Case 18 never ends, yet now comes ...
Case 19 - Ummon Mt. Sumeru
A monk asks, when there is not a single thought, is there any fault in this life-self-world? In fact, what is "fault" or "faultless" apart from our human judgments, each just a human thought? When thinking stops, the human judgment of "fault" or "flawless" must stop too. Mountains (as far as I know) do not judge themselves too tall or too short, as dangerous volcanoes or majestic peaks, or any other way we might see and rank them. Rocks do not call themselves "sharp pebbles in our shoe" or "great boulders". Birds do not judge the beauty or harshness of their own song ... and simply sing as they must sing. Cancer cells do not call themselves a "deadly disease", but grow as they grow. Only humans rate these things by human standards.
Ummon responds, "Mt. Sumeru" ... the traditional point at the center of the universe in Buddhist and Hindu cosmology, around which worlds upon worlds, all beings, heavens and hells circle and spin. In traditional Indo-Asian belief (long before humankind came to speak of solar systems, galaxies and big bangs), reality was modeled something like this (from a Tibetan painting), the still axis of Mt. Sumeru at the core.
Like the eye at the center of a storm, it is quiet, still and windless though chaos and calm, tragedy and comedy, birth and death and all events in between turn all around it.
However, we cannot live a life without thought. We must judge mountains as volcanoes to get out of the way (when we can), judge a peak's height to climb it, hear the bird song as sometimes sweet and sometimes a harsh screech, fight the cancer for a cure, get soaked in the storm, experience and think about and live life. We are not rocks which pass through cold or heat or hurricanes without a care.
We cannot live merely still and unmoving at the center of the storm, but must come out to where life is ... with all its chaos and complexity. What to do?
Can one find "not a single thought" even in/as/through-and-through all the many thoughts and judgments we need to live?
Can one sit in the center of the storm, even in/as/through-and-through all of the tumult of life in the bands of the storm, battered by whatever the weather throws our way?
You are not merely a speck on one world circling Mt. Sumeru, but rather, Mt. Sumeru is within you, fills you, and you fill it and all things! The Whole Catastrophe, the Perfect Storm, the howling wind is your very breath. The center of the storm IS its farthest outer bands and everything in between. Heavens and hells are so much your own creation!
The Preface and Verse say: Sounds simple ... but takes Practice! Have confidence, do not be unsure.
QUESTION: Please describe a thought without a thought, a fault without fault, a problem without a problem, a deadly storm band that is simultaneously eye, that you have or are encountering in your life.
Today's Koan is dedicated to Jim (LORAX), a friend and an old volcano hunter (truly, that was his job in Hawaii!) who constantly teaches how to find the center in the direct hit of life's storm or lava flow, finding one's footing even as the earthquake knocks us down again and again. Jim knows both Kīlauea and Sumeru, from foot to summit, as here and 100 other stories. When the volcano or storm erupts, sometimes one must take cover as one can, then just let 'er blow. Even at the hottest, most liquid point of Kilauea is the firm footing of Sumeru.