Thursday, March 11, 2010

Reaching the Source

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

9. Reaching the Source

Too many steps have been taken returning to the root and the source.
Better to have been blind and deaf from the beginning!
Dwelling in one's true abode, unconcerned with that without --
The river flows tranquilly on and the flowers are red.

Comment: From the beginning, truth is clear. Poised in silence, I observe the forms of integration and disintegration. One who is not attached to "form" need not be "reformed." The water is emerald, the mountain is indigo, and I see that which is creating and that which is destroying.

From the beginning, truth is clear. All that stuff in the middle - the seeking, and the heartbreak, and the wrong paths, on one hand, and the joy, and the self-satisfaction and the answers on the other hand - those were just things taking us away from the truth that already resided within us.
At least, that's how I interpret this passage. I think this is referring to our inherent Buddha nature, the fact that each one of us is already a Buddha, and we need only awaken to that truth.

I like here the statements about each thing being just itself: The river flows tranquilly on and the flowers are red. The water is emerald, the mountain is indigo. Professor Eckel of Boston University, the lecturer from the Buddhism course I mentioned yesterday, used the example of the Japanese tea ceremony to demonstrate this re-finding of the truth. He said when you first begin to practice tea, a bowl is a bowl, and tea is tea. Then, as you reach a deeper understanding of the ceremony and of the aesthetic surrounding it, the bowl is no longer a bowl, and the tea is no longer tea.

But it doesn't stop there. As you continue to practice, he says that you once again come back to the original truth: the bowl is a bowl, and tea is tea.

The answer is here within us all along. But that doesn't mean, I don't think, that all the seeking and questioning along the way has been a waste of time. Because that final understanding of truth, of the bowl as a bowl and the tea as tea, is more intensely present, more potent, thanks to the journey.

Besides, this is all about no regrets. At least on my path. I work on embracing the fact that it is only through my life, in all its messiness, that I could have ended up here. Dwelling in one's true abode.


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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