Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Bull Transcended

(A continuation of the Zen story, "Ten Bulls.")

7. The Bull Transcended

Astride the bull, I reach home.
I am serene. The bull too can rest.
The dawn has come. In blissful repose,
Within my thatched dwelling I have abandoned the whip and rope.

Comment: All is one law, not two. We only make the bull a temporary subject. It is as the relation of rabbit and trap, of fish and net. It is as gold and dross, or the moon emerging from a cloud. One path of clear light travels on throughout endless time.

We chanted the Shin Shin Ming tonight at sangha, The Mind of Absolute Trust. It is the oldest poem from Chinese Zen, that serves as a manifesto of sorts for the Zen path. Reading the comments today (all is one law, not two; of fish and net, one path) reminded me of this chant, because it is filled with seeming paradoxes, putting two disparate things next to each other and then stating that they are one and the same.

Examples from the chant include:
One instant is ten thousand years.
The tiny is as large as the vast...the vast is as small as the tiny.
There is no self, no non-self.
The best you can say is not two. In this not-two, nothing is separate and nothing in the world is excluded.

It seems to me that this is what has happened at this point in our story of the ten bulls. Up to now, there were two separate entities, the self and the bull. In seeing, catching, taming, riding the bull, there was always a sense of attainment, mastery, bending to one's will, even using a whip and rope. Now, we have entered a new phase. The bull and the self are both resting. There is no need for the rope and whip. There is a merging, a changing of two into one, and in that paradox, which is called here "home," there is time to rest.

When my zazen periods gift me with moments of grace, it is like this. Unbidden, I find myself at home on the cushion. I rest in a way that is active and alert while at the same time completely quiet and calm. And when I fall abruptly back into the world of differentiation, rather than berate myself for having an imperfect practice, I am attempting to train myself to smile. Good humor is nearly as restful as good zazen.


The text and drawings are excerpted from Zen Flesh, Zen Bones: A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen Writings. The story is by Kakuan, transcribed by Nyogen Senzaki and Paul Reps, and illustrated by Tomikichiro Tokuriki. (Comments in italics are part of the text.) Copyright Charles Tuttle and Co.

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