Friday, March 7, 2014

Gate Gate Paragate

Hello All,
Today we are looking at The Original Dwelling on pg. 48. Hongzhi begins this section writing, “A person practicing the way subtly goes beyond words and thoughts.” I would say, s/he does not get stuck on words and phrases or, maybe, sees through words and phrases rather than saying s/he goes beyond. I am often worried when I see goes beyond or transcends. I think going beyond is not the way of this practice we are involved in. As I said earlier when ‘correcting’ a passage in the Introduction, we are of and in this world…always. This world itself, when seen through, is the Original Dwelling. Actually whether seen through or not, the Original Dwelling is right here below your feet, before your eyes, sitting in the palm of your hands. Where else could it be? Where else is there?

When we see through, when we see through the one who is seeing, that one is known as authentic and the path itself then gives affirmation—first in the cry of the jay, then in the first evenings owl call; next in the dripping of rain and then in the last soft whimpering woof of the dying dog. We no longer need to give affirmation but are affirmed with each step, with each breath, with each heart beat. Each thing comes forth and calls us by our true name. In this state of affirmation there is no need for reasoning although we still use our native reason, and there is no need for explanations or excuses. The moon shows itself on each dewdrop on a moist spring morning and it sparkles on each frozen snowflake in the winter season’s first storm. The moon glows equally on the ocean, a lake, or in a small puddle and it shines to that waters depths and length. The moon lightens each thing but does not interfere with its action or cause. It simply lights the path and leads us, if we are paying attention, across the stream when the bridge is broken down and the way seems lost and hopeless. The bright light is always present because the clouds have evaporated in the cold sky and there is only moon-light. And the autumn has departed revealing the barren mountains where nothing sticks or is hidden. What you see is exactly what is constantly being revealed…there is nothing more and nothing less. This is things as they are with no refinement or adornment.

Although I find this description rather beautiful in its stark and undemanding clarity, I also find as I am writing that I am leaning closer and closer to the fire in our hearth. In this passage, Hongzhi is describing an essential experience in the spiritual life. It is the state of all things dropped away and even that dropping away dropped. It is like sitting on top of the barren mountain and being able to see any direction for thousands and thousands of miles with no hindrances. There aren’t clouds but only sunshine. The air is thin but invigorating and nothing is distracting, confusing or worrisome. It (you) is full and complete. And yet, and yet…

Ch’ang-sha and Master Hui were fellow students in Nan-ch’uan’s community. As they matured in practice, Ch’ang-sha went to direct a large training center and Master Hui retired to sit in a secluded hut in the barren mountains. One day, Ch’ang-sha wondered how his brother monk was doing and so he sent one of his students with a couple questions to look in on Master Hui. On finding Master Hui, the student asked, “How was it before you met Nan-ch’uan?” Hui just sat silently. After some time, the young monk  asked, “How was it after you met Nan-ch’uan?” Hui said, “Nothing special.”
 In other words, Master Hui is saying that both before and after he sat and practiced with Nan-ch’uan, he was full and complete. He was enlightened from the beginningless beginning so what is the big deal about before and after. In his mind and experience, he sat in the original dwelling before, during and after his time with his teacher. As you can see, Master Hui was stuck in the realm of empty-oneness where everything is perfect and clear. The student returned to Ch’ang-sha and told him of Master Hui’s replies. Ch’ang-sha said, “You who sit on top of a hundred-foot pole, although you have entered the way, it is not yet genuine. Take a step from the top of the pole and worlds of the ten directions will be your entire body.”

At another time, Ch’ang-sha went on a picnic in the mountains. When he returned to the gate, the Head Monk asked, “Your Reverence, where have you been wandering?” Ch’ang-sha said, “I have come from strolling about in the hills.” “Where did you go?” asked the monk. Ch’ang-sha said, “First I went following the scented grasses; then came back following the falling flowers.” The monk said, “Ah, that is spring mood itself.” Ch’ang-sha said, “It is better than the autumn dew falling on the lotus flowers.”
Following the scented grasses and returning following the fallen flowers is better than the autumn dew falling on the lotus flowers. This is the true Original Dwelling… the air permeated by returning geese calling back and forth; the falling of early spring snow saturating the ground so that the earth flows as water. The original dwelling… the croaking of the first frogs, the skitting of cats, the dying of a too young dog.  Each thing allowed and invited. Each and everything native. The original dwelling is no where other than here. And it is no time other than now. Listen! Look! Enjoy…


1 comment :

  1. Attendees

    Thanks so much for the time and energy you, Jack, put into this.

    We spent a few moment sharing about our experience with Jones and Griff. Matt shared a story a monk who ask for a teaching and the Zen master writes ‘Grandfather dies, father dies, son dies’ and the monk was shared his disappointment and dissatisfaction with the teaching and the Zen master replied ‘Bad if it goes the other way.’

    The flow of change is what there is.

    We looked up in the dictionary - transcend. Synonyms were go beyond, rise above, and cut across. Our western way of culturalization leads us to consider transcendence as alway up. I like the cutting across.

    How transitory is transcendence? Even this too will pass.

    The dying dog and the moonlight reflected in the stream are the same thing. Easy to say difficult to actualize in the moment.

    We were struck by the “stuck in the realm of empty - oneness, where everything is perfect and clear.” Sounds great, I’d be so lucky as to be stuck there. This brought up the 10 Ox Herding Pictures and the last picture - you/we getting our hands dirty back in the market place with a trained ox. Back in the marketplace transcended.

    Funny, we are still discovering “we are still assholes!”

    We talked about bicycling and how people in cars stop at inappropriate times. Matt called this “The Duckling Syndrome”.

    “Each and everything native.” Hard to look at but true. Our bad moods included.


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