View Full Version : Project: Buddha touching the Earth.

04-13-2016, 04:21 PM
It seems like the best place to start is not the beginning, which depending on how it is framed goes back before Shakyamuni, to Buddha Dipankara, then back through numberless Buddhas of prior kalpas (cosmic ages) …before dissolving in a jeweled web of pure abstraction (from a conceptual standpoint). These visions of a fantastic web and the related sutras are a treasure trove of imagery, and will be a great subject for future projects. More practically, we could go back to Siddhartha Gautama's recognition of old age, disease, and death. That recognition will also be a great subject to explore, and a powerful one, because we can all relate to grief and fear. However, we are practicing Zen, and as a student of this sangha I am learning that the best place to start is touching the earth.

There are different versions of the telling, but the old story goes something like this…

The Buddha is sitting under the Bodhi Tree. Mara has been trying every trick in the book to tempt, distract, discourage, or dissuade him from the way of awakening. Finally Mara himself claims Enlightenment and calls to witness gods and celestial spirits. There is a great display and pomp, and glory. Then he challenges the Buddha “Who will YOU call to witness your awakening?” and with this the Buddha simply reaches down and touches the Earth. In some versions the Earth roars and there is a display of magic, but the key point is the Buddha does not call upon heaven, he touches the ground.


I am not learning to touch an idea of the earth, not an idea of the earth as sacred (though it is), or as healthy or sick (though it can be). The Earth being touched is not framed by any idea at all, while making room for all ideas. It is the sheer sanity of the ordinary ground. Learning to touch the earth is learning to step out of my story, and all stories. These stories are not an error, but they are not an absolute either, and so they can be let-go-of in the simplicity of Zazen. In the simple act of sitting, without an agenda, in openness, the sane ground presents itself. Dishes clatter, birds sing, a plane goes overhead, a knee has a twinge, stories appear to compel for moment, then fade.

Assignment: Please look into Earth Touching for yourself. There are many resources from different Buddhist traditions, but mainly I am asking for your own sense of what this means, in the light of your own experience, and in your own words. Say as little or as much as you like, and post freely on this thread. When we have all had our say, we can explore creative ideas together. There is no hurry.

Here are some links providing some different perspectives:





.....and good wiki entry on the Earth Touching Mudra and its place in the canon of Mudras https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mudra

sat today

04-13-2016, 06:00 PM

My belly tattoo. [emoji3]

Gasho, Jishin, _/st\_

04-13-2016, 07:36 PM
Touching the earth brings to mind my first experience of regular meditation practice, just sitting. I became much more aware of my surroundings and I gained a composure in the face of a difficult situation.

That is an awesome belly tattoo, Jishen.


04-13-2016, 08:06 PM
Hi Daizen,
I feel 'Touching the Earth' is a confirmation of the interdependence of ALL things.
We are a just collection of atoms just as everything in the whole universe is. How they are structured depends what comes in to being at that time, whether it's a gas cloud in a distant galaxy, a neutrino, a tiny springtail, tree, giraffe, streptococcus bacterium or human being.
But its goes further than the pooling of atoms as somehow surely this must all come together some way, as there must be an 'eternal' force, law, God, cosmic Buddha, I guess people call it different things.

To think of it in a simple way, that mystic (unknown) law is a bit like electricity and human beings are say like light bulbs and when that electricity is turned on we 'are' as human beings and when turned off that what made the light bulb light up is still there (electricity) it doesn't go away, not only that the same force goes on to power other things, machines, radios, produces lightning, makes nerve fibres fire, muscles move etc etc..
Admittedly a very basic analogy and a very limited one when compared to that force or whatever you call it regulating, powering the 'ALL'. (cant think of the word I want as regulating/powering is not adequate)
To go one further-

'Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.' Genesis 2:7

'and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.' Ecclesiastes 12:7

A table is only a table as we call it and recognise it as such, but take the legs off and you have a plank and four poles of wood, but go back further and you'd have a branch on a tree, back again and a sapling, back again to a seed, back again to a seed germ....and to atoms, go back far enough and those atoms/electrons would be making up something else other than wood fibres or seeds and back and back...to an eternal beginning and eternal ending. A good Zen contradiction there, as you cant have an eternal beginning and eternal end, only an 'eternal'.

So my feeling about 'Touching the Earth' is as a confirmation that everything is interdependent as 'everything' comes from and shares the commanility of that mystic (unknown) eternal force. There is nothing different in any of us than that of the Earth- protons, electrons etc...
But I love the story of Mara, makes much more interesting reading.

Kazashimo ~~sat today##

04-14-2016, 12:36 AM

Spring is here. The garden is calling to me. Dirt under my fingernails. Seeds, those miraculous of all living things are sitting on my studio bench. Earth, water and sun will work its magic yet again...
Green beans.
Sweet potatoes.
Swiss chard.
Miracles all.
Bowing to Mother Earth I plant my seeds. The greatest of all providers.

And bowing to you for your thoughtful post and interesting links. Thank you.

04-14-2016, 04:14 AM
Perfect enlightenment is attainable for all sentient beings. We don't understand the mechanics because we aren't enlightened. We don't see any enlightened beings walking around. I haven't met any. We aren't enlightened but, enlightenment is certain because when Shakyamuni Buddha touched the Earth he saw all sentient beings reaching enlightenment with him. We're here sitting zazen and reading books. Still not enlightened. Nope. Zazen gives us those glimpses of Buddha, maybe. But Shakyamuni Buddha knew right then and there where we all stood and we were all with him regardless of our circumstance. This is my favorite part of The story of the Buddha.


Sat Today

04-14-2016, 04:28 AM
My belly tattoo. [emoji3]

Gasho, Jishin, _/st\_

What is that mysterious hole deep into the earth? :)

If you put on a few more pounds, that tatoo is gonna look like this ...


Gassho, J

SatToday, sticking to diet

04-14-2016, 11:26 AM
What is that mysterious hole deep into the earth? :)

If you put on a few more pounds, that tatoo is gonna look like this ...

SatToday, sticking to diet

That mysterious whole is the Dharma Eye. [emoji3]

Stepped on the scale today. Gotta take better care of my Buddha. [emoji33]

Gasho, Jishin, _/st\_

04-14-2016, 02:46 PM
It's Mother Earth. The energy you receive from earth is more yin (female)

SAT today

04-15-2016, 04:48 AM
Wade a mountain stream
Sit still in the deep forest
Look up under an oak.



04-15-2016, 04:05 PM
Hi Folks,

So I thought I would approach this from the perspective of my practice and how I now think about such things. It will be idiosyncratic.

This story for me is an allegory for the mind theater. Mara isn't so much evil but the representation of a gaining idea. Mara is fueled by the Buddha's desire for some final state which is also a rejection of whats currently happening. Mara manifests enlightenment as a magical state that involves a grand spectacle. Pretty typical for an object of longing. The challenge made by Mara represents the gap between the present reality of the Buddha and his fantasy of enlightenment. Mara's mockery is the Buddha's own sense of longing for a fantasy and sense a of failure.

When the Buddha touches the ground he is returning to the present. It is the present where all things happen and for us terrestrial beings it is where we are most at home. With that touch poof! Mara and the fantasy disappear! So I think this story is of the Buddha opening the hand of thought.


04-18-2016, 09:12 AM
.... just some thoughts on one story - in touching the ground the Buddha 'calls' upon Prthivi (the devi of the earth) to witness his enlightenment.
I think that's interesting - the Buddha doesn't claim enlightenment without some form of witness.

I see the story about witness as being about connection. There is nothing to be 'proved' but everything to be felt/experienced.
Nature - mother nature as Richard says - is all important. She is a silent, non-ostentatious witness to our original nature.



sat today

04-25-2016, 08:40 PM
Ah excellent! I'll be reading up this week.

Thank you Daizan!



04-29-2016, 02:29 AM

This is a picture of the cemetery at Zen Mountain Monastery. I wandered around looking at the lovely tokens and haiku placed there, swept the temple, sat on the ground and felt how the earth was home beyond all birth and death.