Monday, December 17, 2012

“The more I love, the more that I’m afraid”


The holidays are upon us.  The dark has moved in.  My son is home from college.  We begin our traditions.  My human sentiments come upon me strong.  The passions of our attachments to people and situations in our life are strong and wonderful even  though, in Buddhist terminology, they are attachments.   They are often a major part of the meaning of my life, my roles as wife, lover, mother, sister etc.  I am struck with the lyrics from “How do you keep the music playing?”  A song written by Alan and Marilyn Bergman that sings “the more I love, the more that I’m afraid.”

How true that is. “The more I love, the more that I’m afraid.”  If I dare to open my heart as wide as it can be and the deeper I allow love in, the more I am afraid of the losses that will inevitable come.  One of our impermanence verses declares "meeting will end in separation."  Oh dear, what do I do about this deep, painful, human predicament; that to deeply love, we have to be willing to deeply grieve.

For me, this is the exact point where having a deeply spiritual life is a necessity.  How do I fully love and fully feel loss without going crazy or shutting down or not allowing love in the first place?  How can I be completely open to my karmic life so that I can deeply experience this one precious human life?

What does it mean to have Buddha’s heart?  Open and all-inclusive.  In order to have Buddha’s heart, I have to increase my capacity to be intimate with suffering.  I have to learn the deep, deep patience of acceptance so that I can live in this one day and experience it fully.  This is the great practice and the demand of a Buddhist life.  Being intimate with suffering with no escape.  Not only that, but once you open your heart, other’s suffering become your own.  In that case, there is not a single day where the tenderness towards suffering can be avoided or not practiced.

I have been writing holiday notes to my friends who have experienced harsh suffering in the past year.  What do I say?  I have found myself saying that I hope they can find the small joys of the day; the dawn light, a smile, a feeling of love, the sound of the trees, that can help them sustain themselves through the difficulties.
Going to one of the loving-kindness slogans: May loving kindness sustain me.  May I accept the ups and downs of life.

The development of kindness, compassion, joy and equanimity is the basis of our Buddhist practice and yet it is not easily attained.  We have to practice in many small ways every day so that when deep trouble and loss comes, we have a stability to our understanding that will allow us to receive our life as a Buddha, not attached to gain and loss, but willing to be very, very intimate with joy and suffering both.
Then, perhaps, we can be unafraid to love.


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Raising his eyebrows and blinking his eyes


Sometimes to understand a koan or a passage from Dogen, it’s necessary to understand the language or a phrase.  The phrases often have a symbolic or metaphorical meaning.  Part of the beauty of Zen is our tradition of poetic images.  Instead of using traditional technical language, our ancestors really challenged each other to come up with unusual, colorful, symbolic language that expressed their understanding, which is essentially not understood intellectually but possibly, pointed at through images.  (from the introduction to Zen Sand by Victor Hori)

I have been trying to understand what raising his eyebrows and blinking his eyes mean from the ending of Uji, Being-Time of Dogen’s Shobogenzo.  This has been a detective process for me.  Finding a trail of the use of this phrase and then “getting it.”  The process led me to my first “find” in my search.

On page 405 of the Eihei Koroku, Leighton & Okamura
“Dogen said,
We hit the han and sit Zazen according to the olden manner, and you are urged to avoid sleep and to seek the elimination of all doubts.  Do not let yourself blink your eyes or raise your eyebrows.”

Oh, Oh, so it means to go from stillness to movement.  Oh, oh, we are working with the dichotomy of stillness and activity. The main work of all Zen, is to understand the dicotomies as one dynamic working.  The opposites swirling around each other in one energy.  One sword cuts into one piece.

So now that we see the undermeaning, we can enter into the koan at the end of Uji.

From Uji:
Once Yaoshan Weiyan at the direction of Shitou Xiqian, went  Zen Master Ma-tsu (Basso) with a question.
“I believe I have a fair grasp of the three vehicles and the teaching of the twelve divisions (all aspects of Buddhist doctrine) but what about the meaning of the first patriarch’s coming from the west?

Paraphrased:  I understand most doctrinal teachings in Buddhism, but what is the real meaning of Zen?

Ma-tsu replied:
For the time being, I let him raise his eyebrows and blink his eyes.
For the time being, I don’t let him raise his eyebrows and blink his eyes
For the time being, my letting him raise his eyebrows and blink his eyes is correct
For the time being my letting him raise his eyebrows and blink his eyes is not correct.

If we understand raising his eyebrows and blinking his eyes to mean that Bodhidharma, Buddha or ourselves as buddha, begin to move into the activity of the form world from emptiness or stillness, we can see that these sentences are working with the dualities of; affirmation and negation, form and emptiness, activity and stillness.  Throughout all of Dogen’s teachings, he is expounding, that no matter what side of a dichotomy is being expressed in the moment, this expression is the entire universe, is the mystery itself without any naming or categorization.  We do not pick and choose but see this moment whether we like it or not, as realization and enlightenment itself.  Nothing is left out of the mystery and, as I say over and over, the dualities swirl around each other making the dynamics of ‘the whole working’.  Both sides are recognized, however they arise, as the source (as emptiness or impermanence itself).  If I am practicing and expressing activity, or if I am practicing and expressing not-activity, both are equally an expression of the mystery of life and equally realization. 

This passage goes on to work with right and wrong which is the ever-present frustration in human life.  Am I doing this right or wrong?  Our ever-arising ego-centricity wants to do everything Right.  We are attached to right. We are often attached to emptiness or sometimes attached oppositely to our storied form life or to both!  Yet both right and wrong, success and failure, form and emptiness, are never outside of the ever-present expression of the mysteriously alive moment. Enlightenment is to be non-attached yet fully present.

While the seasons come and go, and the mountains, rivers, and great earth change with time, you should know that this is buddha raising his eyebrows and blinking his eyes – so it is the unique body revealed in myriad things.
               From Keizan’s, Transmission of the Light, case 1. Shakyamuni Buddha

Each moment we experience in our lives is the expression of Buddha raising his eyebrows and blinking his eyes.  Katagiri-Roshi often said that practice was seeing and treating everything as Buddha itself.  Buddha’s body is expressed in its myriad forms.

Dogen expresses this reality - that every form arising is the suchness itself, so beautifully in the next poem.  Nirvana or the vermillion towers are found nowhere else than in the present expression.  Realization is after all an everyday affair. (Fukanzazengi)

From Eihei Koroku, Leighton & Okamura, page 623

8 verses given to a Zen Person
I strain my ears, raise my head, and wait for the dawn breeze.
How many times, dreamily herding an ox in the spring rain?
Who realizes that this intention pierces the heavens?
Just remain with raising eyebrows and blinking eyes.


Monday, December 10, 2012

Rohatsu Doshi Statement




We vow
To enter each moment
6 and ½ billion moments a day
to die and get birthed
at superspeed
into the moment to moment always, infinitely ever unfolding
mystery of the “Now”

Even blundering around
Even lost in a haze
Even a ½ a person
There is never anything left-over
Or outside the mystery of this creative moment
The pivoting of birth and death,
creation and destruction
right now

“While the seasons come and go,
and the mountains, rivers, and great earth change with time,
 you should know that this is buddha
raising his eyebrows and blinking his eyes”

wholeheartedly we plunge into this moment
we are enveloped in vow
and practice forever together.