Kusen
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Tuesday, 07 November 2017 17:58


When she was alive, I often thought Nancy Amphoux, who introduced me to zen, was a terrible teacher. It took me a long time to realise that I was a terrible listener.

When I last saw her, a week before she died, she gave me a bird's feather. She explained that years before, when she'd been driving in France, she saw a fox attacking a bird. She stopped the car and got out. The fox ran away, but the bird was already dead. Some of its feathers were scattered on the road, and Nancy took them, and kept them.

As people came to say goodbye to her, she would tell them the story and give them one of the feathers. As she finished telling the story to me she gave me the last feather and said "There, all gone"

Often in the teachings, an apparently humble thing: a cat, a pillow, a broken ladle, a dead bird, symbolises the alive wholeness of everything, but unless we feel it, our understanding is useless.

I lacked even that understanding. And I didn't ask her who the fox was, either


 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 07 November 2017 17:59
 
211. PDF Print E-mail
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Monday, 23 October 2017 17:49


When we chant the lineage, we chant the six primordial mythical buddhas, then the historical Buddha, then the generations of teachers following him, down to the present day.

The superficial problem - aside from the mythical buddhas - is that the lineage is made up. Some of the people named probably didn't exist at all, and others almost certainly didn't say or write what has been attributed to them.

In full knowledge of this, my teacher said that he accepts the lineage completely. How so?

Rinzai said that there is a true person - this person - who has no rank. This person is always going in and out through your face.

When we chant the lineage, all the names are provisional names, for this person.

And in the lineage of your own life, this person appears. All the demons, ghosts and false persons do not obstruct this person. And they don't matter.


 

 

Last Updated on Monday, 23 October 2017 17:59
 
210. PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 19 October 2017 16:14


Blue Cliff Record, Case 63

The Case: at Master Nansen's temple, two groups of monks were arguing about a cat. Nansen held up the cat and said "If you can speak then I will not kill it". The monks were silent. Nansen cut the cat in two.

Commentary:

1. Who is the one person within the temple who carries a sword? Manjusri, the bodhisattva of wisdom. He sits on the altar, atop the lion of courage.

1.1. So is it a real sword? Or a real cat? Given that a humble pillow can symbolise dependent origination, what more could a cat signify? What are monks really likely to be arguing about?

2. Dogen, in Zuimonki,  asks his students what they would have said in response to Nansen's demand. And then volunteers that he would have said to Nansen, "Why don't you cut the cat into one?" Wouldn't you be happily cut in two if you could say something this brilliant?

2.1. Isn't Dogen's point that the cat -reality- has already been cut in two? Nansen does not kill it, because it has already been 'killed' by the sword of duality, wielded by the disputatious monks. But Manjusri's sword is different. It cuts into one. How?



 
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Monday, 09 October 2017 18:26


The most important thing for us to understand is that Zazen is not a practice of the self. It is a practice of the Buddha.

That being so, it is not concerned with purifying or perfecting the self. Or setting the self off on a journey.

It is not concerned with furnishing the house of the self with wisdom and compassion.

But rather, becoming completely intimate with the ground.

My first teacher said, "What is it which stops the Universe from collapsing?"

He didn't answer. Of course, he didn't need to.


Last Updated on Monday, 09 October 2017 18:30
 
208. PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 05 October 2017 09:27


Master Dogen, in his instructions for meditation, said that when we practice zazen, we have to take 'the backward step'.

That suggests that the world we ordinarily experience is constructed. But also, that what we are searching for is abundantly available to us, and always has been. It isn't somewhere we've not been to yet, but somewhere we've forgotten. It is easy enough for us to say that the ways we demarcate the world is a construction, but harder to say - and to mean - for the self, or, as the Heart Sutra says, 'the five skandas'.

To abandon one but not the other is useless, like collapsing all the props, yet leaving the actor on stage. Which is more essential to the delusion?

In his commentary on the Heart Sutra, Dogen said that the five skandas are five pieces of prajna. Pra-jna. Pre-knowing. So, what is differentiated in the stepping forward into self and world is 'one piece', which is broken when we step forward, unbroken when we fall back, breaking and unbreaking, like space.



 

Last Updated on Thursday, 05 October 2017 09:34
 
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