View Full Version : 4/3 - Branching Streams: 8th Talk - Within Light ...Darkness

04-04-2009, 04:16 AM
On to the EIGHTH TALK in Suzuki Roshi's talks on the Sandokai ... "WITHIN LIGHT THERE IS UTTER DARKNESS", pages 111 to 120.

You will probably notice that there is a big cultural difference here, for in the West (and in Christianity) "Darkness" is usually associated with "ignorance" or even "evil" (as in "Force of Darkness" or "Dark Ages"). Well, the meaning in the Sandokai is certainly NOT THAT! :twisted: I assure you (this is not some closeted Satanic lingo here ... though Buddhism gets accused of that ANYWAY in some Christian circles). The opposite meaning really. But some folks can't help but associate "dark" with a negative and shadowy implication, cause we are raised with that association.

Please also try to listen to Zoketsu Norm Fischer on this section ... I think he makes Suzuki Roshi's sometimes opaque talk a bit clearer ...

http://www.everydayzen.org/index.php?It ... io-352-217 (http://http://www.everydayzen.org/index.php?Itemid=27&option=com_teaching&topic=Suzuki+Roshi&sort=title&studyguide=true&task=viewTeaching&id=audio-352-217)

Gassho, Jundo

04-05-2009, 12:08 PM
Hi All,

With in Light there is Utter Darkness. This i tripped over a few times - mostly, I think because i kept thinking of, as Jundo already mentioned, planted thoughts here of the meaning for light and darkness. Again I'm just going to post my own mangled understanding of what was being put forth.

So in the light we see the table and the chair, salt and pepper shakers, and so on. Light is not a bad thing here either, it is just our everyday thoughts of things and is necessary to get through the day. The catch with only seeing things in the light, we create separation between things that also need to be seen in a different light...or absence of light- in Suzuki Roshi's example the mean person we encounter in our day. In the darkness we see that the separation we put there isn't always the correct interpretation of things. The person is mean at that moment because of things we don't have any knowledge of. Not knowing isn't an excuse to be short back to them. We can see that they are upset and we can understand being upset doesn't mean they are mean, just caught them in a tough moment.

Of course this doesn't excuse any of us from being mean in any way and as it is in our practice, it is okay that they are mean, we understand and in the same breath we know that it is not acceptable behavior. We have to be able to see things in the light and in darkness. See the hand and the fingers and its separation from the the feet but see the connectivity and sameness to the feet, joined together by the same flesh and bone there is no foot and no hand. Hand and foot just separations we made in our head to show the differences and doesn't illuminate their sameness . To paraphrase - Dr. Nick Riviera - Hey every body, its Mr. McGregg, with leg for an arm and an arm for a leg!

Gassho, Shohei

04-05-2009, 02:49 PM
The key point for me personally in this chapter was that of the paradoxical and uncertain nature of reality. To begin with, darkness is the absolute and as Suzuki Roshi states we cannot fully comprehend the absolute. Additionally, the darkness is in the light, but it is not to be taken as darkness and the reverse is true. Lightness, our everyday mind of conceptualization and differentiation, is thus mixed with this aspect of reality which we cannot comprehend. In fact, Fischer Roshi states that we can see darkness as the fabric of reality.

I would usually react to such uncertainty with anxiety and existential dread, but this chapter fills me with a sense of wonder and awe. It reminds me of a passage in Stephen Batchelor’s book “Buddhism without Beliefs.”

Batchelor states, “ Grounded in awareness of transiency, ambiguity, and contingency, such a person values lightness of touch, flexibility, and adaptability….As soon as the imagination is activated in the process of awakening, we recover the aesthetic dimension of dharma practice….We marvel a the exquisite tracery of a leaf, the play of light against the bark of a tree, the reflections and ripples in a puddle of water, the deliquescent radiance of the human eye.


04-06-2009, 09:57 PM
I'm not sure if I can add to what Dirk and Bryan wrote. I think I understand the key elements of this chapter; however, I'm not sure I can verbalize it well. But, the audio from N. Fisher was very helpful for the chapter. I feel a lot better about chapter 8 than 7!


04-07-2009, 11:44 AM

I think this chapter tries to clarify the non-dual aspect of reality, both light and dark, and it has to be approached with a non-dual view.

By non-dual I mean that light and dark are not opposite but exist togther like blue and red can exist together in the colour purple. We can see the colour purple or can seperate out the red and blue.

However, the darkness in light and light in darkness goes further than the red and blue making purple analogy. Light is actually exactly the same as darkness but we happen to be perceiving it as light. Darkness in light is always there as again as they are identical.

But we should be honest that when we see things in the light we talk about things in the light appropriately for the situation. Also trying to take the darkness itsself into the light is advised against as it could end up an nihilistic view.



04-08-2009, 10:36 PM
We should not cling to the idea of darkness or light; we should not cling to the idea of equality or differentiation.

I sometimes see myself clinging to my anger, though I want desperately to rid myself of it (to rid my self of it). I've tried a number of different things to get rid of it, but the one thing that was most effective was, first, acknowledging my anger (which I hadn't ever done, choosing instead to deny it and ignore it, which only made it worse), and then releasing it. Which is to say, accepting it for what it was, a part of a much larger whole that included my angry self. Somehow, this loosened things for me.

However, we often cling to what we perceive to be positive constructs, too, such as "I'm a good Zennie. I've sat every day for the last month with no deviation," or "I'm a vegan because the way animals are treated in our agricultural system is immoral". We shouldn't get attached to these constructs either.

Most people, once they have a grudge against someone, find it almost impossible to change their feeling. But, if we are Buddhists we should be able to shift our minds from bad to good and from good to bad. If you are able to do so, "bad" does not mean bad, and "good" does not mean good anymore. But at the same time, good is good and bad is bad.

My anger is "bad" and my sitting practice is "good" and veganism is "good". But, my anger is also "good" and my sitting practice is also "bad" and veganism is also "bad". These are distinctions we make in our minds, arbitrary in their application in that they divide a whole that has no need of division. So, while good is still good and bad still bad, we can see that they don't mean "bad" and "good" like we often think, but merely that they are convenient divisions of a whole that has no need of division.

There is the blue mountain and there are the white clouds, but they don't know that there are white clouds or blue mountains. Even though they don't know, they know very well -- so well that they don't know.

This reminds me of the old story where the mountain is just a mountain, but then, as one studies it, it becomes a complex ecosystem arisen from the movement of tectonic plates over geologic time, and then it becomes just a mountain again. When it all started, I didn't realize how angry I was. Then, I saw how angry I was and struggled mightily to overcome it (still am). In the end, though, there's no need to differentiate my anger. It is what it is (even while I continue to try to overcome it). And it is this acknowledgement that it is what it is that will (hopefully) allow me to overcome it.

That's the business of religions, to conceptualize the darkness. So when we do it, let's not take it too seriously. Let's understand what we're doing.

It's kinda the business of being human, or to communicate as a human, anyway, to conceptualize the darkness. But, even while we're engaged in it, we shouldn't take it too seriously. It's like fighting with a Frenchman over who is right when I'm calling it "cheese" and he's calling it "fromage". Fromage? What the hell?! It's cheese! It's anger! It's bad! It's good!

We must try to understand what we're doing.


04-09-2009, 06:47 AM
I was relieved to see that Norman Fischer says the text is "sometimes maddening to read" because I continue to stumble over paradoxes and contradictions. I also liked his comments on variations in the translation, showing yet again that hanging on to each and every word is a mistake.

I realised that I was subconsciously thinking of light and dark in terms of being in a windowless room: when the light is on, I can see/distinguish and when the light is off, I can't. Of course a light switch can't be both on and off. Now it seems better to think of the words in terms of attitude or perspective. I've read another book where the author used the words "intellect" and "intuition" and perhaps they can be matched to light (for intellect, logic, judgement) and dark (intuition - where you just trust). In everyday life we use intellect and intuition all the time, and sometimes both at once.

Fischers example of riding a bicycle is helpful. He explains that the precise written instructions could be complex and contradictory.
...nobody can really tell you how to ride a bike, or explain it to you. They can help you out and support you, but you learn it yourself. Finally I like S Suzuki's (presumably playful) answers to some of the questions. Stop thinking or get hit!

JohnH (ouch!)

04-11-2009, 06:28 AM

How about a big windowless room we wander around with a torch. The room keeps changing and there's lots of other inhabitants all interacting. Does that room contain both light and dark at the same time for each person with their own torch?



04-12-2009, 03:48 AM
I got nothing on this chapter...wait, that's a good thing, right? :)