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Thread: Grass Hut - 23 - "Zen Plays with Irony"

  1. #1

    Grass Hut - 23 - "Zen Plays with Irony"

    We are now at Chapter 19, Zen Plays with Irony / Jade Palaces.

    I recently came across some helpful writing (by Japanese practitioner Kusumoto Bunyū) on this "shit stick" ...

    It may seem strange that Yunmen would come up with something as unclean as a
    dry shit-stick, which anyone would hesitate even to mention, in response to a question
    about the Buddha. ... That is because, after a thorough-going great enlightenment, all things in their
    entirety, just as they are, are the Buddha’s form [essence]. Accordingly, it is in no-mind
    (mushin) that for the first time a dry shit-stick can be accepted, just as it is, as the
    Buddha. It is only when one has identified oneself in a most thorough-going way with
    Yunmen’s kanshiketsu that one is able to discover, apart from the contrast of purity and
    impunity, its Buddha-light. That is why Yunmen instructed the monk as he did. Penetrate
    kanshiketsu and for the first time you will be able to grasp Yunmen’s state of mind.
    Master Dogen has written long chapters of Shobogenzo on the sacredness of the toilet. a ritual requiring bowing and chanting before entering to do one's business (I am sure they make exceptions for emergencies!) ...

    Question - Has this practice helped you realize that life's crap is sacred? How?

    Has this practice helped you find life most ordinary, lowly, human, functional aspects as sacred ritual? Explain.


    Gassho, J

    SatToday
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  2. #2
    Joyo
    Guest
    Thank you, Jundo. Master Dogen must have ever known what it is like being pregnant and having to use the toilet every few minutes. I don't think any pregnant woman would be willing to bow and chant before taking a pee for the hundredth time in a day =)

    Question - Has this practice helped you realize that life's crap is sacred? How?
    Well, it has but this is definitely a life practice, it doesn't happen instantly. It's made me view life in a more non-dualistic way. I don't have to label everything as good or bad all the time. Of course, my mind still does, but this practice helps bring the mind back to a Zen mind, and it softens the borders of life. That is the biggest thing I've found with practicing Zen. All borders in life are softened.

    Has this practice helped you find life most ordinary, lowly, human, functional aspects as sacred ritual? Explain.

    Yes and no, I"m still working on that =) It has because this practice allows me to just be where I am, accepting of things in that very moment. Again, with a non-dualistic mind I can change a disabled child's diaper, at my job, and just view it for what it is, not as something our brains have been programmed to see as disgusting and gross.

    This reminds me of a quote I've been thinking about a lot lately....

    "Practice intimately, and return to where you are" --Master Dogen

    It's pretty hard to practice intimately, and not see all of life as sacred......the ugly, the beautiful, the gross and dirty, the ups and downs, disappointments and joyful times.

    Gassho,
    Joyo
    sat today

  3. #3
    I don't want to argue with the point of irony here, or comparison to such extreme contrasts that comparison seems ridiculous and is therefore dropped.
    I'd like to add a thought I had when reading: Do I get it right that these phantastic palaces and towers are - phantastic?
    They have never been built?
    Shitou does not say "the beautiful temple of... with its golden carving decorations cannot compare to this".
    So, a real leaky green roof here is better than all dream palaces.
    See what you have. The owner of a used toilet spatula might wish for a clean one.
    Or fine Chinese paper (which has not been written on).

    Is this practice helping me?
    Nature has only some ways of degrading biological material, so I used to make such observations a time ago like friends remarked, their little daughters diapers were increadibly foul smelling - exactly like their favourite cheese, unfortunately...
    So good smelling cheese, lovely baby with foul smelling diapers, all a matter of context.

    The hard part is stepping back out our own way and see the pattern in my own life.

    Gassho,
    Danny
    #sattoday

  4. #4
    Thank you Joyo and Danny.

    My wife and I volunteer at the local humane society, where we are "Dog Companions". We basically take the dogs for walks and into the play areas, give them fun and lots of loving. We also have two dogs of our own. Now, I go to the bathroom, shocker!

    So anyway, from one perspective, I don't really think of picking up crap or going to the bathroom as sacred. Maybe because I think of sacred as something as perceived sacred, like a temple or money or something. Maybe I think that getting a promotion or a raise or paying off debt or being able to retire early or getting that new video game system or video game, seeing the new avengers movie, eating at that fancy restaurant, working out to get in shape so I can be the envy of my friends or doing any number of distractions so I don't have to be right here, or pay attention to being right here. Those things are sacred. I think before this practice, and even now but I catch myself, I find distractions as sacred.

    But really, this is sacred right now, because this isn't in our minds, this isn't perceived as something that would be better (The grass is always greener phenomenon), this is perfection because its real. When we imagine something, we can only imagine so many facets. But reality, this right here is unlimited. And, if we don't pay attention, we miss it, we miss our lives. If we only hang onto those Jade palaces and vermillion towers, and we try to avoid the other 85% of our lives like weeding the garden, doing the lawn, taking out the trash, brushing our teeth, doing the laundry, dusting the book shelf, picking up after ourselves, washing our bowls.... if we try to avoid those things, we are avoiding our lives.

    Gassho,

    Risho
    -sattoday

  5. #5
    Joyo
    Guest
    Thank you so much, Risho. This really helped me with my "boring" life as a stay-at-home-mom Beautiful, many thanks!!

    Gassho,
    Joyo
    sat today

  6. #6
    So true Risho. Thanks so much.

    Sat today
    _/_
    Rich
    MUHYO
    無 (MU, Emptiness) and 氷 (HYO, Ice) ... Emptiness Ice ...

    I may be wrong and not knowing is acceptable

  7. #7
    Risho, that really summarizes well something that is difficult to put into words! Thank you, and thank you for being dog companions... how wonderful for those dogs to have the human contact that they need as much as food and shelter.

    Gassho,
    Sierra
    SatToday

  8. #8
    I've read this chapter a few times now and it gets better and better with each reading. It leaves space for "on the other hand...". With that in mind...

    All this sacred this and that. Viewing things with veneration is like viewing things through a veil. Pah! "Putting a head on top of your own head, you blind idiots? Your head is right where it should be!" (Lin Chi http://sped2work.tripod.com/linchi.html)

    step lightly... stay free...
    Jeremy
    st
    Last edited by Jeremy; 08-13-2015 at 12:17 PM.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Joyo View Post
    Thank you so much, Risho. This really helped me with my "boring" life as a stay-at-home-mom Beautiful, many thanks!!

    Gassho,
    Joyo
    sat today
    Boring my ass -- it's too bad that more people can't have stay at home moms; it's the most under appreciate career path in history. My mom quit her job to stay at home when I was younger because I started acting out, and it helped so much.

    Gassho,

    Risho
    -sattoday

  10. #10
    Joyo
    Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by Risho View Post
    Boring my ass -- it's too bad that more people can't have stay at home moms; it's the most under appreciate career path in history. My mom quit her job to stay at home when I was younger because I started acting out, and it helped so much.

    Gassho,

    Risho
    -sattoday
    Ok, I think I owe you an apple pie now =)

    Gassho,
    Joyo
    sat today

    ps--That is so great that you now appreciate what your mother did to help you. I do hope my boys look back and feel even somewhat the same about me. It is a very thankless job when they are 7 and 9.
    Last edited by Joyo; 08-13-2015 at 11:52 PM. Reason: ps

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Joyo View Post
    Ok, I think I owe you an apple pie now =)

    Gassho,
    Joyo
    sat today

    ps--That is so great that you now appreciate what your mother did to help you. I do hope my boys look back and feel even somewhat the same about me. It is a very thankless job when they are 7 and 9.
    My wife took some time off from work when we adopted our second child to be with him. She could not handle it for more than a couple of weeks and went back to her usual job. Being a domestic engineer is no joke. Very hard. Round the clock work. My wife is a doctor.

    Gasho, Jishin, _/st\_

  12. #12
    My immediate and honest answer to the questions is no, that I don't think of life's crap or lowliest functions as sacred. But let me explain a bit. I try to be mindful of life's crap. I try to surf through it without stepping too deeply into it. After all, it's just crap, and crap is as empty as any jade palace. Said another way, sacred is just as empty as a shit stick, so I also try not to step too deeply into life's jade palaces. Both crap and jade palaces happen in life, generally by our own creation and construction, so I find it best to just move on, because there is nothing to see here.
    AL (Jigen) in:
    Faith/Trust
    Courage/Love
    Awareness/Action!

    I sat today

  13. #13
    Hi All,

    Ok, Danny, I am a cheese lover and you have disturbed me deeply, my cheese will never be the same.

    This chapter is great. That line of the poem seems so straightforward at first, and Ben really draws out a lot of shades of interpretation that I didn’t perceive.

    What Joyo says about the borders softening really resonates with me. More and more, I buy into my mind’s distinction-making less and less. Mind never stops comparing and cataloging, but Zen-mind just is. There, see, my mind just made another distinction. It never ends, and it’s ok, this is what mind does. I can relax a little and realize that although the mind labels things for easy reference, this does not affect or define the actual nature of things-as-they-are (are-not).

    Jeremy, such a great insight about the veil of veneration. I do tend toward a feeling of awe and reverence toward the universe, and what you say makes me think... Realizing that Buddha-nature pervades the whole universe, is moving beyond sacred and profane. Even saying something like, “I see the sacredness of this,” is creating distinction and separation. No need to lift things up to the sky, or bring them down to ground-level. All is as it is. As Risho says, “this is perfection because it is real.” Not stained, not pure. Reality existing right here now.

    “...sacred is just as empty as a shit stick, so I also try not to step too deeply into life's jade palaces. Both crap and jade palaces happen in life, generally by our own creation and construction, so I find it best to just move on, because there is nothing to see here.” Dang, that’s brilliant, Al.

    I read somewhere that the Chinese emphasis on shitsticks and toilet humor was partially in counter-balance to the very reverent Indian tradition, which kind of makes sense to me. The pendulum swings.

    Gassho
    Lisa
    sat today

  14. #14
    Here is my rendition of the sacred dumpster at my apartment complex. I don't bow when I toss my garbage in here, but there is nothing stopping me from doing so.
    Sacred dumpster.jpeg
    AL (Jigen) in:
    Faith/Trust
    Courage/Love
    Awareness/Action!

    I sat today

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by AlanLa View Post
    Here is my rendition of the sacred dumpster at my apartment complex. I don't bow when I toss my garbage in here, but there is nothing stopping me from doing so.
    Sacred dumpster.jpeg
    I'm bowing to that.

    Gassho
    Lisa
    sat today

  16. #16
    This year has been a rough one for me. Last year was worse. My wife had started drinking again which turned into a very awful downward spiral that took the piss out of both of us. By the end of last year I realized that I may lose everything I had. I didn't have anyone I could talk to and I was having trouble sorting through my own feelings. That's when I made the decision to start this practice because it was the only thing I could think of that might help me deal with what the uncertainty of what was to come.

    She quit drinking a few months ago and we overhauled our diet as well. (Another very serious and crippling addiction of hers.) Keeping with the theme of anxiety and uncertainty these past two years have also been our weakest financially in quite some time. I've always tried to be an optimistic guy, and can always see a bright future down the road, but navigating through my current reality can be tricky sometimes.

    When her habits were really getting the best of her I got hung up on blaming her. After all, she was engaging in those habits. I don't drink at all, never cared for it. Nor do I have any issues with food. But I was also keenly aware of the hurt she was using these substances to suppress. Her childhood was extremely abusive and she finally took the steps to eliminate the abusive element in her life in accordance with the advice she had gotten from a few psychologists. In her case it is her mother. She didn't get a loving mother. She got a malignant narcissist. But even though her mother is awful to be around 99% of the time, there is still a fundamental need in her to maintain the relationship and even try to please her mother, even though it is impossible.

    But I didn't know how to help her. My attempts were almost always met with anger. I felt at the mercy of her temper tantrums. My family wasn't very supportive and I couldn't make sense of it all. Three months ago she promised me, of her own volition, that she would stop drinking entirely and observe a healthy diet. The day before she made that change she freaked out threw a kitchen tool in a fit of rage and put a dent in the side of our van. It has served as a very sobering reminder of what we are up against and so far so good.

    I buried my anger and resentment deep inside of me. I'm still weeding through that mess. My life feels like a mess. Her spending habits while she was in addict mode put us into a considerable amount of debt, which has been tough to sort through. I got hung up on blame and feeling the victim for a while.

    Through all this shit practice has been guiding me. I used to get really hung up on what was "right". The irony is that I actually was "right" a lot of the time, but in the context of a suffering addict I wasn't always approaching things in the most complete way. In my mind I created expectations of her and silent rules I expected her to follow. When those expectations weren't met, no matter how noble they were, I would get frustrated and derailed. I would want her to get healthy, but I was approaching it in a deceptively selfish way. I was still expecting her to do something for me, even though I was convinced it was for her. As a result I was distracted by my frustrations which turned into arguments. I wasn't looking at this pile of shit from all angles. She was a suffering person with an inability to properly express herself to me.

    About a week after I discovered Treeleaf we got into a heated discussion about something. I knew I was "right" and I wasn't letting go. Then I thought about Jundo's hammer video I had recently seen. I told myself to put down the hammer. I momentarily took myself out of the situation and I actually heard what she was trying to tell me. it has been a day by day process but we are working through all this much better and our relationship is very good. She has accepted that she must remain sober to live well and we are working together to create an environment where that is possible. For me, I had to recognize the limits of my good intentions and to see how thin the line between selfless and selfish is. Through this Bodhidharma's four practices (suffering injustice, adapting to conditions, seeking nothing, following the path of equanimity) has been a great source of inspiration. I cannot silence myself or how I feel, but if I am to be a loving and compassionate person I have to cut through my own shit, and my wife's shit, to get to the real shit. And that shit is sacred.

    Gassho

    Sat Today

  17. #17
    Member Getchi's Avatar
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    Question - Has this practice helped you realize that life's crap is sacred? How?

    Has this practice helped you find life most ordinary, lowly, human, functional aspects as sacred ritual? Explain.
    I had to really think about this, and re-read some of the excellent ideas above. My first reaction was a long passage on my duties as a stay at home Dad and how sacred even the mundane was.

    But I dont know what else to say apart from it has allowed the lowly and the lofty to meet at the middle. None of these moments will happen again, I need to be fully present at all times I can. My anger, frustration and greed has lessened and im surprised that I dont quite know why. Helping others is now helping myself, and the same as helping my loved ones. Though i differ in judgment or appearance, im even more acutely aware that I share the one mind with all other humans, perhaps all sentient beings.

    ANd perhaps, deconstruction was a sacred cow to me. Perhaps I needed to beat it with an old stick.


    Gassho,
    Geoff.
    SatToday
    Nothing to do? Why not Sit?

  18. #18
    All the best Byrne....I've been through one of the most difficult decades in my life. Practice does help.
    Gassho,
    Jisen/BrianW

    Sat2Day

  19. #19
    Ahh and now for the question….In terms of life’s crap being sacred….it is and it isn’t. The irony in Zen helps us “hold” are concepts differently, while, at times, seeing them dissolve.

    Gassho,
    Sat2Day

  20. #20
    Joyo
    Guest
    Byrne, all the best to you and your wife. May the verse of metta be the words that you walk by.

    Gassho,
    Joyo
    sat today

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