Kusen
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Tuesday, 23 October 2018 15:42

 

“Firewood becomes Ash. It doesn't become firewood again. But don't imagine that firewood is past and ash is future. Firewood exists in the living expression of the firewood. Ash exists in the living expression of ash. Each has its own past and future. Each cuts past and future.”

I first read these words in Dogen's Genjokoan twenty seven years ago and they have stuck with me. But not in my throat.

On a superficial level, Dogen appears to be refuting the common idea in folk Buddhism of reincarnation. But what he really means to say is that firewood does not become ash. There is not an underlying ‘something’ which is first firewood then ash then something else. And there is not an underlying something in us which starts as a baby and becomes an adult which becomes an old person and then becomes a corpse.

So we are being invited to think differently. And so, to live and feel differently. Rather than thinking of being as taking place within time, we are invited to think of time and being as two polarities of existence. Sometimes it's as if everything is momentary - all existence is an aspect of this moment. In other moments, time disappears into vast space, which feels eternal.

Duality is like a crack in the vessel of the heart; although we can't see it, something precious is always seeping away.

 

 

 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 23 October 2018 15:44
 
266. PDF Print E-mail
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Tuesday, 23 October 2018 15:36


Our practice is full of apparent opposites: delusion/enlightenment, true/false, dream/awakening, form/emptiness.

Silly people imagine that you throw away one and get the other. It's not so.

These are all polarities, delineating the whole body of full dynamic expression. Without firewood, no fire. Without birds, no sky.

Therefore, this day, do not wish all the debris into nothingness. Do not grasp for false tranquillity.

This day, bring a great fire

 

 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 23 October 2018 15:38
 
265. PDF Print E-mail
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Tuesday, 23 October 2018 15:31


If we don't understand the assumptions embedded in our language, it's very difficult for us to understand buddhism.

One of the assumptions we have is that there shouldn't be contradiction. Something is either one thing or another. Alive or dead. Active or passive. Good or bad. Fundamental or peripheral. High or low.

This leads us to misunderstand familiar buddhist metaphors like space, or mountains, or the ocean. We think that space is a metaphor for something - tranquillity, say - rather than the container and enabler of everything.

And not just buddhism. When 19th century European sanskrit scholars were translating tantric texts, they rendered 'Supreme Being' as 'The Supreme Being'. It seems innocuous, but it's not.

'Supreme Being' is an expression of being, not an entity. Just like the deepest depth of the ocean is part of the ocean. It's not separate. Everything is working together in full expression. Like a real person. Not a corpse, tethered to a ghost.

 

 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 23 October 2018 15:35
 
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Tuesday, 23 October 2018 15:23

 

A lot of Dogen’s dharma discourses in the Eihei Koroku consist of him quoting someone and then “after a pause” expressing something.

We imagine that he knows what he’s going to say. We imagine this because we always do. But we’re wrong. True expression has nothing to do with the karmic mind. It comes from a completely different position.

 

 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 23 October 2018 15:31
 
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Tuesday, 18 September 2018 16:32


Dogen said that zazen was not learning meditation. Rather, it was simply the Dharma gate of ease and joy.

But almost always, people coming to zazen do think it is meditation. That is, it is an effort - in which we can progressively succeed - to control the mind. To put down thought and to pick up stillness. To put down noise and pick up silence.

Except, both thought and noise seem inordinately sticky.

So, we need to make an effort to understand what Dogen is saying. First, we should understand that the desire to make our ‘mind’ different is just the continuation of the habitual activity of the self. There’s nothing spiritual about it. We may as well aspire to be beautiful, or rich.

Second, we need to understand that zazen is making a complete effort with all we are; our ‘body’, our ‘mind’. It’s not something restricted to the mind, or consciousness. It’s not psychological. It’s not mindfulness. That’s one of the reasons we emphasise the posture so much. If the posture is balanced then the breath is free. If the breath is free we can start to feel a kind of pleasure, or easefulness when we sit, and that’s very important.

 

 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 18 September 2018 16:34
 
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