Tuesday, March 8, 2011

"Shut Up!"

Living with the themes of non-duality has made writing very difficult for me right now.  This was the major theme of our retreat two weeks ago and its effect has been interesting.  A lot of the things I had queued up to write about don't mean what they used to in this new light and I now struggle to put into words what I really mean.

Almost two months ago, I started to dive into the Sandokai, well it's English translation actually, titled "The Harmony of Difference and Equality."  It's a poem about non-duality by eighth century teacher Shitou Xiqian (or Sekito Kisen in Japanese).  He wrote it around the time that the fallout from the division created when the Fifth Patriarch in China chose the uneducated Hui-neng as his successor leading to the difference of Northern and Southern Zen.  If you're not familiar with this story, it's in the Platform Sutra, check it out.

The Sandokai is an invitation to reconcile the differences between the Northern and Southern Schools at a time where there was a lot of dualistic talk distinguishing the validity of different perspectives on the same truth, the buddhadharma.

I'm making my way through Branching Streams Flow in the Dark, a collection of Suzuki Roshi's talks on this important poem in the Soto tradition.  When examined through my "practice eye" so much of it makes sense, but its meaning goes beyond words and even if I use my own words to describe my own understanding, it doesn't seem adequate to me, and I know exactly what I'm trying to say so you should be able to sense my frustration.

Instead of banging my head against the wall, I'll express a sentiment that Suzuki Roshi felt Sekito was trying to express and tell everyone, including myself to just "shut up!"
I am following Sekito's poem line by line, but actually it is necessary to read it straight through from beginning to end.  If you talk about it piece by piece it doesn't make much sense.  Sekito is very strict in his conclusion, very strict.  You cannot escape from him.  You cannot say anything or else you will feel his big stick.  In his time the Zen world was too noisy, so he became very angry.  "Shut up!" is what he said, actually.  So I shouldn't talk so long.  Maybe it's been too long.  Excuse me.
 So, I'm not giving up, I still have things to say.  But I think Suzuki Roshi's observation about eighth century China applies to the world today.  The Zen world is very noisy today.  Rather than losing my temper and becoming angry, I am trying to become comfortable with this issue.  But it's still a little frustrating.

I see a lot of similarity between the things I have to say in observing divisive talk between different Buddhist factions online, as well as other religious discussions.  I see the dharma in each, why can't they just be alright knowing they're just on different paths up the same mountain?

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