الجمعة، 20 نوفمبر 2009

One Bright Pearl

Master Hsuansha said, 'the whole universe is one bright pearl'. He is not talking about some universe out there, but this universe that is our life. It is not a matter of inside or outside, big or small. The thing that erodes self-centeredness, the mischief in our life, is the open experiencing of our life at this moment. You must completely withdraw from the invisible pounding and weaving of your ingrained ideas; if you want to be free of this invisible turmoil you must sit through it. Attain fulfillment and illuminate thoroughly, light and shadow all together forgotten. Life is in the midst of this invisible pounding of self-centeredness and, yet, it is this one bright pearl. In a bowl the bright pearl rolls on its own without prodding. Yet, for a luminous jewel without flaw, if you carve a pattern its virtue is lost. Some take 'carve a pattern' to mean if we try to add something to who we are, if we see our practice as adding, then we just take away from this bright pearl that is our life. For a luminous jewel without flaw if polished its glow increases. Sitting is this experiencing, is being who we are. Zazen is a polishing which increases the glow.

Through the practice of Zazen we don't get rid of anything but transform, transform what seems to be the difficulties, and reveal what seems to be the difficulties as truly the one bright pearl. It is not a matter of understanding that the whole universe is one bright pearl. Practice isn't thinking about practice, practice isn't even about understanding what the universe is, it is being this experiencing that we are. This bodily feeling of the totality of life.

Because it is not necessary for us to practice, because it is not necessary for us to do Zazen, because it doesn't add one iota to who we are, because it is so that is why we do Zazen. See? If Zazen, if practice, was about getting rid of some part of self then it would just be another artifice of self-centeredness. It would just be another way that we try to get what we want or get rid of what we don't want. Zazen is not so. Self-centeredness is eroded in this very experiencing of life that we think limits us.
See, it is in this very experiencing of what we think is the problem. Whether I am energetic, joyful, upset about someone, or in pain, in that experiencing we discover our self. This is the opposite of the self-centered way of running away from or doing something about or against it, or having something else to cover it up, substitute it. No matter what we enter, it is nothing but this one bright pearl, nothing but this life encounter that is the opportunity of experiencing, of being who we are.
The world of suffering resulting from self-centeredness, black mountain cave of demons, is pretty ferocious. The place where we are scared much of the time, the fears that arise in all sorts of circumstances which give rise to anger, upset, hate,..all of the human circumstances, reacting in all sorts of harmful ways..all of those are nothing but the one bright pearl. We might say 'well, I've been practicing but when am I going to really have something?' Whether it is enlightenment or some other thing/condition. You already are it. 'I don't have it'. Yes, you do. It is who you are.
In a way you could say 'have it is not the point'. Every aspect of your life is this one bright pearl.
As Joko said, it is a matter of really dropping into this sitting. We taste for our self, in our own sitting, in our own practice. Kodo Sawaki Roshi says it nicely, 'Doing your self by your self with your self'. The holding to attachment creates and maintains self-centeredness.
We need to do something that is who we are.. otherwise we are poisoning who we are in our self-centered pursuit of ideals.
It is only because of ignorance and attachment that we miss who we are; the inability and unwillingness to suffer and experience is the barrier to our life; inability not because we are not able but because we refuse to.
Our body, being still, reminds us. Being upright reminds us. In fact, the whole room and the whole universe reminds us, even when we forget. See, the effort in practice is always in terms of barriers and our toleration and willingness to be the experiencing, the physical experiencing of the moment, this moment. This is our opportunity of being alive; experiencing is polishing this one bright pearl. Thank you.
By/ Elihu Genmyo Smith

الخميس، 19 نوفمبر 2009

الثلاثاء، 17 نوفمبر 2009

الأحد، 15 نوفمبر 2009

السبت، 14 نوفمبر 2009

الخميس، 5 نوفمبر 2009


The Art of Subtraction

How lightly can you do what you do? Whatever you do, is there something that can be subtracted so that it is more authentically what it is? When you pick up a cup, or turn a doorknob, or take care of your zafu, can you just do that without bringing any heavy-handedness to it, without doing it automatically?

The simplicity of Zen practice is the practice of things as they actually are. It is not an attitude or a stance or an affectation. It is not something extra. It is actually feeling the cup in your hand when you lift it. It is not doing something else at the same time, absent-mindedly turning a storyline this way and that in your mind whilst giving a minimal amount of attention to the cup, even if the story is that you are 'being mindful'. It is really paying attention to what you are doing.

Through being inattentive, the details of your life become a blur. You, your storylines, the objects and people around you, together with all of your issues and concerns and states and the stuff you need to do can become blurred together. You stop seeing the details of things as they are because when your attention becomes that fogged up, you don't realize how little attention you are really paying to anything. But your lack of attention shows itself in myriad of ways and you can notice these and use the noticing of them to do something about the blurring. Your lack of attention is actually something you're adding to your life. Zen practice is learning how to subtract that and how to live in the life that zazen uncovers.

For example, when you leave a room, turn off the light. It's such a simple thing, but most of the time when you leave a light on it is because you are not really seeing what you are seeing. You're not seeing that the light is on. And why is that? What you are 'seeing' instead? Thoughts about where you are going next, what you will be doing next? Let go of all of this nattering to yourself and turn off the light. But when you turn off the light, just turn it off. Don't then get into a storyline about how 'green' you are or want to be, and how you should conserve and limit your use of energy and buy new recycling bins and wear shoes made out of rubber tires because all of this means something about you being a 'good human being'. Subtract all of that and just turn the light off. Let it be as simple as that. Just do this one thing and feel the hand as you do it. Subtract the sense of a 'self' who is turning off the light and just turn it off.

How do you practise this? By really attending to what is being experienced without adding anything; by letting each thing stand out clearly, as it actually is, instead of covering over the details with your own fabrications.

So, when you use a piece of paper towel to dry your hands, scrunch it up before you throw it in the garbage can. Why? Because a garbage can hold many more pieces of scrunched up paper towels than it can unscrunched pieces.

Just look at what you use and how you use it. It doesn't need a storyline about you or about how 'mindful' you are being. Flatten your cans as much as you can. Subtract laziness and thoughtlessness and take care of what you do by doing it fully.

Wash your cups and dishes and put them away after using them so that when you come back, you have a nice clean cup and bowl to use. This is an act of compassion towards oneself and, in fact, towards others, because the tendency to blur and clutter with avoid taking care of simple details has become so commonplace that little is standing out for anyone and it creates more work for all of us.

Wash your cat's dishes. Don't just put another plate of food on the floor next to the one already encrusted with cat food. Use one bowl and clean it each time, before filling it. But when you do this, don't get into a storyline about all of the other stuff you 'should' clean up and how much work that would be and how you already have too much to do. Just do this one thing and clean the cat's dishes. Clean the the litterbox instead of subjecting the poor cat to your laziness. Would you want to clamber about in a stinking mess in your bare feet? Don't you see that the states you indulge in that lead to such complete disregard of the obvious are something you are bringing to experiencing, something you are superimposing? Subtract that and taking care becomes obvious and simple and straightforward. It's not difficult. Most things are pretty obvious. If you don't fill in a tax return, you will not get a refund. If you don't take care of your teeth, they will fall out.

People usually have long lists of stuff they want to do, stuff they have to do, stuff they really don't want to do but know that they have to do. And of these three categories, the last is where they will tend to procrastinate and blur. Subtract the blurring and procastination by moving up the items that you know you have to do and really don't want to. Each day or each week schedule time to do something about those instead of ignoring them. If you regularly clean a room and find some things simple and easy, some things more complex, and you really, really don't want to clean the windows, choose a day to clean the windows as the first task you do.

Look into how you are prioritizing what you need to do and how you allow your states to influence your priorities and subtract the states. Just do what needs to be done without a storyline about how much you hate washing windows, or how 'mindful' or 'efficient' or 'competent' you are because you washed the windows or about how this is going to change your whole life. Stay with the simplicity of THIS thing you are doing.

Look at the space around you, your living space, the space you work in, the space of your car, the contents of the bags you carry around with you. What's in them that doesn't need to be there, and doesn't really serve a purpose? Subtract the clutter and you'll be able to find what you actually need and use. If you start looking around your living space with an eye to functionality, to what you actually use and how you use it, you can easily subtract most of this stuff so that it is easily maintained, everything has a place, and you know where it all is. Look for ways in which you can simplify and clarify how you arrange things around you.

Set up systems for yourself, such as a hook on which you always place your keys so you always know where they are. Get a white board and write down items that you use up so that you don't have to try to remember what you don't have and need to buy. Learn from your experience. If there is a gap, a place in which you are allowing things to become blurry, are wasting time or wasting resources, clean it up by attending to what you actually do, how you confuse yourself, and subtract the confusion.
Dainen-ji, the monastery in which you sit today, is a very good example of the results of the art of subtraction. After we purchased this 135 year-old heritage building in 1996, we spent the first three months working round the clock, cleaning, renovating, and repairing it so that it would better reflect our practice. We filled two huge industrial-sized dumpsters with layer upon layer of flooring, drywall, bad carpentry, psychedelic wallpaper from the 60's and all manner of other debris. All of this debris came from the many years of layering that had been added to building, the years and years of people covering the floors and walls and even the ceilings with their ideas. And when we stripped away all of this stuff that had piled up, what we found underneath was solid oak floors, beams that were six inches thick, wonderful craftsmanship from an era long gone that one no longer sees in this day and age. And much of what we have done since in refining the building is to simplify it further - taking a jumble of rooms in the basement, for example, and turning them into clear and clean spaces; turning the kitchen and pantry into spaces that allow the activities that occur there to flow smoothly.
Similarly, if you subtract the complexity, the 'extras' you bring to things - all the stuff and states and procastination and cloudy thinking, you will uncover a simplicity in how you live that will much more closely align with what you are learning through your practice of Zazen.
Sit in balance point, allowing the skeletal frame rest on itself, and you'll find that this is simpler and easier than trying to fend off the forces of gravity that are causing you to pitch forward.
We can notice when we are bringing something 'extra' to experiencing, when we are complexifying, when we are cluttering up our own lives and cluttering up other people's lives. We can choose simplicity over cluttering; we can choose clarity over blurring. We can choose to live with intention instead of just allowing ourselves to be carried along by the momentum of compulsion. But we have to actually DO this.
You see, you're going to get on with the next thing and the next thing and the next thing with the same disregard for detail. The cup is jumbled in with your thoughts, with other stuff you are doing. And the cup ends up jumbled in the sink with the jumble of other dishes while you go on to the jumble of other stuff you complain about being so jumbled, when all the while it's not that other stuff is jumbled, it's that YOU are jumbled. You've allowed it all to become piled up and you're not recognizing that experiencing has become conditioned through this piling up. That's why you're not feeling the cup in your hand.
What are you going to do about this? Obviously it makes no sense at all to allow such confusion to continue. What you need to do is learn the art of subtraction and practice it as often as you are able.
So, open to the fullness and richness of each moment and subtract anything you are adding.
Ven. Jinmyo Renge Osho

Whirling Dervishes-Maulawi Order