Friday, August 31, 2012

Touching the Earth Mudra


I would like to continue to unpack the practice of composure or the practice of no preference.  “With the least like or dislike, the mind is lost in confusion”  (Fukanzazengi, Dogen)

Thich Nhat Hanh teaches this type of equanimity through the use of the touching the earth mudra in various way. 

First, of course, is Buddha touching the earth when Mara was trying to pull him off his devotion to sitting and to enlightenment.  Mara represents all our distractions, taunts and doubts that shake our center and spiritual stability. Spiritual stability is the ability to be centered under all circumstances.  Through our patience, radical acceptance and understanding of the emptiness of all that arises, we can release our likes and dislikes and be the experience of the moment itself.  In Buddha’s enlightenment story, he touched the earth and allowed the earth as his witness to confirm his buddha-nature and right to be free.  In the earth’s quake and roar, Mara disappears.  Funny thing though about Mara, Mara appears and disappears quite frequently!  So this is a continuous practice of reconfirming our understanding and stability.  Our composure.  What is your basis of operation in your life view?  Is it the Big Mind view that can put everything in the most universal perspective and allows us to accept life on life’s terms?

A second way, Thich Nhat Hanh talks about the touching the earth mudra is during a bow.  When our head touches the ground, we can allow all our anxiety to drain into the earth which supports us unconditionally in all times and all places.  He even suggests that we take three mindful breaths, discharging our anxiety into the earth, and breathing mindfully at the bottom of our bow.

Thirdly is the suggestion that the earth receives everything equally whether we would label it bad or good, pure or evil, satisfying or dissatisfying.

From “Touching the Earth, intimate conversations with the Buddha”:

Lord Buddha, there was a time when you taught the Venerable Rahula to learn to act as the Earth.  When people pour or sprinkle on the Earth fragrant and pure substances like perfume and fragrant milk, the Earth does not feel proud.  But when people pour upon the Earth unclean and bad-smelling substances like excrement, urine, blood, pus, or phlegm the Earth does not feel anger, hatred, or shame.  The Earth has the capacity to receive, embrace and transform everything”

This equanimity, to receive everything equally, is the basis of composure or spiritual stability as Katagiri Roshi often called it.  It requires an extremely deep view of life and a kind of patience that is not frustrated patience but the patience that comes from actually seeing everything as Buddha.

Stable as a mountain.  The storms, the winds, the snow, the rain, sunshine, flowers, cow dung and urine, everything is accepted by the unmoving mountain.