Towards the end of his life Uchiyama Roshi, the teacher of Shohaku Okumura wrote this poem, ‘Samadhi, Treasury of the Radiant Light’:
Though poor, never poor
Though sick,never sick
Though ageing, never ageing
Though dying, never dying
Reality prior to division
Here lies unlimited depth
Using more traditional language, Uchiyama Roshi is talking about our dharma position. That is, seen one way, we are particular limited beings, in our karmic position, with our gender, age, health and so on. In another way, because we are part of this dynamic wholeness, each being is also that whole. It’s like touching a person. You can touch that person on the hand, and simultaneously you are touching their hand, but you are also touching the whole person.
That experience of wholeness cannot be achieved by taking the familiar dualities of mind and body, self and world and by effort fusing them into one. We can only find ourselves there, as it were, by accident. The paradigm way of finding ourselves there by accident is through Zazen, and the gradual erosion of these apparent dualities in our actual experience when we sit. When we sit in a balanced posture, our idea of ourself, of this lump of mind flesh , is intermittently eclipsed by the felt experience of spaciousness.
The spaciousness inside us, around us and outside us. That space is continuous. In this way we can gradually get to a position which is underneath these dualities, but we can’t -sadly – get there with the head.