Kusen
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Sunday, 02 April 2017 14:11


Each time we sit, we chant the Heart Sutra: Form is Emptiness, Emptiness is Form. But what do we mean by Emptiness?

The meaning has changed over time. In the original teachings, the word simply meant absence. If the room was empty of elephants, that just meant there were no elephants there. The concept wasn't central, because anatta - No Self - was emphasised. The person was 'empty' of a self.

In due course, in the Mahayana, all things were seen as being empty of a 'self' - an immutable essence - and hence the world was empty: interdependent, dynamic, connected, whole.

But the original meaning of absence, voidness, vacuity has always lingered.

So when the Chinese started using the term, they equated it with Suchness. They said that it meant empty of delusion. And Dogen said it was prajna - before thinking. Hence Emptiness is that felt inexpressible wholeness which is there prior to thinking, which is always there, before the mind tries to amputate a self from the body of the world.

 
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Friday, 31 March 2017 15:07


In Chinese Buddhism the image of a mirror is very frequent, both to describe practice and to describe enlightenment.

It is quite difficult for us to understand, because when we think of a mirror we think of two: the image in the mirror and the owner of that image.

The whole point of the metaphor however is that there is not two: there is just the mirror.

In the mirror, what appears to be separate is really just part of the whole image.

So each individual thing is there and not there. 

Similarly, and perhaps unlike the thing itself, we can look on the image with equanimity.

Understanding all this, we are inclined to see the mirror as being a description of how the universe is. But actually, it's a description of how the practitioner is. It's a description of practice.

The reflection is the whole body: the masks of the present moment reconnected with the faces of the past, the tendrils of thought dipping deep into bodily sensation. The mirror is infinitely angled: from the past to the present, from the mind to the body, from this body to all bodies, from the storm to the lingering debris; all directions.

We can't see it with the eyes.

 

 
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Wednesday, 29 March 2017 18:29


Book of Serenity, Case 48

The case:

Vimalakirti asked Manjusri

'What is a Bodhisattva's method of entering non duality?'

Manjusri said, "according to my mind, in all things, no speech, no explanation, no direction and no representation. Leaving behind all questions and answers. This is the method of entering non duality."

Then Manjusri asked Vimalakirti - 'What is the Bodhisattva's method of entry into non duality?'

Vimalakirti was silent.


There are three senses of Satori, Enlightenment, and this koan deals with the first. It is sometimes called Practice/Realisation, or Practice/Verification.

Both are an abbreviation of a longer phrase, which means hearing, accepting, practicing, verifying. So: we hear the Buddha's teachings on non duality, we accept these teachings, we practice, and through practice those teachings are verified as true.

The story is a representation of the mind and sincere practice of Vimilakirti, although there appears to be two people. But Manjusri of course is not a person, but is the Bodhisattva of Wisdom.

And the two questions are subtly different. 

Vimalakirti asks 'What is the Bodhisattva's method of entering non duality?'
So this refers to the teaching stage. Which is why Manjusri answers.

But Manjusri's question, 'What is the Bodhisattva's method of entry into non duality?' is the practice stage. Which is why it is met with silence.

So neither answer is the right answer, but the story portrays a progression from teaching to practice.

The teachings are the door that we have to go through, but we have to let go of the handle to experience the vast room.


Last Updated on Wednesday, 29 March 2017 20:42
 
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Friday, 24 March 2017 20:07

 

At our retreat in November we talked about the Mu Koan.  You may recall in that Koan story a monk asked Joshu - does a dog have Buddha Nature?

Joshu says Mu (No).

The basis for the monk's question is a passage in the Nirvana Sutra where it says that 'all living beings without exception have Buddha Nature'.

Joshu's reply was not denying Buddha Nature. He was denying the 'have', that is, that it is a property of the individual.

It is a very common idea in Buddhism that buried within us, like a jewel in mud, is compassion, wisdom, enlightenment and so on; and if our karmic mind would just shut up, these qualities would manifest.

This is a catastrophically mistaken view of practice. It ensures that we continue to suffer.

Master Dogen re-wrote the passage in the Nirvana Sutra, re-rendering it as 'all existence is Buddha Nature'. Not denying Buddha Nature, but locating it somewhere other than the self.

That being so, the activity of the karmic mind is not a barrier, is not an obstacle. And so our practice does not need to be a continual exercise in disappointment.

Last Updated on Friday, 24 March 2017 20:08
 
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Tuesday, 21 March 2017 17:09


The 93 generations since the Buddha, are like a real person walking through time. All the individual positions are unbalanced, all the individual teachers are unbalanced, and in their imbalance, they are fully expressing themselves.

Because this is so, the whole is a dynamic balance. That being so, we should not be like our teacher, we should be like our selves; balancing our teacher with our fully expressed imbalance.

And so, forward. And so, backward.

 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 21 March 2017 17:17
 
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