There is a great poem written by Tosui and reported by Menzan Zuiho in his "Story of master Tosui" (Letting go, the story of Zen Master Tosui, University of Hawai press)After many years of Zen study, Tosui gave up the religious institutions, temples and monasteries to live with the poor, begging his food and living under bridges. People could hardly find him, he disappeared into the towns and cities of Japan. He became a loner, drifting in the fleeting world of clouds and busy cities, the kind of guy Jack Kerouac would have loved.
http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/ ... 216dr.html
The poem goes like this in the translation of P. Haskel:
That is what my life is like
This is what it's like,
broad and free
A worn-out robe, a broken bowl
how peaceful and calm!
When hungry, I eat, when thirsty, I drink
That's all I know
I've got nothing to do with the world's "right and wrong"
You certainly know it. Fabulous stuff. I've heard it countless times and everytime, it sounds different. Like clear and refreshing water. Typical uncomplicated direction of the good old and new ancestors. In fact, that's what my whole life points at, that's what my eyes are made of and long to see, that what my clumsy hands trace in the mudra-seal of sitting and so on and so on. That is also what I spend my time resisting, repairing my bowl, filling it up with notions and potions, ignoring the good old kesa of the whole thing that covers every corner of this. Funny, isn'it? Sometimes, very sad. When i read these lines, I just don't read something that has got to do with the romantic picture of an unsui, a homeless monk floating like cloud or water in medieval Japan, I see a provocative statement challenging people like me, now, here.When I allow myself to stop trying to be right and avoiding being wrong, what is left? Who is left? When I give evrything a rest including the good old me-mine, what then shines in the empty treasure-room?
The simlicity of this doesn't need to be romanticaly achieved in homeless life style, we certainly don't need to live in 17th century Japan or anything special. Our cereal bowl, coffee cup, glass of water, plate of noodles, sometimes pint of beer are ...the broken bowl. Let's put it another way: we, as broken bowls, imperfect as we are, exhausted and sometimes sooooo pissed, we are given this wonder of celebrating the life we have. We can stop trying to be somebody else, dream to have another life, and do one thing at a time, beyond the idea: I am right, I am wrong.
another poem of Ryokan in the same vein:
Spring......slowly the peaceful sound
Of a priest's staff drifts from the village.
In the garden, green willows;
Water plants float serenely in the pond.
My bowl is fragrant from the rice of a thousand homes;
My heart has renounced the sovereignty of riches and
Quietly cherishing the memory of the ancient Buddhas,
I walk to the village for another day of begging.
Tosui and Ryokan loved their broken bowls. The bowl, or Patra ( hatsu-u) is revered as the body of tathagata ( have a look at the 78 chapter of Shobogenzo: Hatsu-u )http://www.numatacenter.com/digital/dBET_T2582_Shobogenzo4_2008.pdf
The bowl represent also what we receive from the world . And yes we are all broken. So what? Because we are broken we can practice, we can sit. Chogyam Trungpa used to say that the greatest present a teacher might give his student is a broken heart. Indeed, bunch of happy-merry-sitting broken bowls!!!