275.

Dahui, the 12th Century Chinese Master, said that Soto practitioners stagnated in Emptiness. What he meant by that was to say that our tradition over emphasised tranquillity and lacked insight, wisdom. It’s a criticism which was repeated by his Rinzai successors, most famously by Hakuin.

Is the criticism fair?

Certainly, in response to it, there has been a sporadic but persistent response within our tradition which attempts to create an atmosphere of dramatic urgency, which no doubt does curtail tranquillity, but for what benefit? We are earnestly told that we must practice zazen as if our life depended on it. Does it? Isn’t the truth that our life hangs by an infinity of single threads, yet we do not fall?

Further, we are periodically given false instructions to breathe in a prescribed way to develop power in our hara, lifted straight from Rinzai, as if that could be done with a non gaining mind.

Dahui’s criticism of these kind of practitioners is too mild. It’s not even drama. People who teach in this way are the rear end of a pantomime horse.

But the criticism generally is not fair.

This body is not the possession of the self. The self appears and disappears within this body. The breath, liberated from the grip and pull of the self, can express itself fully. Likewise all things. Likewise, all things.

 

 

 

 
274.

We expect to see the Buddha, within us or behind us.

But no matter how hard we look, he is nowhere to be found.

Instead we see a fox of wisdom, a fox of piety, a fox of compassion, a fox of enlightenment and so on, for what seems 500 lifetimes.

We need to understand that this person is not a complete person, and never will be. This person is half a person. The momentary beingtime crashing against this half a person likewise is half a person -

 

 

 
273.

What we need to understand about impermanence is that both time and being are momentary, and they aren’t separate.

That’s why Katagiri is able to say that each moment is the universe. Because it is the momentary wave of everything.

It’s hard to see this in our normal life. But we can see it in zazen. The wave of each moment, crashing against the cliff of practice.

 

 

 
272.

Dogen described zazen as ‘dropping off body and mind’. In other words, as thoughts, feelings and sensations arise, and we realise we’re holding on to them, we let them go. That’s it.

After a while, we may start to feel a remarkable steadiness, coupled with a sense of great spaciousness, like a mountain, like the sky.

And we may imagine that dropping off body and mind is just a preliminary to this state, which we can let go. And we might further imagine that thoughts, feelings and sensations are just momentary obstructions to this state, like clouds. But that would be a fundamental error.

Just as there is no original language, there is no primordial Emptiness. It does not underlie or precede form. Emptiness and form arrive together.

The clouds bring the sky.

 

 

 

 
271.

Blue Cliff Record, Case 42 (adapted)

The Case:

When Layman Pang left Yao Shan’s monastery, the Abbot ordered ten of his senior monks to accompany him to the temple gate. As they approached the gate, snow started falling. Layman Pang said, “These are good snowflakes. They only fall here.”

One of the monks asked him, “Where do they fall?”

Layman Pang replied, “Even though you are a zen monk, the King of Death won’t let you go”


Commentary:

In Suchness, it is not that we disappear. Rather, boundaries disappear. Separation disappears. Without erasing difference, all things participate in the wholeness of this moment.

The King of Death appears in many forms. If it were just one form, we could see him easily. In this case, the monk takes Layman Pang’s simple statement of wonder and gratitude - the snowflakes do not fall on the monastery, they do not fall on the temple gate, they fall here - and misunderstands it, as a game, as an invitation to dharma combat, or something similar.

It is not just the snowflakes, obviously. Everything is falling and rising here, and the mind which places this here within a greater everywhere does so from a dream.

 

 

 
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