Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Face of Everything

Hello All, Today we are looking at, “Face Everything, Let Go, and Attain Stability” but before going into Hongzhi’s practice instruction, I’d like to say a little more about Leighton’s 3rd to last paragraph in the Introduction. He wrote, “Hongzhi’s teaching presages such modern philosophical movements as Deep Ecology, with its sense of identity of self and ecosystem. It is not just that Hongzhi uses the clouds and mountains as metaphors for awakened activity. The clouds actually are us and the mountains are us, and also the fascination is us. We are the flowing water; we are the bright moon.”

A monk asked Chao-chou, What is the meaning of Bodhidharma’s coming from the West?”
Chao-chou said, “The cypress tree in the garden.”
The monk then said, “Please don’t teach me with reference to outside things.”  (Here is that inside-outside, within-without dilemma again)
Chao-chou said, “I don’t teach you with reference to outside things.”
The monk said, “What is the meaning of Bodhidarma’s coming from the West?”
Chao-chou said, “The cypress tree in the garden.”

Commenting on this case, Aitken Roshi said, “‘I have heard that an American teacher who no longer encourages koan practice has said something like this: “It is easy enough to realize the cypress tree, but how is this experience relevant to daily life?’ I agree that our task is to embody koan at home and on the job—this is our life work. But the first part of that teacher’s statement is incorrect. I do not realize the cypress tree. Quite the contrary, in fact.  If the practical implications of this intimacy are not as plain as day for you, then you are not yet a teacher of religion.” Strong but very important words from the Old Boss, I think.

Hongzhi may be using the clouds, mountains, waters and moon as both metaphor and the implicit acknowledgement that, “the clouds actually are us, and the mountains are us.” Hongzhi, however, is also very aware that the reverse experience is as true and essential. It is fine to know I am the water, I am the mountains, I am you and the walrus, too. Yet as importantly, and maybe for the reality of Deep Ecology to be relevant in a global culture sitting on the edge of catastrophic climate change, it is imperative that we experience the inverse. I contain all things but all contain me, too. When we only know each of those things as myself, we teeter on the brink of thinking Zen and zazen are simply, as Aitken Roshi writes, “ the culmination of a human process.” He says, “ We view this process in a psychological way, as though Buddha-nature were coterminous with human nature, and our task is simply to deepen ourselves (Jack: by looking within) to the point we are able to acknowledge all kinds of new and interesting things about the universe. There is enough truth in this self-centered view of the practice to convince the Zen student that it sums up the Buddha Tao. However, it is something like a child’s view of procreation. All the facts are in line, but the adult can only smile at the simplistic and mechanical picture they present. The love and the fun and the fulfillment and the mystery are all absent. What is missing in the mechanical view of Zen practice? The star is missing. What is the star? It is a being, and like other beings it comes forth with the wisdom and virtue of the Tathagata. And like other beings its beauty and mystery are obscured by our self-imposed human limitations.”

The stars have their own lives, vast and fathomless, as does the land, the water and the clouds. If they are metaphors then so are we. If they twirl or sink or brighten or darken, then so do we. In this process of interaction without interacting, all is forgotten, inviting the 10000 things to advance and confirm; thus allowing each one of us to advance and confirm the 10000 things. We do wake up as the cloud, as the moon, as the sparking water, but they too wake up. This practice is a radical revisioning of relationship and, as in all relationships, the acknowledgments and understanding move in a multitude of directions.

In this reciprocal relationship, boundaries fall away and all are known as vast and boundless. This is the path of no-obstruction, or as Red Pine translates the lovely line in the Heart Sutra: the path of “no walls of the mind.” The brightness of no walls is so bright because there is nothing to deflect or refract the light. We cannot, however, say it shines because that would narrow the brightness and give it a directionality that isn’t necessary. The brightness, unlike shinning, is not an activity. It is simply radiant. And it is radiant because there in no subject and object although the bright light includes subject and object. When there is only subject and object; when there is birth and death only; or this and that; shadows are cast and the light begins to shine which is a lessening.

Brightness jumps clear of the distinctions, it moves through being and non-being, through born and unborn, through thinking and not-thinking. It then, you then can be with this as this and that as that (please refer to Shih-t’ou’s Coincidence of Opposites in the sutra book or as Appendix A pg. 74-75). Things, you & I, mountains & rivers, moon & cloud interact without interaction. In this way, when we are sad or lonely or afraid; when you despair or frustrate or celebrate, you can be just that without any narrative, excuse or explanation. You can simply feel what you feel with no good or bad, right or wrong, correct our incorrect. This is the road of freedom, of ease and joy…because all are included as they are; in radical relationship. This is “Facing Everything; Letting Go; Being Stable…rooted right here to the ground, below. Below…ideas, psychological process and self-centeredness.




  1. Attendees

    Someone brought up what they called the empirical tendency of the mind. Thoughts start off small then build empires. Watch out for this.

    Study the self… People don’t often get beyond this step. We joked “what could be more fascinating.” The self studying the self is so fascinating.

    This passage seems descriptive rather than metaphoric. In all but the last thought about the earth/mountain and the rock/jade. Some of us felt a jarring feeling with the use of “spirit”. The first half of the reading uses "it" to refer to “spirit”, then in the second half it switches to “you” as the subject. Smooth, interesting, but still sheds no light on what is meant by “spirit”.

    “it now is me; I now am not it”

    We wondered how ‘secluded’ fit in with the list of attributes listed. “…without boundary, secluded and pure, manifesting light, … without obstruction.” ’Secluded’ just doesn’t fit.

    We talked for a little about making the 'face everything' in the reading more particular. I’m afraid we had little success. We did talk about the how the reading was not just ‘face challenges and let go’ nor ‘face those you love and let go’ nor ‘face our questions and let go’ but all of these and more.

    The earth lifts up the mountain without knowing (or caring) the mountains’s stark steepness.

    Will (a chronic list maker) shared the he has been running his life with todo lists but a couple of days ago started a ‘To Don’t List’. Number two on that list is "Don’t turn from lives challenges”.

    Louie is getting more comfortable with this “no results” thing.

    Thank you Jack for your kind effort. We look forward to next week.

  2. Face everything is a study into the self, not the self in thought, but the self in this experience right now. We assume it as real, and of course, we "are', as in "I AM", as in, there certainly is a particular presence here...But this individual self, to investigate its a scientist, not a philosopher. How does it arise? What happens during those short mind stops moments? Is it still there? Being a scientist watching this experience right here as your test tube, watching this selfing process with scientific acuity, discernment, inquiry. If this is done, it is obvious! The personal self disappears when thought disappears...and all of a sudden we are facing everything!

  3. Waist deep in weeds and brambles,
    Only more confused by wars of word or doctrine,
    I want but one clear thing.
    Fresh buds in cold wind.


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