Stonehouse (Shiwu, Shih-wu) Verses

March 6, 2013

Shiwu or Stonehouse (1272–1352) was a Chinese Zen poet and hermit who lived during the Yuan Dynasty.  After living in a hut for 20 years, he became abbot of Fuyuan temple for 8 years.  He returned to his mountain hut and composed the “Mountain Poems” (Shan-shih). The translation of his work is by Red Pine  THE ZEN WORKS OF STONEHOUSE: POEMS AND TALKS OF A FOURTEENTH-CENTURY CHINESE HERMIT

These are the verses from the recent talk.  I have deleted my comments so that they can appreciated from the perspective of today.

1.

This body’s existence is like a bubble’s

may as well accept what happens

events and hopes seldom agree

but who can step back doesn’t worry

 

We blossom and fade like flowers

gather and part like clouds

worldly thoughts I forgot long ago

withering away on a mountain peak.

2

Nothing is better than being free, but getting free is not luck.

3

Not one care in mind all year
I find enough joy every day in my hut
and after a meal and a pot of strong tea
I sit on a rock by a pond and count fish.

 

Koan Excerpt

Without knowing what’s coming, the cricket sings beside the golden well.  Shining for no reason, the moon before the shrine hall announces early autumn.  If you can unite limitless worlds into a single speck of dust, and let every speck of dust be a great sea of enlightenment, if you can combine ten lifetimes into a single thought and let every thoughts be the day of release, the leave here like this, without taking roads, much less a staff or bundle or tightly woven shoes, and with leaving your footprints throughout the four quarter a thousand miles from home.

If you think Zen practice means traveling across rivers and mountains in search of a teacher or (the Way), your’re just running around like lost fools.  Even if you jump as high as the thirty-third heaven in the blink of an eye, or circle Mount Sumaru and its perfumed sea a million times. . . .  Grabbing his staff and raising it, the master said, You still can’t leave here.

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Trusting in the Magic of Life (Practice)

August 1, 2011

Magic Here and Now

The direction is to be present to the magic, trust it, express it.

The students in my college chemistry course put up a web site with the title “Stuff my Chemistry Teacher Says”.   The title used another word for stuff.

The dozens of entries were accurate.  It was a reminder that an incredible number of topics get touched upon in a course.  However, the students had put one as a sticky that appeared on each page:

“Never forget, the world is magic.”

The reason to study chemistry is to not just understand the principles, but to go deeper it and appreciate experience beyond it–the nature of the physical world, our own nature.  The same appreciation can true for any subject.  In the larger sense, we can study our own life, appreciate it and experience our nature.    Chemistry and Dogen are not often used in the same sentence, but this perspective is in harmony with his famous teaching:  “To study Zen is to study the self.  To study the self is to forget the self.  To forget the self is to be enlightened by the 10,000 things.”

The real appreciation of the magic or mystery is to experience the vividness that penetrates all that is experienced in the moment.  It is easy to retreat from this mystery and fall back into a repetitious world of same old, same old or what if, should have been etc.

An example that anyone can try:  Take an ice cube and hold it tightly.  The ice cube melts.  In a sense, there is nothing new here, we have seen it a thousand times.   In the study of science, the melting might be described as a physical change that a solid undergoes to a liquid, with no chemical bonds formed or broken.  But if the attention if fully directed on the ice and the hand, there is a direct experience.   First wet, then cold, then burning cold and discomfort or pain.  Bring the power of attention to each of these experiences as they occur in time. Simply exhaust the experience to full potential without analysis.  Later, the questions can follow: What is the experience of the hurting? Who is hurting? What is the origin of the pain? Where is the uneasiness?

Reality is directly what is experienced.  Take another look at the ice cube in the hand.  The experience of cold or pain only arises when your hand touches it.  Is the experience in the ice or the hand?  Experience is a mysterious quality.  It arises from time and conditions and cease when they are not longer present.  It arises from nothing and returns to nothing.  There is magic there to be seen.

The example gets right at the question of what is real.  Is there an independent existence or is it all impermanent and fleeting (empty).  The experiences are the thoughts, feelings and sensations that arise in life.  In Buddhism, this is expressed as the 5 skandhas.  These skandhas (or heaps) are form, sensation, perception (thinking), mental images, and consciousness (awareness of an object). The important point is that these conditions arise in time.  However, they are then constructed or shaped to give us the idea of a self/object dualistic world.

Distinguishing experience from descriptions of experience lead to confusion of what is real– does a thing have an independent existence or not–no fixed identity (impermanence).

This is not a question to be wrestled with intellectually. Nowadays, people are very courteous about their comments about this, but Saraha* had some direct guidance about interpretations of reality it the 8th century:

Those who believe that what appears is real

Are as stupid as cows.

Those who believe emptiness is real

Are even stupider.

It is the thinking and talking in our mind that distorts our experience.  This erratic movement of the mind causes the separation and confusion.    Zen training, and especially zazen (sitting meditation), is the major driving engine to end this confusion of the thinking and talking, and to bring clarity and vividness to the experience.  The work of zazen focuses the energy to develop the power of attention to make us first aware of our thinking and talking minds, of our hopes and attachments and allow them to lose power.

Zen practice can move us from the repetitious to experiencing the magic.  It allows the bright and empty mind to shine without being obscured or filtered.

Some very succinct advice to keep in mind when we sit:

When we sit,

Don’t invite the future

Don’t pursue the past

Let go of the present

Relax right now.

                  Gampopa

Seen this way zazen is the expression of life itself, not a separate tool to help to experience or achieve something else.  Zazen is the practice of life.

Trust in Practice, Trust in Life

In the mind without thinking

No effort is made

Doubts and worries disappear

And faith is restored

First, trust is often misused term.  The expression: “Trust me.”, seems almost a passive naïve concept, suggesting giving up responsibility and relying on something external.

Then there is the issue of trusting the life of the quiet mind.  Two examples:

“Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. . . . .  “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew)

Enough for a fire.

The wind has brought me

Maple leaves.  (Haiku by Ryokan,  18th century zen teacher and hermit)

Trusting practice requires full participation in the appropriate activities of life, whatever the individual circumstances, with the vivid insight that life is perfect and complete just as it is, and will manifest or unfold in this way. The idea of shaping life to a goal or form just drops away.

Trust is active energy, a dynamic.  Trusting practice is to put full energy and effort into the moment without hope or expectation.  Trust grows concurrently with the settling of the mind.  It is confidence in life.  It allows us, to respond directly and freely to each condition, so that the energy flows and functions naturally.  Trusting practice is trusting life.

So there is the mystery and magic of the moment and trusting in the completeness as it arises.

In the mind without thinking, the possibilities are endless.  Life, practice extends beyond imagination.  The magical world manifests itself and participation is free.  The experience is not all fun and games; conditions arise to manifest as pain, disappointment as well as joy.  All are magic. They are life and the mind without thinking; we can have faith and trust in each of these and experience them in the movement they arise.  Compassion grows out of this and expresses itself.

This is the direction of Zen practice.

A closing verse from Niguna:

In this world of magical suffering

We work at a magical practice

And experience a magical awakening

Which comes from the power of truth.

(*Some verses are found in Wake up to Your Life ,  Ken McLeod, 2001, but primary citations have not been located.)


Advertising Zen

April 6, 2010

“A Zen Master was asked whether Zen should not be propagated to some extent in our times which are in such need of its qualities.  Would not more availability, some publicity, public sermons and the like be more useful?  His answer was both characteristic and a fundamental summing up.  He replied that, after careful pondering, he could not see any positive harm resulting from such propagation.  As to the good it would do, he was extremely doubtful.  For even if it did not go in by one ear and out by the other, even if it produced a sizable uplift, by the time the person had gone home and sat down to the family dinner, it would all be gone.  The real propagation, he thought, would be for the would-be propagators to settle themselves down and cleanse their own heart yet again.  For in doing so there springs up in the human hear such a deep fountain of love that it cannot possibly be contained in one’s own hear, but needs some flow.  And since everybody, even the worst criminal, has that same human heard which is directly touched by such love, words are really not necessary.  There is a coming into ambience, a touch, a link, and the person so touched may of his own volitions start walking the Way.”

The excerpt above is from The Wisdom of the Zen Masters by Irmgard Schloeal, a Rinzai nun who lived in England (1921-2007).   The book was published in 1976, New Directions Paperback (Quote from Pg 19).

It would be preferable to have a specific reference, but Schloeal does not identify the Zen Teacher, and after 30 years, it has not been traced.  Yet the view is helpful since it runs counter to many activities of organizations. It provides an opportunity to refresh our own perspective.


Unobstructed and Immediate

February 19, 2010

These verses are the remnants of short dharma talks. All of the commentary, examples, explications, context etc. have been stripped away so that the verses can be experienced individually. These teachers got to the heart of the matter succinctly (There are so many words these days that it is easy to be distracted by the presentation) References to the full work are made where possible.

Unobstructed and Immediate

I

Apply your spiritual energy before desire arises
The mind will be shining bright, alone and liberated
It will be clear everywhere and revealed in everything
(Ta-hui, Swampland Flowers, Zen Sourcebook 119)

II

The obstruction of the Path by the mind and its conceptual discrimination is worse than poisonous snakes or fierce tigers.  Why? Because poisonous snakes and fierce tigers can still be avoided, whereas intelligent people make the mind’s conceptual discrimination their home, so that there’s never a singe instant, whether they’re walking, standing, sitting or lying down, that they’re not having dealings with it.  (Ta-hui 121)

III

Like following a road where it is set and familiar, then we think that is all there is.

IV

A flash of lightning
Sparks of fire from flint.
If your eyes blink,
It’s already gone.
(Wu-men-kuan Case 21)

V

You don’t need fine phrases
Before you speak the answer is there
If you just chatter on
Knowing will become deceiving
(Wu-men-kuan Case 24)


Trust in Mind-Verses

February 19, 2010

These verses are the remnants of short dharma talks. All of the commentary, examples, explications, context etc. have been stripped away so that the verses can be experienced individually. These teachers got to the heart of the matter succinctly (There are so many words these days that it is easy to be distracted by the presentation) References to the full work are made where possible.

Trust in Mind

I

The Great Way is not difficult
Just don’t pick and choose
Cut off all likes and dislikes
And it is clear like space.

II

Outside don’t get tangle up in things.
Inside, don’t get lost in emptiness.
Be still and become One,
And confusion stops by itself.

III

Do not live in the world of opposites.
Be careful! Never go that way.
If you make right and wrong,
Your mind is lost in confusion.

IV

Nothing is left behind
Nothing stays with us.
Bright and empty,
The mind shines by itself.

(Trust in Mind Seng-ts’an (Sozan), from Zen Sourcebook, Addiss et al editor,2008)


Impermanence-Verses

February 19, 2010

These verses are the remnants of short dharma talks. All of the commentary, examples, explications, context etc. have been stripped away so that the verses can be experienced individually. These teachers got to the heart of the matter succinctly  (There are so many words these days that it is easy to be distracted by the presentation) References to the full work are made where possible.

Impermanence

I

One may ask, “How can thought and mental acts arise without an object?” To remove this doubt, there is comparison to a mirage.—Here thought and mental acts correspond to the mirage, and the object to the water. When a mirage makes it appearance, no real water is there, and yet the notion of real water arises. (2)

II

One may ask, “How in the absence of objects, can different verbal expressions arise?” In answer things are compared to an echo.—An echo is not a real sound, and yet it is heard. Similarly verbal expressions are not real things, and yet they are understood. (6)

III

One may ask, “ How, in the absence of an object, can the images apperceived in trance arise?” In answer, things are compared to the moon reflect in water,–The moon reflected in water is not really in the water, and yet, because the water is wet and limpid, the moon is seen in it. So with concentrated thought. The objects which form its range are not real things, and yet they are perceived, the state of trance playing the part of the water. (7)

(Asanga Mahayanasamgraha II, 27 in Buddhist Texts through the Ages (Conze et al editor, 1964)

IV

Forms don’t hinder emptiness; emptiness is the tissue of form.
Emptiness isn’t the destruction of form; form is the flesh of emptiness.
Inside the Dharma gates where form and emptiness are not-two
A lame turtle with brushed eyebrows stand in the evening breeze. (31)

V

A boundless unencumbered space, open, empty, still,
Earth, its hills and rivers, are only names, nothing more.
You can quarter the mind, lump all forms into one,
They’re still just echos murmuring through empty ravines. (42)

(Zen Words for the Heart, Hakuin’s Commentary on Heart Sutra, Waddell Editor.)

Dharma talks are often energy transmitted through words with the intention to help further the sitting and the  practice.   The talk may be non-discursive, having no progression from beginning to end.  Just simply sit with attention and listen.  If something resonates with you, allow it in to help with the zazen.  If there is no resonance, simply let it go without looking back or chasing after it. If attention strays during, simply come back to the present; there is no need to try to reconstruct it as a lecture   There is also no need for intellectual analysis as there is nothing to figure out. The energy in the room and the attention are essential to experiencing these talks.


Practice in the World–Zen Verses

February 19, 2010

These verses are the remnants of short dharma talks. All of the commentary, examples, explications, context etc. have been stripped away so that the verses can be experienced individually. These teachers got to the heart of the matter succinctly (There are so many words these  that it is easy to be distracted by the presentation. ) References to the full work are made where possible.

Practice in the World

I

Look and listen, touch and eat
Smell, wander, sit and stand.
Renounce the vanity of discussion
Abandon Thought and be not moved from singleness. (55)

II

Mindfulness is established (by him) precisely to the extent necessary just for knowledge, just for remembrance and he lives independently of and not grasping anything in the world.  (32)

III

Whatever pours forth from the mind
Possesses the nature of the owner
Are waves different from the water
Their nature, like that of space in one and the same  (72)

IV

Do not sit at home, Do not go to the forest.
Recognize mind wherever you are.
When one abides in perfect and complete enlightenment,Where is Samsara and where is Nirvana. (103)

V Capping Summary

He who clings to the Void
And neglects compassion
Does not reach the highest stage.
But he who practices only compassion
Does not gain release from the tools of ignorance.
He whoever is strong in the practice of both
Remains neither in delusion nor Nirvana (112)

Source: 32: The Dhamma,  All others from Saraha’s Treasury of Songs, from  Buddhist Texts through the Ages (Conze et al editor, 1964)

Dharma talks are sometimes experienced as energy transmitted through words with the intention to help further the sitting and the practice. The talk may be non-discursive, having no progression from beginning to end. Just simply sit with attention and listen. If something resonates with you, allow it in to help with the zazen. If there is no resonance, simply let it go without looking back or chasing after it. If attention strays during, simply come back to the present; there is no need to try to reconstruct it as a lecture There is no need for intellectual analysis as there is nothing to figure out. The energy in the room and the attention are essential to experiencing these talks.