Dear StoneWater Zen Sangha members and fellow practitioners,
For the last few years I have written something to think about and take into the New Year. Here is this year’s offering. I am conscious the second part is quite dense and may take a few readings to understand but hopefully it is finally useful. Apologies if not.
Meaning and Existence
For reasons we are not sure of, all the recordings of the talks at this year’s Crosby October Sesshin failed. Maybe the universe is sending a message! Anyway, a few folk at Crosby asked me about a couple of poems I mentioned with reference to our existence and meaning. Here they are with a quote to put them into context.
“Spring has come round.
A thousand flowers are in their lovely bloom.
For what? For Whom?”
“Among the deep mountains and steep ravines, flowers come out unknown to man, and pass away unnoticed. Existence does not exist for others. It is of itself, by itself.” S. Okumura, Living By Vow.
“In the lonely retreat,
Among the alpine rocks,
Caressed by the whispering breeze,
The wild pink makes merry by herself.”
How wonderful! Each of our lives, your life, is completely valid in and of itself. I hope like the ‘wild pink’ you will make merry! Especially at this time of the year.
The Fulfilled Life
The harmonious and pragmatic union of form and emptiness is for me the heart of Zen practice and is said to be the path to a fulfilled life.
The Mahayana ideal of compassion is manifested practically in the world of form and the dispassionate wisdom of Manjushri in the realm of emptiness. It is really important to me, however, to note that these are two sides of just one coin, which is our very life.
The domain of emptiness does not attract or repel, expand or contract. It is characterless, however, because of it there is the potential for change, growth and fulfilment for all of us.
In the relative world of form we react to our sense impressions with preference and discrimination. Of course to a certain degree this is essential in terms of our physical and mental wellbeing, however, it can also cause us suffering if we become stuck in our ideas, beliefs and conditioning. Our practice is thus to free ourselves of our conditioned responses and reactions and to endeavour to experience the real freedom of right action (‘right’ meaning appropriate rather than as the opposite to wrong). Here we embrace our lives on a moment to moment basis and act with the intention of not causing suffering to ourselves or others. We choose to live and work with our passions and hindrances rather than shutting them out.
This freedom in ”inward and outward fulfilling Samadhi” is my understanding of the meeting point between the wisdom of the unborn, undying and the pragmatic manifestation of compassion. It is the union of form and emptiness.
‘’According to Dogen Zenji our practice of zazen is the practice of prajna that sees emptiness. Empty means ungraspable. We open our hand and see things from other perspectives by letting go of our own personal yardsticks. To extinguish our views, to let go of thought, or to negate our own way of thinking is not negative. It makes our life very vivid and dynamic.’’ S. Okumura, Living by Vow.
The very best wishes for Christmas and 2016. I hope you have a happy and healthy year ahead and that you can continue to explore the dharma and grow in your practice and well being.