Saturday, May 29, 2010

Finding A Bigger Container

I have added 2 bits of text to this piece since I last posted it and referred to it as unfinished. A friend tried to convince me it was done but there wasn't that sense of completeness that I feel when a piece is done. It needed those little black and white marks that we identify as words, but sometimes they are just pattern for me, line and mark. And yet I have chosen them for both (a little cut out from an old Tricycle mag) their meaning and their identity as visual pattern.

And in reading a little book called "Buddha Recognizes Buddha" by Daishin Morgan, a Soto Zen monk in the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives, I realized I didn't need to separate finished and unfinished, words as meaning or as pattern, that this separation is an artificial construct of the mind. It causes me to see things in a limited, non expansive way. These opposites that we create with our thinking are really products of our mind rather than anything tangible or real. We use them to describe and order our world, us human control freaks!

My mind did an expanding acid trip kind of thing as it's grey jelly like tentacles glommed onto Daishin Morgan's suggestion that things don't exist in duality. Sure I've heard this before, but somehow it found a soft spot in this hard old noggen to sink into, so I want to try and share it with you. If it seems like just so many words, well, that's okay too!

So the meaning and visual identity of the box of text in my picture can exist together. The fact that at one point my painting may seem finished to one person and unfinished to another person, or I may have different hits on it when I look at it at different times, all this can be held in a larger container . No problem, doesn't mean I won't do something about either of these things, that's not the point. Is it the western mind or simply the human mind that seeks to carve things up into little bits so it can be digested by our limited sense of logic. We get uncomforatable around things we can't know in our head, things that seem to big for our tiny cranial spaces.

I am squatting at a friends place in Victoria (as I was teased by another friend). Delightful friends offered us their place in Victoria as they buzzed down south for a wedding. So we popped into town to have a cracked windshield repaired and hang out. Last night as I chose a little bedtime reading I noticed "Buddha Recognizes Buddha" on the dresser. I'd already seen a little excerpt from the book in BuddhaDharma magazine and then a copy on another Dharma friend's table when I picked up the key for my squat (do squats have keys?). Okay I figured, it's time to open up this book for a little look.

Judgmental mind was prepared not to like it. I sat this tradition (OBC) for 4 years and have moved in a slightly different direction, as I listened to my heart. So I could feel the tug to put it all in the little package of been there, done that, it falls short. However as I read the first chapter, then the second I found myself melting into the kindness it exuded. Is that a strange thing to say about a book? I could feel the kindness of the words and the writer. The other thing I sensed was that Morgan was showing us how huge a container the Dharma really is. I saw it as a beautiful basket that didn't exclude anything, the mundane, all our troubles and fears, our faith and joy and a sense of something greater all had room to roll around and brush up against each other in this basket. Is there room for my laundry in there?

In his first chapter called "undivided existence" Morgan says, "I used to think enlightenment was something that would come when I was good enough or had done enough training, but such a view kept me from awakening to its presence... Our real nature is enlightened... However we can live in ignorance of it so awakening is necessary. Training is to live as an expression of enlightenment -- it is not a means of acquiring enlightenment."

How kind is this to point out that we are not lacking? Is this not an empowering notion? Now call me crazy but I perk up and see my potential when someone points out that we all have Buddha nature. Call me a sinner and I'll probably live up to your expectations. At the same time Morgan sets this idea apart from the delusion that we are perfect and don't need to train which has been proposed by some. We don't need to discuss the pitfalls of that viewpoint. He goes on to remind us that if we are angry, that's it right now. We need to be with it and experience it and keep our eyes open to see where that anger points us. Is it a call to action? Is it pointing out our attachment to our point of view? Examine it deeply enough and it will tell us what the next step is or isn't.

So after Morgan kindly reminds us that training and enlightenment are not separate (this idea initially courtesy of Dogen, the big Soto Zen cheese) he reminds us how to work with it: "Sometimes fears and desires affect my choices, but fears and desires are no longer the evil they appeared to be before. They still have the same effect as always, but the difference is that now they are part of training and enlightenment, rather than an outside enemy." These things are "the way itself" Morgan points out. I will read on with gusto and heartily recommend this little book. It can probably be had via The Throssel Hole (OBC) website.


  1. Interesting point that Morgan makes. He seems to be saying there's a distinction between training as means of acquiring some *thing* perceived to be external (enlightenment) to who we are, and training as a means of actually *living* the recognition of the Truth that we are on an ongoing basis. Where it seems "awakening" is just the *recognition* of that Truth - our innate Buddha Nature - reflected in the name of his book - "Buddha Recognizes Buddha" - or said another way: the Self waking up to ItSelf within the context of the "larger container."

    Very interesting stuff :) Sounds like a great book! Hope you will share more...

  2. Yes that's it. And its a subtle but important distinction I think when we actually get this. It is so easy to think we need to fix ourselves or be better than we are, when really what we're doing in our spiritual practice is what really counts. And to just let go of the striving and all the rest of what we drag around.

  3. Thanks! Good stuff... put this one on my list of books. I've having a great chuckle at Dogen as the "great Soto Zen cheese!"

    After a ceremony (jukai etc.), we do a round where the ordained walk in an inner circle adn the witnesses stand in an outer circle. The inner circle walks around as we all chant "Buddha recognizes Buddha," then they stop and face the inner circle and we all chant "Buddha bows to Buddha." I love that moment!

    I have a hard time with enlightenment is now - because so much of my "now" seems terribly limited and reactive. Letting it all sit in that big container is so helpful because it means I don't have to manipulate it with my so-called "training."

    Brush work is like that... just let it be on the paper...

  4. Love the little patterns of things we call words being added to this piece...wish I could read them when I click to enlarge ;-)

    and this:priceless...

    "The other thing I sensed was that Morgan was showing us how huge a container the Dharma really is. I saw it as a beautiful basket that didn't exclude anything, the mundane, all our troubles and fears, our faith and joy and a sense of something greater all had room to roll around and brush up against each other in this basket. Is there room for my laundry in there?"

    Most certainly all the dirty clothes will also fit.