Issho Fujita on posture

Please read a brilliant essay by Issho Fujita on posture from Dharma Eye.

 
292.

 

In the Courtyard of Master Joshu’s temple was a cypress tree. One day, a monk asked Joshu

“Does the cypress tree have Buddha nature?”

Joshu replied,  “It does”

The monk asked, “When does it acquire Buddha nature?”

Joshu said, “ When the sky falls to the ground”

The inclination is to interpret his answer as something like this:

Buddha nature isn’t an attribute that can be acquired by individual things, or people. It is a mythopoetic  way of describing the dynamic wholeness of all being.
So, it’s not that you, or anyone else, has Buddha nature. Rather, you and everything else are Buddha nature. In Joshu’s answer, “sky” means emptiness, so what Joshu is pointing to is different from an abstract understanding (and hence separation) of form and emptiness. Rather, it is the real experience of both, interwoven in the fabric of full dynamic functioning, or dependent origination, or Buddha nature.

But I think an interpretation like this falls into a classic zen error. We purport to debunk and leave the house of Buddhist theory, but actually never leave, remaining within a weird zen shaped annexe, perhaps called “concrete reality”, perhaps called something else.

We can’t understand practice through theory, but we can understand and explain theory through practice. But without theory, we would never start practice. But it’s not a catch 22, it’s a spiral.

In the exchange, when is the “When”?

When we practice. In your actual experience, when you are sitting, isn’t it as if your face, your head, your torso are hanging in space? And isn’t it as if your pelvis, your legs, your feet are part of the great ground? And isn’t this the sky falling to the ground? The ground falling to the sky?


 
291.

 

Our practice does not start from a position of lack. We do not need to complete or perfect anything. We are not on a journey. We are not spiritual warriors.

Rather, we are like a child filled with wonder. We are like an old person, on the point of death, grateful to have lived, picturing the deep interweaving of all things, picturing - eyeless - the great miracle.

This great miracle is always present, like a mother. Sometimes she embraces me, and sometimes she lets me be. But whenever I drop the weight of my head, she lifts me up.

 

 

 
290.


“To carry the self forward to experience the myriad things is delusion.

To allow the myriad things to come forward and illuminate the self is enlightenment.”

As always, Dogen is quintessentially talking about zazen.

The myriad things are not just walls, trees, birds, fences and so on, but everything - dreams, memories, waking hallucinations: everything.

The word that is translated as ‘self’, ‘jiko’ means both the small self, the ego, and the self of all things, everything.

But which self is illuminated? One or other? Both or neither?

Even when we are within the wooden box of the small self, we can still see a sliver of sky.

 

 

 
289.


Dogen said that we should practice zazen like a person trying to extinguish a fire engulfing their head.

A lazy or stupid teacher might parrot this at his unfortunate students. I certainly have. The intention is to impart a sense of urgency. But it’s false. We need to pay attention to the actual words, the actual image.

First, why is it engulfing only the head? Because it is the fire of the self. It can’t be extinguished by the puny efforts of the self.

Second, the person is trying. He doesn’t succeed. There isn’t an end point. It is a continual effort. It is dropping off body and mind.

Third, the effort is made by the vigorous activity of the body. But whose body?

Which person? The person of all being. The body of all things.

It is not your effort, because that would be feeble. It is the effort of the whole Universe, like the pouring of a vast and endless river through an infinity of dharma gates.

 

 

 
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