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Kusen

234. All expression is a miracle

Zazen is the Dharma Gate of ease and joy.

It is not effortful. We entrust our body and mind to zazen and let everything be.

Whether the mind is turbulent or peaceful we hold it like the earth under the ocean holds the weight of the water, maintaining it so it will not seep into nothingness. We hold it like we would hold a sleeping baby’s head, whatever the baby is dreaming.

If you listen carefully when the bell is rung you hear two noises.

The first, very brief, is a dull sound, the striker hitting the bell.

The second is the bell’s full expression.

If we thought the striking required to continue until it matched our idea of perfection, the expression of the bell would never be realised.

We need to understand perfection is a chimera.

Because all expression is a miracle.

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Kusen

197. Point to your mind

“A teacher and his student were standing by the shore. In the distance was a boat. The teacher said to the student ‘forgetting about your mind for the moment, point to the boat’. The student pointed to the boat. The teacher then said ‘forgetting about the boat for the moment, point to your mind’. The student pointed to the boat again”

In dualism, we imagine the mind comes first, occupying an unspecified space, within which the world then appears. But truly, mind and world are the same illumination. But it is not the great illumination.

Dogen said that when we see water, fish see shimmering palaces. Demons see blood. Gods see strings of pearls. But the eyes seeing ‘water’ are without limit, and so the powers of expression of ‘water’ are without limit. This is the great illumination. Likewise, ‘mountains’. Likewise, ‘thinking’.

Artwork by Blair Thomson
Artwork by Blair Thomson
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Kusen

191. A special transmission

“A special transmission outside the scriptures
No reliance on words or letters

“Words and letters” means spoken and written language. What does “no reliance” mean? It doesn’t mean that language is anathema to authentic practice.

There is no reliance on language because everything – including language – is ceaseless expression and ceaseless activity; so everything, language as much as birdsong, is proclaiming the Dharma.

The problem arises when we appropriate this expression and activity to the self. If we can keep dropping off the self, then the wholeness of everything, the aliveness of everything, which otherwise is just an ideal, is expressed. Not in some future life, some ideal life, but now.

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Kusen

165. The hundred foot pole

Dogen said that the path of all buddhas and ancestors is prior to the myriad things. That being so, it cannot be understood or explained by conventional means.

When we hear ‘path’ or ‘way’, we might imagine a path made up of the sutras, the words, the heads, the hearts, the hands of the ancestors.

And because there is such a path, here or somewhere, we can walk it.

Creation myths often take unpicturable chaos, which is then ordered into a pictured world.

It’s as if we can’t see the swirling of time without the picture of a clock. Or the surge of the ocean without a picture of it, first. But isn’t this picture world a loop? Isn’t the picture not a door, but a wall?

This life is not a million pictures. Our practice is not stepping onto this pictured path.

But rather, stepping from the hundred foot pole. Not falling

the words, the heads, the hearts, the hands.

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Kusen

135. The Blue Mountains Are Constantly Walking

The 93 generations since the Buddha, are like a real person walking through time. All the individual positions are unbalanced, all the individual teachers are unbalanced, and in their imbalance, they are fully expressing themselves.

Because this is so, the whole is a dynamic balance. That being so, we should not be like our teacher, we should be like our selves; balancing our teacher with our fully expressed imbalance.

And so, forward. And so, backward.

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Kusen

126. Fully Expressing Buddhism

When we are sitting, practicing zazen, in this place, although we do not speak, we are not mute. We are fully expressing Buddhism.

Likewise when we speak from this place.

Likewise when we hear, from this place.

Expression, like love, is like a tiny bird flying from the heart. Much as we try, we cannot preserve it in pictures, or in words, or in stone.

We are not sheltering within a temple of words built long ago called Buddhism.

Indra’s net is the whole network of practitioners now and all times, extended everywhere, everywhere fully expressing illumination. If buddhist expression simply travelled from the past to now, it would illuminate nothing.

The past illuminates the present. The present illuminates the past. The present illuminates the present. Because of this, the stone bird flies everywhere.

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Kusen

87. Full Expression

In zazen, our normal strategies of repression and distraction don’t work. We have no choice: everything that arises expresses itself. It isn’t me expressing mySelf, and so, it is full expression. Likewise, although the activity of zazen is full and complete activity, it is not the activity of the self.

If we can understand zazen as activity and expression, then we can understand the world similarly

In this sense, zazen is the full expression of Buddhist activity

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Kusen

47. Dotoku

You are hanging by your teeth from a branch above a void. Someone asks you to express something about Buddhism. What do you do?

Dotoku – expression – consists of two Chinese characters: ‘do’ meaning ‘the way’ or ‘to say’ , and ‘toku’ – ‘to attain’ or ‘to be able’

So for Dogen, everything is expression: the branch is expressing itself, the void is expressing itself, the teeth are expressing themselves, the words are expressing themselves.

Implicit in an ordinary reading of the story is an assumption that the world is just the backdrop to the drama of us, when in fact the world is continually leaping out of itself.

As are you.