What does Sekito do in this hut??
After eating, I relax and enjoy a nap.
Now. How much more simple can it be? Nevertheless if you really pay attention, Sekito takes us through the three basic body positions : standing with the building, sitting with eating and lying down with the nap. One thing at a time. Our daily actions.
These actions are perfect in themselves. In the hut, no more hastle, the search has been dropped. You can have a rest. Home. Back home. Let us look at it a bit more closely, the beginning of Buddhist practice is often kindled by the feeling of something lacking, the lack of satisfaction, the pain experienced in the daily struggles of this life and, the path is seen as a real good bargain, a win, a wonderful source of goodness, happiness, nirvana-like states, it is full of promises: if i sit and practice I am going to be like one of these exotic Eastern teachers, a sage coming out of an hollywood movie with a great music in the background... We are still caught in the two wrong views that past is bad and future will be great. We are still living in fear ( heritage of unresolved past stuff) and hope ( a way to cope with what we don't want, the other face of fear itself), and these two are the toys religions and gurus give us: Hell and Heaven. We toy with them and, sadly, as long as we buy these cheap views, we create and generate further suffering. Of course this all set up is also a wonderful way to control our mind, to milk to juicy cow we are, to feed the greed for power and ego of the great spiritual leaders. Shikantaza cuts through this crap instantly. Shikantaza grasps you, the still state grasps you and that's it. No more search. really? Are you kidding? Is the search really over? Well, we are what we are looking for, as long as we believe we'll find something in this book, that ritual, this sangha etc. we are still looking for something and a seeker arises. The so-called spiritual path generates a seeker, totally hooked and drunk, greedy as hell, wanting a fix, thinking he or she can buy their way through. The famous spiritual materialism that Trungpa looked at. Drop the seeker, the search is dropped. Drop the search, the seeker vanishes. And this is when practice starts, not a practice with a goal, an aim, but the practice of being home, coming back home, relaxing at home. The re is no more need for us to pick up this and reject that, our life as it is, our hut is our temple. The hut of shikantaza is complete, nothing to chase, nothing extra, nothing lacking. As crazy it may sound, there is nothing else.
When it was completed, fresh weeds appeared.
Now it?s been lived in, covered by weeds.
The beloved monk and foolish bloke Ryokan used to live in a very similar hermitage, Gogo-an, and he describes it as follows:
quote]My hermitage lies in a forest all around me,
Everything is thick and green
no one finds this place,
Only those who have lost their way.
No news of the affairs of men
Only the occasional song of a woodcutter.
A thousand peaks, ten thousand mountain streams
yet no signs of anyone.
or again, in another poem:
There is a bamboo grove in front of my hut
Every day I see it a thousand times
yet never tire of it.
If your hermitage is deep in the mountains
surely the moon, flowers, and maple trees
will become your friends.
Men of the world passing this way are few,
Dense grass conceals the door
All night in silence, a few woodchips burn slowly,
As I read the poems of the ancients.[/quote
Thick and green... the bamboo grove...dense grass concealing the door...All these express the ever growing field of thoughts and delusion in which the hut is built. Sitting not in a remote place, away from illusion, but in the very midst of it. Right into it.
The plants and flowers
I raised about my hut
I now surrender
To the will
Of the wind
Of course, we may expect thoughts to totally vanish, leave us alone. Sitting is not escaping from the very Samsara, most of the time, we experience the constant flow of inner chatter, weeds, always fresh, growing and growing. Endless illusion. Or is it? For observed in the large scenery of the natural and open clarity, these weeds are not an obstacle or obstruction anymore, a form that points at the formless. Play of clouds in the deep blue sky, mists on mountain top, white heron on snow, waves on the sea, the metaphors of our tradition are many, the really experienced in sitting is one. Shikantaza does not reject the monkey mind, it gives it a large space as Suzuki roshi pointed out, and doing so, the monkey mind will calm down. These countless weeds do not need to be cut, just observed as they are, and the mind returns to reality.
of Mount Kugami—
in the mountain's shade
a hut beneath the trees—
how many years
it's been my home?
The time comes
to take leave of it—
my thoughts wilt
like summer grasses,
I wander back and forth
like the evening star—
till that hut of mine
is hidden from sight,
till that grove of trees
can no longer be seen
at each bend
of the long road,
at every turning,
I turn to look back
in the direction of that mountain.
The wandering of the monk is no other than the wandering of the attention, back and forth, from thoughts to just open space and back... And at each bend, the backward step or turning and reflecting light of Dogen's Fukanzazengi, for Ryokan a simple looking back.
Of course if we turn sitting into cultivating weeds or private video viewing, well it is not shikantaza anymore. As Jundo made clear:
Sitting with just the blue sky alone, or with cloud thoughts just drifting though (not latched on to, not stirred up) ... or seeing the blue sky even through the small clouds ... is Just Sitting Zazen.
'Tis the blue sky and clouds together in such way which is what I believe Dogen meant by "Thinking Not Thinking = Non Thinking"
Through form, emptiness is reached and expressed. We sit with a body of flesh and bones, what we bring to just sitting is a lifetime of confusion and illusion, and this turns into the most opened practice ever, objectless for we are not fidling with any God or Buddha or demon.
The person in the hut lives here calmly,
not stuck to inside, outside, or in-between.
Places worldly people live, he doesn?t live.
Realms worldly people love, she doesn?t love.
Though the hut is small, it includes the entire world.
In ten feet square, an old man illumines forms and their nature.
A Mahayana bodhisattva trusts without doubt.
Sekito has got it. What is it? As much as anybody here, the freedom of no choice.
Of course, you-me-he-she, we all make choices, for instance we live with a certain idea of time, we see space and measure it, we also see others as being friends, collegues, students, teachers...Not being stuck means not being trapped in the delusion that self and others are seperate, that this and that work apart. We live in the relative, we breathe, eat and move in this idea, because it is just an idea, that there is morning and evening and yet we can never loose track of the wider perspective, the timeless perspective. Our way is to experience the limited, bounded and seemingly very structured reality with a boundless open mind. So we carry on every single duty, do the chores, go to work, live in the market place but truly, we are also in the hut, we are the hut, beyond form and emptiness.
Once you realize this, you may use every fragment of Samsara, every distraction, every thought as a wonderful way to come back home. And there is no need to make it to the woods or live in an ermitage far far away.The relative world is not experienced anymore as an hindrance or obstacle but as a pointer to our true nature. One step beyond, and the very body of Samsara might be seen as just the liberated field. The skill, as is to make use of the dual, to completely accept its game without being caught into it. To surf the waves in order to taste the sea. This constant movement to and fro from delusion to open space is our practice itself. One way to enterely miss the point of this poem is to read it as pure-solitary-natural practice versus soiled-wordly-arificial life. The invitation is to make the hut where we are, and not get stuck in one specific realm or world. To truly manifest the wisdom of what Japanese tradition call unsui, a mind live flowing water, not abiding. Hence the true nature of our freedom, although small and square, our true home is home to the entire reality. The activity is to illumine. Of course, it is to see through the real nature of things which is sunnyata, impermanence, empty because changing constantly. In ten feet square is on the spot, where we are, be it a shed or a palace, a kitchen or a garden, the subway or in the air. Ten feet square is that everything is available now, and you may practice everywhere and manifest the true light of shikantaza. Nothing else is required than this simple life, imperfect as it is, broken and soiled. No more excuses is the outcome of trust. You trust you can do it so you give the ten thousands good reasons not to practice a rest. To be a bodhisatva is just to practice and take your hut with you wherever we go.
The middling or lowly can?t help wondering;
Will this hut perish or not?
Perishable or not, the original master is present,
Not dwelling south or north, east or west.
Firmly based on steadiness, it can?t be surpassed.
A shining window below the green pines —
Jade palaces or vermilion towers can?t compare with it.
Just sitting with head covered all things are at rest.
Metaphysical questions about death, the continuation of consciousness after death or the likes are not valid here, not relevant. Perishable or not is not relevant anymore. Wether it exists or not is not the point. Enlightenment even is not the point. Attachment to enlightenment has faded away. The whole bunch of expectations we come with, the burden of thoughts and beliefs, worries and pride just vanish. It vanishes when the original face, the original master manifests itself. Last year I went to the funeral of a good friend, at the cremation I cried and after I laughed, I had so many emotions but alive or dead I could not say and I did not care. I was surprised to see that at least what used to poison my mind, ready made answers and hopes and heavens of all sorts...had all gone. Irrelevant. Life was just life. Presence was presence. Was my friend somewhere or nowhere,it was not up to me to answer! Useless questions will return by themselves to the big ground of open-mind, vast mind. One just needs to rest in this expanse, without effort, allowing coming and going to take place, without following any movement. Forming the mudra with our hands, the seal with your body mind, Body of the moon, then you embrace things without being moved or touched by them.In Shobogenzo Bussho Dogen quotes Nagarjuna's poem:
[My] body manifests the roundness of the moon,
By this means demonstrating the physique of the buddhas.
The preaching of Dharma has no set form.
The real function is beyond sounds and sights.
Not dwelling south or north, east or west is the body of the moon, the roundness of the moon. Is the original master the historical Buddha? If one sits in suchness then not only the historical Buddha but also all Buddhas of the three time come into this. Sitting is the display of the three bodies of Buddha in one spot and one go. How do we do it? By killing one bird with on stone. Shikantaza is the enlightened activity itslef, unaware of its brightness, goaless activity open to the open. We are not busy targetting a state of mind, collecting realizations and understandings, we are not any more in the chase or being chased.The original master has no need to be reached or discovered, asked or begged. The original master, the natural ground of our being is totally and utterly involved in a selfless activity. I still remember the day when, as I was sitting in my twenties, it suddenly dawn on me that all this mess inside was ok because the huge background, the open space of mind was undisturbed by it. Even more, these bits of mental videos, scraps of crappy thoughts, mean agendas and emotionnal trips were glorious outfits of the big scenery. Coming out of it and returning to it. I remember crying and laughing as I was sitting in this solemn and dry dojo. It was no satori or anything of the sort, just the sudden realization of something that has been all along before even day one. That was also the first time that I kind of gave up the idea of keeping anything, chasing any state, achieving any wisdom...to pick it up very quickly after.
All the colourful dreams about the spiritual experience we had, these castles made of sand, these jade palaces and towers are about the dreams and expectations we have when we start the journey. Amida land, Buddha land, enlightenment land, all these fantaisies are seen as pretty unreal.
A shining window below the green pines —
Of course, it looks like a good setting in the deep mountain forest, an ideal spot to sit your bum ...But again, wrong! This metaphor is also the expression of the Dharmakaya, the body of reality and truth and law permeating the Nirmanakaya, the physical world. The original brightness blazing form and skandhas, the perfect and simple dance of the original vast space with itself. You will find that in your morning breakfast, in the tube or the bus, anywhere. We must wake up to this. Wake up to this body and reality of ours as being the true treasure. The promised land is already given. As Sawaki kodo writes
the darkness of pine's shadow
It would be very tempting to make this poem into a very idyllic spot with a great view from the window and think in terms of dark pines versus shining window. Yet, the treasure room is not separated from here and now. All this confusion we moan about is the very fuel and path and even more, the very stuff the treasure room is made of. Just sit with head covered, kesa covering the head like boddhidharma. All things at rest is basically, all worries, business and extras not stired. You are all familiar with the picture of the glass of water getting clearer as the dirt gets to the bottom. But it doesn't mean that dirt is seen as apart from water, that water is now pure. It boils down to an endless appreciation of what is. To sit is to utterly accept and be grateful for what is.