Thursday, July 28, 2011

Stay, Stay, Stay

Monthly Mindfulness August 2011

Cultivating a mind that sees clearly, I take up the way of not being deluded and not giving or taking intoxicants.

In support of Clouds in Water’s Jukai (Buddhist Initiation Ceremony) which we will celebrate Oct lst, the recent monthly mindfulness’ have been investigating the precepts as practice.

This month, we will take up the way of having a clear mind or as Huineng says, a direct mind.  “The direct mind is the site of enlightenment.”  When we don’t fully experience life as it is manifesting itself at this moment, we become possessed by craving.  If we don’t like the experience of this moment, we want to change it.  We forget that each moment is the dharma flowering and the jewel itself. 

So, much of practice is learning to, as Pema Chodron says, Stay, stay, stay.  We can, by sitting zazen and by practicing, increase our capacity to hold negative emotions and states.  We can learn to be upright (Tenshin Reb Anderson), bear witness (Bernie Glassman) or have spiritual stability (Katagiri-Roshi) in the face of moments we have aversion to or crave.  In order to have a clear or direct mind, we have to be willing to hold the moment as it is and know that “this too shall pass”.

We can interpret this precept, literally or narrowly, and simply say, we can never drink again.  Some of us choose to incorporate no intoxicants in our lifestyle.  But for those people who drink recreationally and which this activity does not produce cravings or abuse, it is not helpful to feel guilty.  To see this precept simplistically, is to lose out on a tremendous arena of practice.

What do I do, (and we all have our favorite escape routes), when I don’t want to accept the moment as it is?  Can I practice with that moment, the moment I want to escape.  On my way out, can I stay?  Can I bear witness to suffering?   Can I just practice with these moments without evaluating good and bad, success and failure?

This month can we:
•    Cultivate our patience to be able to stay with and bear witness to our negative moments without escape.
•    Pause, breath and accept our impulse to escape without acting it out
•    Turn our mind and heart to spiritual nourishment.
•    Work with kindness with our mistakes, using our mistakes to inspire our next encounter with those impulses.

As Gertrude Stein puts it:  “Perhaps, I was getting drunk with the melody of my words and I do not like to be drunk I like to be sober and so I began again”

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The opposites of Huineng

I often mention the 8 worldly winds and these 4 pairs of opposites.
1.     Pleasure and pain
2.     Gain and loss
3.     Success and failure
4.     Praise and criticism
Much of my practice when seeing the discriminating world, in so-called ordinary life, is to cultivate the equanimity that can receive either side of the 8 worldly winds with total acceptance of the karmic arising of the moment.  This arising, whether on the positive side or what we ordinarily classify as the negative side, is the vitality of this moment.  Is Buddha itself.  Where does each functioning of the moment come from?  It comes from our essential nature.  What is it that thus comes?  I have often used the phrase:  May I accept failure.  Or May I be at peace with the ups and downs of life, to help me reorient my mind of “picking and choosing.”

I ran across more categories of opposites in rereading the Sutra of Huineng in the Cleary translation (on page 71.) 

Huineng said, “If you know how to apply these 36 pairs, this is the Way, pervading all the teachings of the scriptures.  Exiting and entering, merging and detaching, on both sides, inherent nature actively functions.”
“When you talk with people, outwardly be unattached to appearances while in the midst of appearances; inwardly be unattached to emptiness while in the midst of emptiness.  If you totally fixate on appearances, then you increase false views; if you totally cling to emptiness, then you increase ignorance.

The 36 opposites from Huineng:
In the external world of relative objects:
1.     Sky and earth,
2.     Sun and moon
3.     Light and dark
4.     Yin and yang
5.     Water and fire
In characteristics of phenomena and language, there are 12 pairs of opposites:
1.     Words and things
2.     Being and nonbeing
3.     Physical and nonphysical
4.     Perceptible and imperceptible
5.     Contaminated and uncontaminated
6.     Matter and emptiness
7.     Motion and stillness
8.     Purity and pollution
9.     Ordinary and holy
10. Clergy and lay
11. Old and young
12. Great and small
Our essential nature produces functions in nineteen pairs of opposites:
1.     Strengths and weaknesses
2.     Perversion and rectitude
3.     Ignorance and insight,
4.     Folly and wisdom
5.     Disorder and stability
6.     Kindness and viciousness
7.     Morality and wrongdoing
8.     Honesty and crookedness
9.     Truth and falsehood
10. Bias and fairness
11. Affliction and malevolence
12. Permanence and impermanence
13. Compassion and malevolence
14. Delight and anger
15. Generosity and stinginess
16. Progress and regression
17. Origination and destruction
18. Reality body and the physical body
19. Projection body and the reward body

Can we possible have the fluidity of a pearl in a bowl?  The pearl moves without resistance along the sides of the bowl following the movement of the bowl.  Can I radically accept the moment as it is?  All the while, my reaction to the moment tries to plant wholesome seeds for the future.  Even the smallest mustard seed of patience will do.  

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Two Truths

The two truths

The two truths, the absolute and relative truths, which we speak of in Buddhist pedagogy, are a linguistic skilfull means to help teach, actually, the opposite. We want to be able to express “oneness” and “twoness” as a complete dynamic happening in the present moment.   However we try to speak of this, we end up speaking dualistic as language is fundamentally dualistic.  The Prajna Paramita sutras language this form is emptiness and emptiness is form.  To prevent us from getting too hung up on oneness however, Dogen articulates an honoring of differentiation when he adds to this dialogue, form is form and emptiness is emptiness.

In studying Huineng’s Platform sutra, we begin to see how these ideas can actually manifest themselves in our practice.  Our practice in Our Life.  Huineng’s says, “Just act with a direct mind and have no clinging attachments to anything….  Then the Way will become fluid and free-flowing.”  Living this idea, we can easily moving back and forth between the one and the many and its wholeness.  Like a leaf falling from a tree, first you see the front side of the leaf and then the back side and yet the leaf is one whole piece.  The front and back is actually a whole.

Later in the Platform Sutra, Huineng teaches about the two absorptions (concentrations).
1.    Absorption in oneness
2.    Absorption in unified activity

Huineng is quoted as saying:  "Good friends, absorption in one practice means always acting with a unified, direct mind in all situation, no matter what you are doing.  The direct mind is the site of enlightenment."

This is a very direct instruction.  When you are absorbed in oneness or non-differentiated space, you are simply absorbed in that.  When you are in activity, you are simply absorbed in that.  The simplicity of this concentration means that you fluidly can go back and forth from zazen to ordinary life in direct concentration,

A concentrated and stable mind is the mind that is capable of seeing no-self and staying with immediacy.  It is the mind that can see through our ego-centricity.
A dispersed and unstable mind is always encouraging our false sense of a centralized self by digressing to stories and interpretations and then, clinging to them.  We do have stories and karma because form is form and we take care of them through a direct mind that is not based on a separate self.  We take care of them through concentration in unified activity in the Now.

Our practice is to merge subject and object and to be stably concentrated in what ever is the appearance of the moment.  Whether it is sitting zazen in a very complete stillness or driving the kids to school our absorption is the site of enlightenment.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

We knowingly transgress

In Joshu’s koan: “Does a dog have buddha nature?”,  my version of one of the questions is “Since everything is mu-buddha-nature (emptiness or suchness), why do we even have this skin bag? or why do we even bother taking care of form?  If everything and every moment is already complete and whole, why act? Or why do anything?  This is similar to Dogen’s original question that started his searching pilgrimage in China:  “If everything is Buddha-nature, why do we even have to practice?” Joshu answers:  “Because a practitioner knows, yet deliberately transgresses.”

What do we know?  That in spite of appearances, everything is not solid and unitary.  All things are fluid, porous and interconnected.  That everything is constantly changing and impermanent.  From an absolute point of view, there is a one-flavored life; unity or no-birth-no-death. 

Ordinarily, we have a preconception about time.  We have an idea that there is one being that exists continuously behind the idea of change.  We say that we want to live in the present moment, right here, right now, but as we say that, this moment has already disappeared.  This truth is called emptiness or mu-buddha-nature.

Coming from the realm of “this moment has already disappeared”, how can we relate to the form life (u-buddha-nature), our ordinary day-to-day activity? How do we act?

Joshu said:  “We know but deliberately transgress.”

Katagiri Roshi wrote: When you manifest yourself right now, right here, becoming one with zazen or with your activity, this is Buddha-nature manifested in the realm of emptiness or impermanence.

Given everything we know, we still intentionally try to do something or make something but with no gaining idea.  Our activity is the functioning of Buddha-nature.  Our practice and engaged activity is the functioning of total dynamic working.  Gyobutsu is the practicing, active Buddha.

Bodhidharma’s precepts tell us that all speech cannot actually tell the truth because the truth is beyond words.  And yet, both Joshu (the silver-tongued teacher) and Dogen (the founder of our school) used words over and over to help humans by pointing to the truth.  They knew but knowingly transgressed.  They used speech as a function of human life.  They used their “me” (5 skandhas) as a way to serve and actively participate in the world of form of which they belong.

Dogen uses the words “our daily activities constitute the emancipated body of suchness.”   Usually we think that form and our daily life gets liberated or emancipated by the freedom of emptiness.  But Dogen, in his strange upside-down pointing at the truth, reverses that, and says that emptiness or suchness gets emancipated by daily life.  That through the vehicle of the form that is arising in this moment, suchness blooms and is emancipated, given life.

In this beautiful notion that form emancipates suchness, I return to my life and my karmic conditions with joy.  Dogen in "Daigo" calls this “returning to delusion”. Form and emptiness are integrated into the wholehearted activity of this moment.  We deliberately transgress.  We totally, wholeheartedly, engage life and our stories (ie. our karma) with the view of impermanence.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Seeing things as they are

July Clouds in Water community mindfulness, 2011

To see things as they are.
To receive things as they are.
To accept things as they are.

These are the base principle of Zen.  It is similar to the admonition to ‘be in the present moment” in that it is simple and straightforward and very hard to do. 

One of the ways to reject “things as they are” is to run them through our screen of ego-centricity preferences.  Is this “thing” good for ME or not good for ME.  Then we place a label on it, solidify it as good or bad, and act according to our judgement.  We loose sight of what the “thing, moment” is in suchness.  We loose sight that everything is Buddha without exception.  We loose sight of the great network of interdependence and oneness.

This judging mind is always working on the basis of what is best (usually for ME).
It builds on the idea that there is an independent self-unit and that I and you are separate.  The comparative mind is always judging something against something else.  I’m better or worse then you.  It even compares one’s present self with your possible self.

This comparative mind is exposed in our precept of not elevating oneself and blaming others or another translation, not praising self at the expense of others. In the ordinary mind, we are consistently monitoring ourselves for praise and blame.  Pema Chodron has said that the way we fortify our solidified self is either by using aggrandizement or it’s opposite, self-denigration.  We flip back and forth but still uphold the construct of a separated self.  Or we work with the subtle dealings of our inner critic and outer judge, displayed as mirrors for each other.

This is not to say that we throw out discriminative mind.  It is not erasing our discriminations but transforming them.  The Buddha has many eyes. One of them is able to make discernments about wholesome and unwholesome action.  But a Buddha eye is based on seeing the environment and the person working dynamically together.  The Buddha eye is not based on a separate self.  What is the appropriate action needed here?  Once we have a self that deeply understands no-self, we can make use of our organized self for the benefit of all beings.

Please observe the comparative mind which uses words like “best and better”, which divides things into good and bad, right and wrong, elevated and below.  Can we receive each “arisen this or that” as Buddha-nature and suchness itself?