This is a forum for sangha and visitors to discuss various aspects of the dharma.
As we move ever deeper into our practice period and our study of “Actualizing the Fundamental Point,” let’s pause and look more closely at what “study” means in our Zen practice. Last night, Peter equated study with intimacy. The following excerpt from a chapter entitled INTIMATE STUDY expands on this understanding (from a collection of talks entitled No Beginning, No End: The intimate heart of Zen, by Peter’s teacher, Jakusho Kwong, and edited by Peter).
“An important part of Zen practice is study. Of course, we study the self through meditation and other activities, but we also study the world, as well as some of the abundant and profound literature that has come out of Zen practice. In each of these ways we are always studying the self. It is a big mistake to think that when we read writings on the lives of some of our ancestors, we’re studying about someone besides ourselves, because each phrase, letter, and even the space between the letters is actually pointing toward ourselves. This is the underlying meaning of what we call intimate study. Actually, we might say that intimacy itself is at the heart of all of Zen. When we are intimate with anything, or with everything, we are simultaneously being intimate with ourselves.”
As we intimately study the self as expressed by Dogen in Genjo Koan, consider the following lines from a poem entitled, Acupuncture Needle of Zazen, written by 12th Century Chinese Zen Master, Wanshi (quoted in same chapter as above):
“The water is clear right down
to the bottom.
Fish swim lazily on.
The sky is vast without end.
Birds fly far into the distance. ”
How might these words illuminate your study of the self?
Chris Smart on Sept 29/2018
flash like fish
the pond reflects infinite
birds flit through the depths
coming and going
knowing not knowing.
Having listened to the first three talks in our Ango Retreat study of Genjo Koan, I have found that the 8 sections (as per Okumura’s “Realizing Gengokoan”) have helped illuminate the true meaning and understanding of the Sutra on the Heart of Realizing Wisdom Beyond Wisdom. Time and again the words ‘form’ and ‘boundlessness’ have leapt forward for me and now when I chant these words it is as though “the water has become suddenly clear right down to the bottom”.
I have also found the analogy of “to study the self” with “intimacy” and the breaking down of the many meanings of intimacy has helped me to practice on my cushion at “holding nothing back but giving [myself] to the moment”.
Needless to say, I am still struggling with the concept of ‘drop any ideas’ and I know this will continue to be my challenge. These study periods are very helpful to me.
I often struggle with the same thing Clare, one thing that has help me is to realize that wether we refer to drop, let go or any other term, words will always be limited and so is my understanding, which is why practicing with Genjo Koan can be challenging to our rational mind. However if i go beyond concepts and ideas as just my practice then ideas are just ideas and the mind that conceives them is buddha so no need to worry, no need to ad anything extra, just seeing this is often all that is needed.
Thank you for your comments and feedback.
In the midst of a sleepless night, I listened to a dharma talk by Norman Fischer about Zen’s sixth ancestor, Huineng. Norman suggested the following way of practising with/sitting with a Zen story or phrase: Settle your mind as you focus on the breath in Zazen. When you experience some stillness, drop a phrase into that stillness, like you would drop a stone into a still pond. And then just observe the ripples that the stone makes, not attempting to grasp or understand, just observe.
This really resonates with me as a way to practice with phrases from Dogen.
In my sleepless state, I lay in bed and tried out this method with 2 short stories by Huineng as read by Norman ( taken from Transmission of Light: Zen and the Art of enlightenment by Zen master, Keizan, edited by Thomas Cleary) ; and both of these stories flowed into Dogen and Genjo Koan. I invite you to try this out and see what you experience.
“Give rise to a thought that doesn’t abide anywhere
Give rise to a thought that comes from nowhere
That goes nowhere
Give rise to a thought that has no support anywhere.“
How might this affect your practice of Zazen?
“Two monks are watching a flag flapping in the wind
One says “the flag is moving”
The other says “the wind is moving”
Huineng says “the mind is moving.”
How might this illuminate the fundamental point?
I can hear Dogen saying “investigate this thoroughly,“ which makes me smile and brings joy to this incomparably profound and infinitely subtle practice. Enjoy! (whether sleepless or not).
Autumn wind riffles heavenly bamboo, last
two dahlias, withered from red to wine, droop
on dry stalks like bowed heads.
One pale orange globe concealed among yellow leaves,
ripe tomatoes roasted and chopped: salsa simmers.
Silence settles, no music, no TV, no humming,
nocturnal eyes reflected, no words, non-thinking.
One orange nasturtium caught in the wire, seeds scattered,
firelight glimpsed through the glass.
Empty chairs face the valley view, the harbour clear
of smoke, the wind fresh and cold, waiting.
All summer, heat, sun, smoke and drought: risk of fire.
We clean the chimney, split kindling, stack firewood.
“Just as firewood does not become firewood again after it is ash,
you do not return to birth after death.”(Dogen)
Light settles at dusk beyond the mountains, the quiet opens
like a door, bats swoop through the orange glow.
Arbutus trees lean toward us, arms open
limbs exposed, roots reach for a reflection of the moon.
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