The first line of the poem in the Platform Sutra attributed to Shen-xui is, “the body is the bodhi tree.” In other words, the body in zazen is like the bodhi tree.
What are we to make of that?
The bodhi tree is the tree under which the Buddha attained enlightenment.
It has several distinctive qualities. It’s very old: it lasts a very long time, has a very long life. The second, and more fundamental quality is that it’s hollow. It doesn’t have a core.
Like all trees, it is completely rooted in the great earth. It doesn’t require to move. And it’s completely expressive in the great sky.
The emptiness inside of it isn’t the absence of anything, it’s the presence of everything.
How does that compare with the emptiness–the space–inside us when we are practising?
The arising of our thoughts, insofar as it’s not an attempt to interpret our present experience, is surely interdependence in time. The experience now of thoughts and feelings is the tremble and echo of the activity of everything.
The dynamic space which we experience in our body, in our breath, as we are balanced, breathing in and breathing out cannot be clearly separated from the space around us and in turn, that cannot be clearly separated from the greater space, extending in all directions, everywhere, like floodwater, surging in, surging out.
Outside my window is a great tree. When the wind blows it moves its limbs freely, like a dancer.