Kusen
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Sunday, 28 January 2018 15:43


We chant form is emptiness, emptiness is form, but what is Emptiness?

In English emptiness is quite abstract. In Japanese the ideogram for emptiness is ku, which also means sky. That’s the thing about a pictorial language: the ‘concrete’ and the ‘abstract’ are fused, or, better, one is wearing the face and the other is wearing the mask, and they switch, but they always come together. That’s hard for us to understand. But if we can’t get out of the hidden bias of English and richocet between the concrete and the abstract, it’s impossible for us to understand Buddhism.

Without space, how can the heart open?


 

Last Updated on Sunday, 28 January 2018 16:07
 
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Monday, 22 January 2018 16:43


A familiar metaphor to describe zazen, and this life generally, is the moon in water.

It is a development of the mirror metaphor. Just like a mirror the water, when still, will reflect everything perfectly. So, as it were, there will be a second moon in the water. But, disturbed by the wind of ignorance, the water is disturbed, and waves form.

The ignorance is the belief that we are separate. But the critical part of the metaphor is deep faith that the wave - our sense of self, what we would call personal thought, feeling and experience - is not different from the ocean.

This faith, not making the ocean and the mind tranquil, is what is critical. Even if the reflected moon is a billion shards of light, because the wind is no longer ignorance, everything is still.

 

 

 

Last Updated on Monday, 22 January 2018 16:52
 
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Monday, 22 January 2018 16:37


The Lankavatara Sutra says our existence is like a dream. It reprises the end of the Diamond Sutra, where our existence is likened to a dream, a bubble, a flash of lightning, a dawn star, a phantom.

Dream is the most pervasive trope in Buddhism, and for good reason.

It is hard to see the Buddha's enlightenment story as anything other than a kind of awakening dream.

When we dream, awake or asleep, and when we then leave the dream, it is not that we are awakened to truth. But rather, that we are awakened to delusion.

And in the morning when we wake from a dream, there is a moment when perhaps we don't know where we are, or who we are, or what we are. And then, almost instantaneously, we enter the dream of the self, the dream of the everyday world. 

Between these dream bubbles, the ocean.

 

 

 

Last Updated on Monday, 22 January 2018 16:40
 
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Monday, 22 January 2018 16:25


Why do we sit facing the wall? We could say we're re-enacting Bodhidharma, but what are we re-enacting?

In the customary telling, after his encounter with the Emperor, Bodhidharma went to Shaolin temple and faced the wall for nine years.

The Chinese phrase is pi kuan, which is usually rendered as ‘wall contemplation’. It doesn’t occur before Bodhidharma.

But given that he was not contemplating the wall, what does this mean, other than‘contemplation like a wall’, or, more radically, ‘the wall contemplates’? Whatever the actual location of Bodhidharma was, the primary meaning of the phrase has always been understood to be metaphorical, not literal.

In contemplation from the perspective of a person, we are likely to have the idea of present insufficiency and future gain. We may imagine that if all the inner and outer noise abated, Emptiness, Suchness might appear.

Contemplation from the perspective of the wall is entirely different. The wall is facing the person and facing the world, and all of it is a vivid, alive whole. Emptiness is immediately there. There is nothing to be eradicated, and nothing to gain. The wall is immovably grounded in great faith. We could equally say he spent nine years facing the ground, or the mountain, or vast space.

 

 

 

Last Updated on Monday, 22 January 2018 16:30
 
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Tuesday, 02 January 2018 04:47

 

At the Winter Retreat we talked about the Tathagatagarbha Sutra. Tathagata means 'thus come' or 'thus gone', and refers to the Buddha, and Garbha means womb, or embryo.

The Sutra gives expression to the idea in Chinese Buddhism that everything has Buddha nature; which Dogen later reformulated as everything is Buddha nature. 

It uses eight similes to describe Buddha nature, six of which are to do with concealment.

Thus: a precious statue concealed in rags, gold concealed in dirt, hidden treasure underneath a house, and others.

The two anomalies are, first, a seed which grows into a huge tree, and second the simile after which the Sutra is named, a humble person carrying in embryo a great person. But which is great: the embryo or the womb? If we regard practice from an individualistic perspective, we obviously want to say the embryo, because how would it be meaningful to say that what is great is the womb?

Unless we broaden our gaze. We can then see it as a description of our practice together. We are within, and we uphold, this Buddha space. Both.

 

 

 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 02 January 2018 04:54
 
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