Even though the Catskills are frozen and quiet right now, if I close my eyes, I can already hear the returning song of the Hermit Thrush and smell the tulips blooming. Slowly the Esopus Creek, covered in ice, will loosen its grip on Winter and Spring will come.
Not being a native speaker of English, living my 75th year of life, hard of hearing—surely I was way back in the line of candidates for Chief Disciple. Thus, it was a big surprise when Shugen Roshi asked me to be Chief Disciple for Spring Ango. Immediately a line from the Shuso Hossen Ceremony became real and very present for me: “I feel like a mosquito trying to bite an iron bull.” Fears of incompetence arose in my consciousness.
As Autumn is swiftly approaching and we experience the impermanence of those lovely summer days, we can be reminded of and reflect on the limited time we have in our own life to manifest what we came here to do.
Plenty has myriad virtues; swept clear, there’s not a mote of dust. Detached from all forms, identical to all things: taking a step atop a hundred foot pole, the universe in all directions is one’s whole body—but tell me, where does it come from?
A monk asked Fayan, “I hear that in the teachings there is a saying‚ ‘From a non-abiding basis are established all things.’ What is the non-abiding basis?” Fayan said, “Form arises before substantiation, names arise from before naming.”
Without tracks, No news The white clouds are rootless—What color is the pure breeze? Spreading the canopy of the sky, mindless, Holding the carriage of the earth, powerful; Illumining the profound source of a thousand ages, Making patterns for ten thousand forms. Meetings for enlightenment in the atoms of all lands in each place is Samantabhadra: The door of the tower opens everywhere is Maitreya.
The enlightened path is to practice and awaken to the Buddha mind that each and every one of us possesses. Though it is our very nature—it is never apart even for an instant—to directly realize this truth is both subtle and profound. To engage the teachings that point to self-nature is also a challenge. There are teachings that are challenging and so we need to engage them thoughtfully and carefully, and take time trying to understand what they are saying. This means that in the beginning we are using our rational mind to reflect on and understand conceptually what the dharma is pointing to—something that is itself, beyond all concepts and knowing.