from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Saturday, 30 April 2011

tasting the seven seas (zen)

I have a beautiful book on Zen, called simply that. It's published by Duncan Baird, text selection and intro by Miriam Levering, and foreword by the scholar and translator Lucien Stryk.

Stryk says: 'Mostly we lollop around the universe, scarcely knowing who we are... we slither between savagery and love, calamity and calm, indifference and pity, unsure of the Way, trapped in our own makings of ourselves...' What Zen offers is a potential way out of this; though my experience is that it is a continual process – I say that in awareness of my continual lolloping around in the universe! (I remember Susan Jeffers speaking of the idea we all have that once we see the need for growth it will be straightforward and upwards from now on; she uses the analogy of a transatlantic flight, in which, contrary to our perception, the plane is in a continual zigzag motion of correction/overcorrection/correction/overcorrection. I find this heartening! Simply being aware of all this is the [continual] next step...)

Later Stryk speaks of a Zen koan (koans as you might know are phrases that to the intellect sound like paradox; they're part of Zen teaching methods) given to his friend the poet Shinkichi Takahashi (the author of the Shell poem I posted a few days ago) by his teacher: 'Describe your face before you were begotten by your parents'. The aim of a koan is to break through the rational limitations and the notions of either/or imposed by the intellect into a more subtle and inclusive level of understanding.

Stryk describes Takahashi's breakthrough in relation to this koan: 'After a period of intense meditation, and many failures, suddenly [the words of the poem below] came. He saw that face as if for the first time, was overwhelmed, realized he had looked for a lifetime without understanding, and felt liberated.'

This is the poem:

Time oozed from my pores,
Drinking tea
I tasted the seven seas.

I saw in the mist formed
Around me
The fatal chrysanthemum, myself.

Its scent choked, and as I
Rose, squaring 
My shoulders, the earth collapsed. 

Shinkichi Takahashi

If you are interested in finding out more about the general principles of Buddhist thought in action, this might be a useful link:
and at the bottom of the page on The Basics, under the Principles button, you'll also find a link to an article of mine.

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