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Thread: Thoughts on Wholeness

  1. #1

    Thoughts on Wholeness

    I just finished listening to Jundo's excellent teaching on Wholeness and after sitting zazen came to some realizations on the subject.

    As Jundo said, wholeness is "wholeness" regardless of its breadth and even "hole-ness" is wholeness. There is nothing that is not wholeness. In mathematical terms, a whole is a whole, yet it can be divided into two halves but each half is, in itself, a "whole half". There is nothing in each half that is not a half, that is not wholly contained within that half, so each half is its own form of a whole. AND YET, each half can also be joined by its other half to make a whole. On their own, the halves are unique, yet they are not separated from the greater whole.

    Subsequently, each half can be divided into further halves, or quarters of the original whole, and subdivided again and again and again until we now have 32 individual parts. Each 32nd is a unique "whole 32nd", yet is not apart from its 31 brethren in the greater whole. No matter how much you divide it you still end up with a fractional "whole" that is not separate from the greater oneness.

    In terms of living beings, this being called Richard is a unique whole being, yet is joined in marriage to his "other half" to make a whole couple. Richard is also 1/4 of an immediate family of wife, daughter and son, yet is not separate from the whole. 1/4 whole, family whole. By extension, this Richard is but 1/50,000th of his city, but is also a part but not apart of/from the whole community. This can be extended indefinitely throughout all beings within the mutliverse. We are whole individuals yet not separated from unity with the rest.

    Now, my particular distress in terms of wholeness arises in my workplace. I am a teacher in a small-town school, one fraction of a staff-student population around 180. I am very secure in being a "whole 1/180th" but the problem is that I do feel separation from the other 179, particularly the 15 or so staff members. In recent years the "ed biz" has taken a very abrupt turn and I feel left behind and irrelevant in my school. It doesn't help that I feel the turn was not well-thought out and tosses the baby out with the bath. To mix metaphors further, I have been decrying the emperor's new clothes for some time but it has just been bleating in the wind. So, reconciliation with my colleagues is both the problem and the solution and I struggle with my feelings of bitterness, disappointment and downright anger toward them. This morning I realized that my feelings do not change the reality of "wholeness" and are merely clouds obscuring the clear blue sky of truth.

    Thanks to Jundo's discourse I now know that I must focus on the wholeness of all, regardless of my opinions or feelings. They make no difference to the state of the whole and only increase the dukkha in my life.

    Thank you again Jundo for your excellent teaching and may all sentient beings realize the wholeness that is.

    Peace and blessings to all ,

  2. #2
    O yea, ya gotta love those sob's. As things slow down the collisions between parts of the whole are reduced.

    Kind regards. /\
    無 (MU, Emptiness) and 氷 (HYO, Ice) ... Emptiness Ice ...

  3. #3
    Hi Richard,

    Well, one should not simply understand intellectually this "whole is whole, and each half is whole", and must feel this ... wholly live this ... in the bones. In fact, Buddhist "Hua-yen" (Avatamsaka/Flower Garland) perspectives, which greatly influenced Dogen and most other Zen ancestors, would add some other important perspectives on the sacredness of this whole life-self-world and all its constituent pieces, such as ...

    - The Whole is so "Whole", with nothing left out, no need to even really call it "Whole" ... just a word we contrast with "Lacking".

    - The Whole is wholly the Whole ... and each half or quarter is ""Wholly Half" and "Wholly Quarter" ... and each grain of sand is "Wholly Grain", each blade of grass is "Wholly Blade", every raindrop just "Wholly Drop" and Richard thoroughly "Wholly Richard" ... each a whole universe unto itself, never lacking ... each Holy too.

    - As well, sand and grass, rain and Richard and all the other parts of this world fit together like a child's jigsaw puzzle to make the Whole World ... and like a jigsaw puzzle, each piece has its place or would leave a hole.

    - Not only that, but each grain of sand Wholly Holds all the blades of grass, rain and Richards ... and all the Richards are wholly the grass and rain and all the sand on all the beaches of the universe. One Buddhist perspective to feel is that the whole of reality, all time and space ... is manifested in a grain of sand ... and all of the universe is held on the tip of each blade of grass and the tip of your nose too.

    - And each Richard is precisely nothing more than a grain of sand ... every blade of grass truly a raindrop in disguise ...

    - Richard flows into the raindrops and the raindrops flow into Richard ... and so too with the grass and trees and mountains and other people ... flowing into each other, and each just each other.

    All that, and likewise for the happy and sad, beautiful and ugly, healthy and sick, live and dead times of this world ... each Wholly Holy Just What It is and Wholly Holy The Whole Enchilada. There are other ways to see too, endless Perspectives and Non-Perspectives, ever changing like the Whole Grand kaleidoscope.

    Mahayana Buddhism teaches us that assessments such as "big vs. small (small = therefore irrelevant)", "important vs. not so important" "central vs. peripheral" "a moment vs. endless eras of time", while each true and useful perspectives in our ordinary day to day lives (because in daily life a fat man cannot squeeze into a skinny man's pants) are subjective human measures and judgments, all dropped away in a Buddha's eye. So. do not be so quick to judge either a grain as "big" or "small" ... a blade as "tall" or "short" or finite ... or the universe as vast and distant ... for to do so is perhaps as much a value judgment in saying how "small and insignificant" we are, not much different from ancient man's subjective judgment in asserting how "grand" we are, that we are at the heart of it all, the universe spinning around us, the "center of creation".

    In fact, we are at the heart of all, the center, for where in the universe is the heart, the center of all? Better said, where in the center of reality, all emerging, is not the center? Where in the heart is not found the heart? Every point in the universe spins around every point in the universe.

    So, who is to judge "big" and "small"?

    In the the Huayan [Avatamsaka Flower Garland] Sutra, there are myriads of buddhas in every grain of sand and a buddha realm at the tip of a hair.

    Not unlike Blake ...

    To see a world in a grain of sand,
    And a heaven in a wild flower,
    Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
    And eternity in an hour.

    Chao-chou said, “At times I take a blade of grass and use it as the sixteen-foot body of buddha; at times I take the sixteen-foot body of buddha and use it as a blade of grass."

    Dogen wrote in Genjo Koan ...

    Although [the moon's] light is wide and great, the moon is reflected even in a puddle an inch wide. The whole moon and the entire sky are reflected in dewdrops on the grass, or even in one drop of water. Enlightenment does not divide you, just as the moon does not break the water. You cannot hinder enlightenment, just as a drop of water does not hinder the moon in the sky. The depth of the drop is the height of the moon. Each reflection, however long or short its duration, manifests the vastness of the dewdrop, and realizes the limitlessness of the moonlight in the sky.

    ... in Uji, Being-Time ...

    We must study that in the entire world there are myriads of things and hundreds of blades of grass and that each of these things and each blade of grass is, one by one, the entire world. With this lively view our practice begins.

    Sufi poet Kabir wrote ... "All know that the drop merges into the ocean, but few know that the ocean merges into the drop."

    This view of reality is intertwined with "Indra's Net" ... Buddhists tend not to think only of "near" or "far", "now" or "long ago"... not even for the most distant times and places. Buddhists pierce simultaneously the deep intimacy, wholeness, singularity of all times and spaces as one.

    A traditional image also from the Avatamsaka Sutra is "Indra's Net". Taigen Leighton recounts this story about Fazang, a great teacher of Huayen Buddhism ...

    Another time, Fazang illustrated the Huayan teachings for Empress Wu by constructing a hall of mirrors, placing mirrors on the ceiling, floor, four walls, and four corners of a room. In the center he placed a Buddha image with a lamp next to it. Standing in this room, the empress could see that the reflection in any one mirror clearly reflected the reflections from all of the other mirrors, including the specific reflection of the Buddha image in each one. This fully demonstrated the unobstructed interpenetration of the particular and the totality, with each one contained in all, and with all contained in each one. Moreover, it showed the nonobstructed interpenetration of each particular mirror with each of the others.


    A frequently cited expression of this vision of reality is the simile of Indra’s Net from the Avatamsaka Sutra, which was further elaborated by the Huayan teachers. The whole universe is seen as a multidimensional net. At every point where the strands of the net meet, jewels are set. Each jewel reflects the light reflected in the jewels around it, and each of those jewels in turn reflects the light from all the jewels around them, and so on, forever. In this way, each jewel, or each particular entity or event, including each person, ultimately reflects and expresses the radiance of the entire universe. All of totality can be seen in each of its parts.
    You see, it used to be thought that mankind was the center of the cosmos, thus very important. Then, Copernicus, Hubble and others showed that we are just fleas on a speck of dust in one galaxy among countless galaxies ... so apparently unimportant in our relative smallness. However we Mahayana Buddhists (and many modern physicists!) tend to see the cosmos as more like the surface of a sphere, like the surface of this ball or balloon ...

    For the surface of a sphere, no matter the size of the sphere, EVERY point on the surface is as much the center of the surface as every other point. In a sense. every point is just as important or unimportant as any other ... and is as much the ball or balloon as any other. We are all the ball, and playing ball, in the most radical sense. In our universe, every point can also lay claim to being a center as much as any other too. In fact, each point of the ball's surface supports all the rest of the surface ... ala Indra's Net.

    Remove one atom from the surface, and one changes the whole ... maybe "pops" the whole balloon!

    HOWEVER, WHAT DOES THAT HAVE TO DO WITH OUR SCHOOLS AND TEACHER SALARIES? VERY LITTLE, I AM AFRAID. UNFORTUNATELY, THE WONDROUS PERSPECTIVES OF THE MAHAYANA AND A BUDDHA EYE WILL NOT, IN OUR DAILY WORLD OF SAMSARA AND BOARDS OF EDUCATION, DO MUCH TO INCREASE SCHOOL FUNDING, GET YOU DECENT TEXT BOOKS AND MAKE ALL YOUR FELLOW TEACHERS AS COMMITTED AS YOU. There may be that beyond "big and small" ... and "big may be perfectly big" etc. ... but class sizes will continue to be too big, teacher salaries too small. Each student and colleague may each be "the whole universe in a grain of sand", but simultaneously some will continue to be as annoying and troublesome as sand in your underwear! .

    If one embodies in the bones all the Wondrous Whole Visions of the Mahayana ... all the petty problems of this world VANISH ... yet, simultaneously I fear, all remain as wholly petty problems! Even the Buddha can't get all the students to pay attention and do their homework with supportive parents and Teachers paid as much as star athletes. Sorry (he couldn't even get all his own students to pay attention!). On the other hand, that "bitterness, disappointment and downright anger" you mention might be helped quite a bit.

    Gassho, A Grain of Sand
    Last edited by Jundo; 01-03-2014 at 02:47 PM.

  4. #4
    Many thanks, Jundo. I see (again) that intellectual reasoning is not the same as true understanding. You have given much to chew on, enough to keep me busy for many zazen sittings.


  5. #5
    Good luck in dealing with your problems, Richard. I'm afraid I have nothing more to offer but this encouragement! Godspeed

    Gassho, Ben

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by monkeymind View Post
    Many thanks, Jundo. I see (again) that intellectual reasoning is not the same as true understanding. You have given much to chew on, enough to keep me busy for many zazen sittings.

    Oh, please do not chew on anything during Zazen sittings. Just sit on during Zazen sittings. Just Sit! Gassho, J

  7. #7
    Thank you.

    "Recognize suffering, remove suffering." - Shakyamuni Buddha when asked, "Uhm . . .what?"

  8. #8
    Originally Posted by monkeymind
    Many thanks, Jundo. I see (again) that intellectual reasoning is not the same as true understanding. You have given much to chew on, enough to keep me busy for many zazen sittings.


    Oh, please do not chew on anything during Zazen sittings. Just sit on during Zazen sittings. Just Sit! Gassho, J

    Yes, of course. In that case it will give me much to chew on for the rest of my day. Perhaps when I go back to school on Monday I can keep it in mind as well.

    By the by, it is neither class size nor pay that are the problem but the basic philosophy of education that is in play here. I went to school in the (19)60s and much of what is going on now was tried then and didn't work at that time. It's all about numbers and management instead of nurturing the youthful spirit. In other words, they are neglecting the "whole" student for the sake of the parts.

    Last edited by monkeymind; 01-03-2014 at 02:58 PM. Reason: adding quote

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