Congratulations on your coming here to practice Zazen just after your overnight
work. Usually, we would like to go to bed as soon as we finish such work. However,
you came and sat through sittings and service. So, now you are refreshed, recreated,
and rejuvenated by upright, solid, and serene sitting with deep breathing. The vital
function of deep breathing replaces the old air and blood with new fresh air and
blood, pumping pure blood, delivering to every part of the body and brain, making
metabolism the best, and the separated small self and world wholly wholesome –
from a bubble-like being to an ocean-like organism. This is the Buddha world,
Only when we completely sit and stop all karmas, can we witness it. Otherwise we
always remain caught in the body sense and sensation, in the “body-existing view”
(sak-kāya ditṭthi, sat-kāya dṛṣṭi, ushhinken, 有身見). Thus, we become tired, get
sick, fearful of death, etc., and much troubled by it. It is the karma-conditioned
perception and conception, which disappear in solid serene sitting in the Buddha
Mind Seal as substanceless (suñña, śūnya) not worrying about falling down, hitting
against, etc., coming back to the original state before the origination of perceptions,
conceptions, emotions, and volitions. This is the very way to stop karma and enter
into the Truth Domain (Dharma Dhātu).
Now, we have a lot of green around us. Because of the sun melting the snow and ice
into water which permeates throughout the world – earth, air, plants, and animals.
Water, essence of life, fresh air, and the sun light and warmth, the source of life,
gives us a kind of spring season scene full of abundant life. We are permeated by
light and warmth, soaked with moisture, and especially fresh air. So, we become one
with space, which is said to be eternal along with only nirvana, even though all
things change. So, we also become one with the world of nirvana, windless of
karmas, as modern sciences revealed – space sparse with simple seemly substance or
just a field.
We go back to the original state and find that our perceptions, conceptions, etc. are
only our mental creations. The uncreated state (a-sankhata, a-samskṛta) is nirvana.
I forwarded an introduction of a NHK program, “Darwin’s Coming” in Japanese,
“Grand Nature Land” in English, to our e-list last night. The latest feature was the
“Revival Project of Birds Migration in Italy. The first birds to start were gray geese
(Anser Anser). The project created Cona Island Natural Preservation Park in
northern Italy ten years ago, preserving now 200 water birds species from the
habitat, away from destruction by civilization or urbanization. As they didn’t learn
from parents how to fly and migrate, they stay only in that small island never
knowing how to do so. They are born and live in Europe and migrate to Africa, Asia,
even to Japan.
Migration prevents them from extinction by avoiding the whole group from staying
on one spot and being wiped out by epidemics, predators, etc., and strengthen their
evolutionary process through selecting stronger fliers against odds, sickness, etc. or
through intermixes and intermarriages with other groups, etc. The project is to give
this potential to them and other birds at risk of extinction there such as storks. This
is the story about eight chicks watched and waited on by a hung-motor glider
operator to hatch from eggs, collected from many nests, as they are to be imprinted
by the first met moving object as their parent. They learn from him how to live, run,
eat, escape from predators, fly, and even migrate with the glider to Ancona, three
hundred miles to the south.
Similar story I know of took place in Hokkaido, the northern most island of Japan.
A man lived with a red-crown crane and taught it how to run and fly with its wings
showing his arms flapping. By the way, Sino-Japanese letter of “learning” is a
pictograph of a baby bird stretching out its wings high and wide (習 = 羽 + 白, two
wings + sound signifier, 白=自: zi, xi: 習). A parent or a teacher is essential for a child
or a student to learn how to flap and fly far and high. In Zen we say “the
simultaneous picking or breakthrough of an egg shell from inside and out (by chick
and parent)” (sottaku dōji, 卒啄同時), illustrating the teacher’s and student’s
synchronous efforts and effects for their aimed goals and all the process for them.
Dogen described how to learn the Buddha Way:
To learn the Awakened Way is to learn the self. To learn the
self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be verified by
all dharmas. To be verified by all dharmas is to drop off
the body and mind of oneself and the bodies and minds of
others. The trace of awakening is at rest and extinct. The
traceless awakening is furthered on and on.
This dropping of the body and mind is like dropping of the outer shell skin of
cicadas. They must protect their bodies and brains with this outer shell skin
throughout their dark underground living and lives. Once they come out of it, they
must split open their shell skins to fly free, even though their above ground lives are
only for such a short time, meaning several days, compared with their underground
lives, which can be up to several days or decades. They can enjoy the wide world with
their full strength in singing and seeing friends, flora, and fauna. Basho made a
haiku poem on such scene: “Showing no sign of dying soon – cicadas’ singing.”
Butterflies, moths, snakes, et al have to do the same from their cocoons or skins for
their new free full function for their future.
Dogen’s “dropping off” (脱落, datsuraku or totsuraku, getting out and dropping off
or penetrating and purifying: tōdatsu, 透脱) is not casting off the body and mind,
but, penetrating through the whole world purifying the sense of separation by skin,
so to speak, the skin disappearing without the sense of within and without into the
vast space, just like a broken or shrinking bubble merging and unified into the
original ocean, the Dharma Body, the true human body, as he said. This is known
only to the Buddhas, Awakened Ones, witnessing and withholding it through
constant practice, even though all living beings seek their selves, lacking practice, as
This is crucial to attain Buddhas’ Dharma life and living with the Dharma body.
We are attached and accustomed to the karma ways and worlds, as if always running
on the tread wheels, encaged in them. But, by this sitting practice, we stop our
karmas, set out from them, see even beyond Nature (still with karmas), and settle in
the Dharma Dhātu. It is called, the supramundane (lokuttara, loka-uttara), not
simply superior, but also substrate, beyond and below, inclusive of all like space
embracing all, with penetrating perspective and profound priority in perfect peace,
purity, and prognosis. This is essential to become Buddhas, attaining and attesting
amrita, ambrosia of immortality, beyond a floating grass like life.
I also forwarded the URL of global.sotozen.net to our e-list last night so that our
members can enjoy movies, zen life, eating, cooking, etc. there. There is one section
explaining the essential, important Zen terms and terminology, Issho-san is
translating and compiling articles lest the learners of Zen in outside lands should
make a mistake of the true significance of cultivation and verification, as this sitting
practice is spreading rapidly and widely. If we make a mistake in learning Soto, Zen,
Buddhist teachings and traditions, we may lose all or could even be harmful. The
geese trainer had GPS to reach the real goal in the south, but if he went north, he
never could reach it, endangering the geese and possibly risking their lives.
We say “pointing the carriage shaft to north and try to reach Etsu, a country in the
south” (nagae-wo kitani-shite, etsu-ni mukawan-to suru, 轅を北にして越に向かわんと
する). We must first know where to go before starting in a possible wrong direction.
We are usually deluded by this smelly skin sacks, not knowing the true human
bodies, which is the universe, not bubbles, but ocean. Only when we stop karmas,
we can know this. That’s why Dogen said that only Buddhas know it. Only those who
know the Buddhas’ Hearts know it. We usually translate Busshin (Buddha-heart, 仏
心: 心 is a pictograph of the beating bare heart ) often translated as Buddha’s
partial “mind,” but it is better to be interpreted as the holy (wholly) “heart.” Once it
stops, we must die.
There are many terms in that section, like “The heart itself is the Buddha” (soku-
shin-ze-butsu, 即心是仏), “From heart to heart” (i-shin-den-shin, 以心伝心),
“Pointing directly to human heart” (jikishi-nin-shin, 直指人心), etc. The Buddha’s
core, heart, is the real core to learn, attain, and transmit. This is transmission of the
Buddha’s heart, leading the Buddha’s life and living. Dogen stressed the triple minds
or hearts, the magnanimous mind (daishin, 大心), which is the selfless minds beyond
bubbles, mature mind, or sometimes translated as parental mind (rōshin, 老心), and
the joyful mind (kishin, 喜心). Unless we get to this supramundane Dharma, the
Buddha Dharma, we can never have the genuine joy.
When the Buddha did not get food from his alms round, he said he would not go for
the second chance, but said, “I live on joy.” Awakening to this joy, truth and peace is
the paramount objective of Buddhism. He knew our essential problems and
sufferings come from the triple poisons of delusion, desire, and divisiveness, which
becomes the triple maladies of me-ism, materialism, and militarism. Bodhidharma,
the real Buddha’s heart transmitter to China met the Emperor Wu (武: Might or War
Lord) not understanding him, asked, “Who am I?” He said, “I don’t know. Spacious
without Sacredness.” Dogen expelled his disciple of receiving a gift from the Shogun,
even digging out the ground underneath his sitting seat.
Unlike India, where the Buddha was the teacher of sentient and celestial beings,
including kings, China, Japan, and other countries needed to know the
supramundane’s superiority to the mundane matters. Bodhidharma, who brought
the real Buddha Dharma with the Buddha Mind Seal, beyond simple scriptural
transmission, went into a cave, sat facing the wall for nine years. The Mind or Heart
transmission to the second patriarch was made after the acceptance of him and his
actual awakening after showing his determination waiting for his permission in the
deep snow even severing and serving his arm. In China Hui-yuen wrote the “Strivers
Should Not Give Homage to Emperors” (沙門不敬王者論, shamen-bujing-wangzhe-
lun) to clarify strivers’ superiority.
The Sixth Patriarch Daikan Eno received his transmission of the Dharma and Kasāya
(Kaṣāya) Robe (kesa, 袈裟) from the Fifth Patriarch Daiman Konin. It is said that
some chased after him to rob him of the robe. The Sixth Patriarch put his robe
in front them and said, “Take it!” They could not even lift it up. The true Dharma can
not be robbed by anyone. It is the Dharma Dhātu itself. When we sit and settle in the
Dharma Dhātu, none can take anything away from us. Anyone out of it, however, is
like a floating grass on waters or a flickering phantom fixated on matters. The book
titled “How the Swans Came to the Lake” by Rick Fields tells about the Zen
transmission to this country. Swan is called hamsa in India, which travel free, free of
any trace in the vast sky.
A hamsa, supreme spirit or heart, like white swan traveling through the vast sky
unfettered and unaffecting with no trace, is a holy homo sapiens, witnessing wise
one, transcending the mundane mundus, traveling and traversing in the wholly
wholesome way and world. Dogen said, “One or even a half genuine person is
essential (for keeping the Dharma perpetually).” The Buddha mind or heart is
magnanimous, mature, and joyful. That is why we need to learn, love, live, and leave
it to all beings and the whole world to save the world with all beings from defilement,
degradation, and destruction. Let us try our best to cultivate, certify the Buddha’s
Heart, serve, and save it for all always!
Note. 1. Cp. Fourfold Limitless Mind or Heart or Brahma-vihāra, Noble residence:
friendship, compassion, equanimity, joy, and the Fourfold Embracing Matter or
Prajñā, Prognosis of giving, loving words, beneficial actions, equanimity for the
triple minds or hearts.
2. Three Emperors Wu (Might or War Lord, 446, 574, 845 C.E.) and Emperor Zong
(宗、High, 955 C.E.) persecuted Buddhists.
Temples, Bagan, Myanmar, by Cynthia Dial, National Geographic