Monday, November 16, 2009

A quote from Buddha

"A generous heart, kind speech, and a life of service and compassion are the things which renew humanity" - Buddha

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Flower Story

There is a story we call nengemisho(u) (pick up flower, subtle smile). This story is about the transmission of Buddhism from Sakyamuni Butsu to Kasho(u). Sakyamuni silently held a up a lotus blossom for his disciples. As the others waited for the sermon of Sakyamuni to begin, Kasho smiled. Sakyamuni then recognized him in front of all others as having truly received the tradition, and he was henceforth known as Makakasho.

This transmission was wordless not resting on words or sacred texts, but a transmission outside the scriptures.

Thus was born Fu-Ryu Monji, the tradition of Zen to 'not stand on words and letters (sacred writtings).

This transmission is a direct experience of the individual. A spontaneous realization born of spiritual insight.

Makakasho had stepped through the gateless gate.

The unwritten book complete version

Book – the Unwritten Book
The last in the Zen Man Walking Series

There is an unwritten book. It is unwritten because it is never to be written down, but is past down orally from master to master; my teacher called this menju kuketsu (oral secrets transmitted face to face).. This unwritten book has been passed down to me. I was told not to write it down; but to pass it down only ‘face to face’. Yet, here I am writing it down. I write it down for me, and those I sit with face to face. I write it down for generations who come later so that it may not be lost.

Why do we not write it down? Everyone knows the Truth: that All is really connected, that nothing is really separate. Words by their nature define and separate, so the Truth cannot be written down, it cannot even be put into words. The Truth is whole, the Truth is everything, but words separate into definable pieces. To try and write down the Truth would be sure folly. So the words only ‘point the way;’ they merely reflect some aspect of the Truth, the way the Moon reflects a portion of the Sun’s light. So I know I shouldn’t write this book, some have tried before. Success is impossible. But I write, what I can, anyhow.

Truth number one is, ‘All is one’. Why is this Truth not the Truth? Because, although All is One, it is also not one; yet it is not two either. You see, already the words make no sense. The Truth is beyond words and the rational mind; The Truth includes the irrational too. For even nothing, by the definition of everything, is included in everything.

We call this Ai Mai (Vague, Un-definable). The Truth cannot be put into words instead it leads the words round and round… From one side of the truth to it’s opposite, trying to include everything. Sometimes the Truth is best left to calligraphy, painting, poetry or some other form of art. In our tradition we use: Kyudo (Japanese Zen Archery), Shodō (Zen Calligraphy), Zō En Sekkei (Landscape/Garden Architecture), & Chadō (The way of Tea).

My teacher would never tell me all of this outright in prose like this. But instead, would relate stories of the past that embraced these ideas and taught lessons; he connected me with my inheritance in this way, with his legacy, family, and history.

My teacher passed to me the feeling of Wabi Sabi. Wabi Sabi he said means Rustic Elegance, and I suppose this must be true, because he said so. But I prefer Quiet Loneliness…The melancholy feeling we have when faced with death; when we are faced with the impermanence of all things; when we come face to face with our own death.
Everything changes. This is both a blessing when things aren’t what we think they should be, so we know that our troubles will fade away; and a cause of suffering when we wish things to remain the same.

The teaching is, of course, is that our suffering comes from our wish for things to be different than they are, and the release of this suffering comes when we accept things as they are. This does not mean to lay down and not care, that would be death, and we are charged to live; instead we are to live with the acceptance of our immanent death and inevitable change…if fact, more than that, we are to embrace the melancholy, as beauty itself. To be happy when happy, and sad when sad; not too add or subtract, but to live life as we find it. To approach life as it really is.
This approach leads us to Fu-Sui (Wind Water). Wind and Water flow with the changing conditions. They move with the change but never change their fundamental nature. We call this I Mu I (moving without moving or doing without doing). Both wind and water can be the most powerful forces in the world, or the softest. Water and Wind eventually wear away the stone; Storms of water and wind can be devastating, yet we can walk right through the air and swim through the water.
Our path flows like this. Our approach varied according to the conditions, but always coming from our Tanden (Cinnabar Elixir Field). This Tanden is a point in the very center of our being. If you were to measure yourself head to toe, left and right, plus front and back they would intersect at a physical point; your Tanden hangs from this intersection. It would be about 4 to 5 fingers below your navel, and 3 to 4 fingers inside yourself; this is your physical center. The Tanden also represents our core principles that we live by. Everything we do physically comes from this center, and all of our choices and decisions should come from our core principles; in this way the Tanden links our physical, mental, and emotional worlds; after all, the teaching tells us, they are not really separate, are they? The Tanden connects us to the infinite, defines who we, and is the center of our universe.

There are, too, a great many unwritten rules. When the path is passed from generation to generation, we understand these rules intuitively, and to write them down would make no sense to those who know them. So I will write some of them here, but they will all be wrong. For they cannot be grasped dead, choked off by our own understanding and definition of them; we must know and grasp the truth of them in every time and space. We must both know them and how to pass them to the next generation. I know them but still struggle with how to pass them to the next, who can I have faith in that they will understand, I see a few, but how do I pass it to everyone? This book is my attempt to pass them to everyone, even though I know this attempt is doomed to failure. Even so, I must try.

Since we cannot pass the rules dead and defined, we must pass them alive. To do this, first we must grasp them ‘alive’; we call this Ike Dori (To grasp alive). Ike Dori comes from a term in Landscape Architecture that means borrowed scenery. If you have ‘a view’ from your back porch of a beautiful mountain, but the mountain is not on your property, this is borrowed scenery. The view is yours, but the mountain does not belong to you; you have no control over it, the owner of it could change it, but still it is yours to view.

Sometimes instead of spelling out the rules they will point the way with principles. The seven principles I stole from my teacher’s stories were:
1. Fukinsei (Asymmetry)
2. Kanso (Simplicity)
3. Koko (Austerity)
4. Shizen (Naturalness)
5. Datsuzoku (Unworldliness)
6. Yugen (Subtlety or Mystery)
7. Seijaku (Silence)

Fukensei (Asymmetry) is a principle that is quite obvious in Kyudo (The way of the bow), because the bow itself is asymmetrical. But this principle shows up in Japanese ascetics all the time. This is a way of balancing which shows that all things do not carry the same weight. Everything matters, but some things matter more than others.
Kanso (Simplicity) means that we should always do just enough to make it perfect. Of course, this just enough can be quite a bit of work. Sometimes we get caught up in this doing and do too much.
Koko (Austerity) reminds us that everything must be cared for. Keep things simple and clean.
Shizen (Naturalness) deals again with Fu Sui (wind water) and faith in the Nature’s Design. These two ideograms are Shi 'self', and zen which mean 'to be' or 'being'; so to be natural is equal to being ourselves.
Datsuzoku (Unworldliness) comes from two Kanji (Japanese ideograms) The first one, Datsu, means to take or strip off, and the second, zoku, means vulgar or common. Some of the most important things are invisible.
Yugen (Subtle / Mystery) reminds us of Ai Mai (Indefinable / Vague), that some things are, and should remain a mystery, but that they can be glimpsed in the subtlety and detail of our lives, through the corner of our eyes.
Seijaku (Silence) reminds us that we can only truly hear when we are silent. All answers come to us if we sit quietly, patiently waiting, with a receptive mind. The two characters for Sei-jaku are Quiet and Lonely.

Once the principles are grasped, they lead us to the rules. These rules must never be broken, but once we grasp them alive we often break them, usually to our own detriment.

The first rule is, of course, to never write it down. Once you write it down, it is dead and cannot live on. You killed it. So everything written in this book is wrong and dead, the truth must be lived. So please throw this book away, and live instead.

The rule of 3 is interesting. When a student wishes to study with a master he must ask three times, and the master must refuse three times. The examples of this are innumerable, as are the reasons for it.

Another rule is that the truth is passed from master to master orally, sitting face to face together. In this way a relationship evolves, and a bond is formed. This ensures the truth of the transmission. When one master is ready, the master he has gives him the stamp of approval; they exchange smiles, and everyone knows the difference.

I noted in re-reading my text that the more I write the further I am from the truth. So again I urge you to throw this book away. Instead, sit quietly, listen to the master within, let the master within win, surrender your ego, and live an enlightened life of discovery, awe, and wonder with those you love. Then the world will be a wonderful place to live.

Thank you,
Zen Man Walking

The unwritten book remains unwritten. For, as I’m sure you’ve discovered by now, It can never really be written down.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Hitote - one handful

In the Do(u) arts of Japan many schools have the teaching of Hitote. This is most often associated with Kado(u) (The way of flower arrangement); in this art our school teaches it as one handful that easily is picked and we combine this with 3 other handfuls of some other flower or branch or leaf etc. Though since the Meiji Restoration many ikebana schools have written down how many flowers are in a handful...which is usually defined as 3, 5, and/or 7 pieces. In kyudo(u) most schools define Hitote as two arrows.

This teaching of Hitote, though, is a buddhist term and comes from the following story.

The Buddha said that his teaching is “a single handful.” A passage in the Samyutta-nikaya makes that clear. While walking through the forest, the Buddha picked up a handful of fallen leaves and asked the monks who were present to decide which was the greater amount, the leaves in his hand or all the leaves in the forest. Of course, they all said that there were more leaves in the forest, that the difference was beyond comparison. Try to imagine the truth of this scene; clearly see how huge the difference is. The Buddha then said that, similarly, those things that he had realized were a great amount, equal to all the leaves in the forest. However, that which was necessary to know, those things that should be taught and practiced, were equal to the number of leaves in his hand.

- Buddhadasa Bhikkhu, from “A Single Handful,” Tricycle, Winter 1996

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Interdependent Arising

Interdependent arising is another key concept in our school. Kosaka Sensei says this is called 'Engi' in Japanese. One Buddhist Priest had a phrase that was similar though, Ninkyo(u)-Funi; as best I can determine this means something like 'Person Phenomenon not two'. This is not the same as Interdependent arising but I think it may be related.

The term for Interdependent arising in Sanskrit, I believe, is: Pratitya-Samutpada, though Sensei rarely used this phrase.

But he describes this interdependent arising as nothing existing without everything else; that everything exists in relation to everything else. Recently he has begun to use the word 'conjoined' to denote that everything is linked. Personally I like interwoven. But I think the logic behind this notion ends up back at the reality that All is One. Though Sensei prefers 'Not-two'....ummm not two, isn't that part of the defintion I had for Ninkuyo(u)-Funi? Maybe that phrase is closer than I thought?