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Sunday, 30 June 2013 17:13

What is the relationship between language and practice?


“A picture of a rice cake does not satisfy hunger” was a common expression in the China of Dogen’s time, and was taken to mean that language was an impediment to realisation. Hence the tendency of the koan stories to frustrate the student, to push him towards silence.


Certainly, we can see how language can easily become a shell, covering the great ocean of being, hiding the depth, beauty and precariousness of our lives.


But language can break its shell, and liberate: itself, ourselves.


So for Dogen the expression [which, mindlessly repeated, is part of the shell] is a statement of the absolute value of everything: the rice cake exists absolutely. Is is not there simply to assuage hunger. Further, because of this, ‘picture’ ‘satisfy’ and ‘hunger’ are like pillars, holding up the unfathomable present.

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Sunday, 30 June 2013 17:11

We practice from the perspective of the Buddha, not the self.


At the start of the Heart Sutra, there is an exchange between Sariputra, one of the buddha’s historical disciples, renowned for his wisdom, and Avalokitesvara, the bodhisattva of compassion. Significantly, it is Avalokitesvara rather than SAriputra who, whils sitting in zazen, realises that the five skandas are empty, and hence all suffering is relieved. You could say all suffering is relieved because Avalokitesvara, the five skandas and emptiness are all synonymous.


Were Sariputra, from the position of the self, to perceive the emptiness of the five skandas, suffering would not be relieved. The whole world would become suffering.


So, the suggestion is not that in zazen we see emptiness, but rather that the five skandas see the emptiness of the five skandas. And suffering falls away.

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Sunday, 30 June 2013 17:11

Our metaphors become like stone birds.


A familiar one is the image of serene reflection: the moon reflected in water. The moon [enlightenment] is clearly reflected in the still water [the tranquil mind]. Someone tries to convey a feeling state through an image, and then the image becomes an aspiration: something to gain, something to lose.


And all of this is to practice, and to judge practice, from the perspective of the self. But that isn’t our practice.


If the water is enlivened, it doesn’t break the moon. If the sky is suddenly aflock with birds, it doesn’t shatter the light

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Sunday, 30 June 2013 17:09

The four dharma seals are suffering, impermanence, no- self and nirvana.


The second and third are the crucible of our lives. If we think of the self as real, fixed, permanent, then the unavoidable truth of impermanence will cause us to suffer. We are always one step closer to falling.


If we see the insubstantiality of the self, that is the liberation of all beings. Impermanence can then be seen as the dynamic functioning of interconnectedness, and we can live at peace with all sentient beings, undarkening the world by no longer throwing the dust of the self over it.


We have a choice. We either fall down or stand up. And, of course, we do both.


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Sunday, 30 June 2013 17:08

Our aim isn’t to eradicate delusion, but to actualise space.


Within vast space, each thing can have its own life.


Although it is natural to wish that our demons were gone, only demons can kill demons.

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