239.


When we chant form is emptiness, we don’t mean that things are illusory. We mean that everything is both particular and universal, like the waves and the ocean. So everything matters.

When we touch one person, we are touching that person, not someone else. But, at the same time, we are touching all beings. Likewise, when we are touched by one person, we are touched by all beings. EveryThing matters.

So, when the birds of our thinking arise, whether their plumage is radiant or dowdy or as black as pitch, we should not cage them in our love or hate but

give them the sky



 

 
238.


In the Avalokiteshvara chapter of the Shobogenzo, there is a famous exchange between Master Ungan and Master Dogo about how best to describe the bodhisattva of compassion.

When asked by Dogo, Ungan describes Avalokiteshvara in a particular way. Dogo then says “your words describe the situation nicely, but only about eighty or ninety percent”, and then gives his own description.

Dogo’s description seems better, but if we think that he’s described the situation perfectly, or at least better than Ungan, we’re missing the point.

There’s always something missing. And because of that, the Dharma will not perish.

It is not that there aren’t teachers and students, but we need to understand what a teacher is.

He’s not someone who shares his knowledge. That’s a scholar. Neither is he someone who shares his wisdom. That’s a guru. It’s not that there isn’t a difference between teacher and student, but only in function, not essence.

They are like 2 points, which delineate a whole person, a great person. This real person fully occupies the Buddhist space, moving forward and backward, according to circumstance. Sometimes he is the teacher and student. Sometimes the sangha. Sometimes the whole world.

The teacher is not a great person, but sometimes he is part of a great person. The responsibility of a teacher is to teach with great vigour for the rest of his life. Not from his own vigour, which is puny, nor from the vigour of his student, which is likewise puny, but from the vigour and expression of this great person, which is inexhaustible.


 

 
Shinji Shobogenzo, Book 2, Case 91

 

The Case:

One day, Master Tenno Diogo asked Master Sekito Kisen: What is the fundamental principle of Buddhism?

Master Sekito said: It isn’t obtainable. It isn’t knowable.

Master Dogo said: Is there a more realistic expression?

Master Sekito said: The wide sky does not hinder the flying white clouds



Commentary:

A familiar instruction we’re given for zazen is to let thoughts come and go, like clouds in the sky. By “thoughts” we don’t just mean intentional thinking of course, but the full range of what we would ordinarily call mental phenomena: snatches of pictures, body sensations, auditory or visual hallucinations, feelings, waking dreams; the whole works.

But the implication in the instruction isn’t quite right, because the suggestion is that, with equanimity, these ‘thoughts’ will gradually fade away, and we’ll be left with a wide, empty and infinite sky.

It’s to counter that implication that Sekito answers as he does. Dependent origination isn’t just mountains and trees and waters and birds; it’s everything, including ‘thoughts’. And our task isn’t to uncloud the sky, but to actualise vast space, within which everything has its own expression, its own life.

 

 
237.

 

Whether we are practicing zazen or kinhin, we are always walking The Way. And yet, we are never balanced. Because of this, the Dharma will not perish.

Within our own practice, and within the practice of all practitioners, it is as if this practice is a real person, walking through time. The function of a teacher is not to embody the Buddha, but to fully embody themselves, in all their vivid expressed unbalancedness. And the function of the student is not to replicate their teacher, but to fully understand that they are

the other foot

 

 

 
236.


When we sit, we soften our eyes. Everything becomes very near, intimate. In softening the eyes, we become bodily aware, first the head, then the rest of the body. It is as if the whole body becomes an eye.

But because we don’t force the eyes to stay relaxed, the eyes, and the other sense organs, can suddenly, as it were, come into focus. So, we see the wall, hear the birdsong, smell the incense.

Sitting with our softened eyes, our mind is softened too. It is as if we are very aware of this intimacy, this underlying being-ness, prior to the emergence of objects, emotions, perceptions, formations. We might call this ‘not thinking’.

And, like the eye suddenly focusing, we suddenly get fragments of perceptions, mental formations, feelings. We might call this ‘thinking’.

We should not think one state is good and the other is not. It is of paramount importance that we accept everything.

Accept everything, uncontained by a self.

 

 

 

 
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