This practice is never finished, never complete...and that is a fact of great encouragement!
Please enjoy it & and I hope you enjoy the pictures of Kosho-ji.


1 comment :

  1. Palouse Zen Community Discussion Group: Gayashata (pp.107-112).

    Thorns in this particular lesson in non-dualism: mind is ringing; not not the wind. What to make of Sanghanandi “never saw any bells or perceived wind”(110)? And later, “the mountains are formless, the ocean is formless, and not a single thing exhibits a form”(111)? What to make of this? Just accept it, or press through? Bang your heads on what you “know”? How about this one: “even though there are eyes, there is no seeing, even though there are ears, there is no hearing… the six senses… are all silent”(111). Here’s one way to think around the dualism: “The luxuriant flourishing of grass and trees, and the clarity of your eyes are all forms of the Mind’s ringing”(110). The mirror (we are avoiding the mirror); Lacan’s mirror stage and his emphasis on language in structuring the self vs. it is difficult to use language to express an experience that is outside of language. Why did he have the mirror (like a halo)? Ghost mirror that followed him. Why did he let it go, or it disappeared? What does mirror represent – his identify that he had to shed? What follows us around like that? Our sense of reality, of who we are; our seeing reflections and not things. Is this part of the silencing of the six senses? “The great round mirror of the Buddhas / has no blemishes” (108). “In the bright mirror he saw things concerning the Buddhas of the past and present” (109). & he abandoned the mirror, he lost the mirror, and the mirror disappeared. Maybe he abandoned the mirror because it presents a dualistic view (“what all eyes see”). The slippery, continually-shifting surface of this text that causes us to come to, and than complicate, an understanding. We all sit with the mirror. Take a look at how we know things. List of questions in the Teisho (109). The supposedly perfect mirror – even the Master didn’t understand. We all sit with the mirror, and then our minds do different things, and we end up discussing the many twisty aspects of Halloween.


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