Friday, March 5, 2010

Perceiving the Bull

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

3. Perceiving the Bull

I hear the song of the nightingale.
The sun is warm, the wind is mild, willows are green along the shore,
Here no bull can hide!
What artist can draw that massive head, those majestic horns?

Comment: When one hears the voice, one can sense its source. As soon as the six senses merge, the gate is entered. Wherever one enters one sees the head of the bull! This unity is like salt in water, like color in dyestuff. The slightest thing is not apart from self.

The first time I was invited by friends to the Healdsburg sangha, and heard the dharma talk by Darlene Cohen and Tony Patchell, I knew that "the bull" was finally within reach. Not that I had an immediate sense of home; I did not. There were still more hurdles to leap across. But I felt that I was finally in a place where it was possible - I had finally found teachers, at a time when I was ready (or almost ready) to be taught.

It has occurred to me, over the past several days, that this story of the Zen bull can be taken rather literally, as I have been approaching it, as seeking out the path of Zen, sort of a "way-seeking mind" talk. But now that I am more firmly entrenched in my practice, another way of interpreting this tale has sprung to my consciousness.

The entire ten steps can be part of a single period of zazen. Every time I sit down to meditate, I go through the same seeking: lost, no trace of the bull, as I attempt to make my sitting posture stable and try to quiet my mind; sensing that I am approaching the bull, as I settle into my body; glimpsing that first sight of the bull, as the input to sight, hearing, feeling begin to merge into one experience...

Some days, I go through the early steps quickly, and find myself in a place of "emptiness" almost immediately. Those days are a gift. Other days, I am caught on the third, or the second, or even the first step, never getting beyond that.

But I have experienced a complete, utter one-ness, a non-duality, while sitting. I guess that is what gets me through all those other days when I feel as if I am starting from scratch.


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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