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Thread: BOOK OF EQUANIMITY - Case 77

  1. #1

    BOOK OF EQUANIMITY - Case 77

    Case 76 never ends, yet now we move on to Case 77 - Kyozan Holds His Own ...

    Preface:
    It is like a person depicting the empty sky:
    The moment one starts to use the brush, one is in the wrong.
    How could you bear creating a model and making a pattern?
    How could you bear trying to make something?
    I, Bansho, have already exposed means of fixation.
    If there are rules, make avail of them;
    If there are no rules, use the [following] example.

    Case:
    A monk asked Kyôzan, “Your Reverence, do you know letters or not?”
    Kyôzan said, “According to my capacity.” The monk immediately turned around
    once clockwise and said, “What letter is this?” Kyôzan drew the ideograph for
    “10” [ 十 ] in the earth. The monk turned himself around once counter-clockwise
    and said, “What letter is that?” Kyôzan modified the sign “十” into a swastika [卍].
    The monk drew a circle in the air and lifted his two palms like Asura [a Hindu god] vigorously
    holding the sun and moon and said, “What letter is that?” Kyôzan immediately
    drew a circle enclosing the swastika. The monk at once represented the vigor of
    a Rucika [a powerful temple guardian]. Kyôzan said, “Good, good. Keep it with care.”

    Verse:
    The emptiness of the circle of the Way will not be filled;
    The letters of the stamps of emptiness have not yet revealed.
    Wonderfully governing the orbits of heaven and the axis of the earth;
    Precisely applying the warp for the military use, the weft for literary use.
    Letting go, gathering together;
    Absolutely independent, freely going anywhere.
    The activities turn subtle pivots; in the blue sky the thunder roars violently;
    The eyes emit violet lights; one sees the stars in broad daylight.
    A portion of Shishin's commentary is available on pages 242 and 244 here ...

    https://books.google.co.jp/books?id=...%20own&f=false

    This is another Koan that seems, like the last Koan (76), to offer a kind of model or formula for the relationship of the absolute and relative. It also implies that such models and uses of words or symbols to describe it cannot ever be really accurate. However, it it not bad, and is the best we can do. A wise monk can bring some meaning and life into it.

    So, turning circles probably represents emptiness, the absolute. The "ten" probably means all the relative things of the universe in all directions. The swastika (not to be confused with the Nazi symbol) is a sign for the moving, non-stagnant nature of the universe, which is the absolute and all the relative things in motion. It also represents the Buddhist teachings being preached and practiced in this world. The absolute holds up and moves the sun and moon and all the stars in the sky, with vigor and power.

    The Preface seems to say that words and models are never adequate to convey this, and the reality cannot really be fixated in words or formuli and nailed down, but, well, doing what you need to do (following or breaking the rules) to convey the meaning.

    The Verse seems to repeat many of those same points, and emphasizes the vigorous activity of emptiness which silently goes everywhere and does everything in the universe. The reference to military and literary might just mean something like that it fits all situations.

    Something like that. This is a tough Koan, so I am guessing some of it. Shishin provides some additional comments, also a bit vague.

    Gassho, J

    SatTodayLAH
    Last edited by Jundo; 06-11-2018 at 04:33 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  2. #2
    My version says:
    “Activity sends forth the mysterious gist, and sparks lightning in the blue heaven.
    The eye enfolds the purple rays, and sees stars in the bright of day.”
    It sounded to me like practice (activity) and enlightenment (lightning), after which one sees the unity of night and day.

    It does seem like they are trying to discuss the difficulty of passing down Dharma teachings from generation to generation using symbols... “as soon as brush is used he goes wrong... “ and as the commentary says, “to have the Great Matter without having the Buddha’s wisdom is like a blind person holding a mirror.” How can the wisdom be passed down so that the Dharma can survive?

    Gassho,
    Jakuden
    SatToday/LAH


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    清 道 寂田
    SEIDO JAKUDEN
    She/her.
    I am a novice priest. Any resemblance my posts may have to actual teachings about the Dharma, living or dead, is purely coincidental (and just my attempt to be helpful).

  3. #3
    I read this koan, took a shower with it, sat zazen with it and the warp/woof of a coming/going lawnmower outside/inside (what dharma symbols does a lawnmower make? what do they mean?), and came here to comment on it. This koan seemed more like a dharma dance than the usual obscure verbal combat. I liked that there were so few words spoken, just the ones at the beginning to introduce the pop quiz and the appreciative "you passed" at the end, now go forth and multiply. In between, I appreciated how symbols can be turned to action, to behaviors made manifest in the world. Thanks to Wick's commentary, I also appreciate how symbols are of no use unless turned into practical behaviors. It's easy, too easy, to get all wrapped up in the symbols of things, and they can be important, but worshiping symbols is pretty useless. Using the meaning of symbols is to inspire action, on the other hand, is much more important. The Buddha as a garden decoration (buddha garden gnomes are a thing!) is quite useless, but Buddha as inspiration for social justice actions is much more important. Christ on the cross is the most iconic Christian symbol there is, but unless it inspires someone to go do Jesus' work then what's the point? I remember Jundo once putting a picture of Hitler on the altar and explaining how it was just a picture, just a symbol, in this case of someone terrible, but it shouldn't stop or distract you from sitting zazen and living according to the precepts. I have small statues of Manjushri and Samantabhabra prominently displayed in my home so that they regularly remind me of how wisdom is no good without action. Create or acquire all the symbols of compassion you want, and even interpret them as dance moves if you want, but they only become truly meaningful when loosen your grip on them enough to go act according to the the Way out in the market.

    OR... here's another interpretation that just popped into my head: Kyozan is the guy in the black hat on the altar calling/speaking the dharma instead of using a stick (according to #76, would it really be a stick?), and the monks are circumambulating around according to his different verbal dharma symbols.


    AL (Jigen) in:
    Faith/Trust
    Courage/Love
    Awareness/Action!

    I sat today

  4. #4
    Jakuden and Jigen both picked up the key things I grabbed from this Koan. I am glad I waiting for someone else to comment as what they said helped crystallize my thinking

    It’s like a man who tries to draw emptiness. No sooner does he use the writing brush then he goes wrong
    The longer I spend with the practice the more I realize I don’t have sufficient words to talk about it. I used to wonder why writings about Zen all seemed to be so cryptically written. Why couldn’t someone just clearly say what Zen was all about? Longer I spend the more I realize that it is very difficult to put all of this into words. Even the cryptic writings (of which I understand little) miss the mark. My deep respect for those like Jundo who attempt to teach through words. I am sure it is irksome to commit to words when you know you can’t truly express it all.

    I was a little disappointed to read this in Wick’s commentary

    These symbols are said to have been passed down through the Sixth Ancestor. In fact, they’ve been passed down from teacher to student until today. My own teacher passed some to me.
    I get that there are some rituals. I appreciate that there is a certain ...umm.... mystical quality to the face-2-face Dharma Transmission but one of the things I appreciate most about Zen practice as an institution (such that it is) is the accessibility. It isn’t some secret society with weird handshakes and robes (OK there are robes ). Zen practice is there for all.

    Jundo, perhaps I misunderstood Wick’s point here. Can you explain what he is talking about?

    Meanwhile I think Jigen nailed it when he said it is easy “to get all wrapped up in the symbols of things, and they can be important, but worshiping symbols is pretty useless”. Didn’t we just have a similar discussion on the thread about juzu? https://www.treeleaf.org/forums/show....php?9534-Juzu. In that thread there was the caution about attaching undue symbolism to the juzu.


    Tairin
    Sat today
    Last edited by Tairin; 06-14-2018 at 02:25 PM.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Tairin View Post

    I get that there are some rituals. I appreciate that there is a certain ...umm.... mystical quality to the face-2-face Dharma Transmission but one of the things I appreciate most about Zen practice as an institution (such that it is) is the accessibility. It isn’t some secret society with weird handshakes and robes (OK there are robes ). Zen practice is there for all. It that thread there seemed to be the undercurrent risk that folk were attaching some extra symbolic attachment to the juzu.

    Jundo, perhaps I misunderstood Wick’s point here. Can you explain what he is talking about?
    Many lineages of Soto and Rinzai Zen pass down what are known as "Kirigami," which means "torn pages," and are often esoteric teachings of doctrines through symbols. They became particularly popular in Zen in the centuries after Dogen, from Keizan's time and later. Here are a few pages that explain what they are about. Based on historical research, such documents were not common in the time of Dogen, so Nishijima Roshi did not follow the tradition (apart from passing down some "Kirigami" explaining a few ceremonial procedures, but in ordinary language, not as esoteric symbols):

    For Kirigami Wonks only:

    http://echo-lab.ddo.jp/Libraries/%E5...N%E3%80%8D.pdf

    Here is an example of one:



    Gassho, J

    SatTodayLAH
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  6. #6
    Eishuu
    Guest
    I was struck by this being a chapter that talks about the use of symbols but starts with the koan line "It's like a man who tries to draw emptiness. No sooner does he use the writing brush then he goes wrong". It seemed full of contradictions - "How is it possible to bring forth the pattern or make a model?", and yet esoteric symbols such as circles were passed down.

    I also thought the line "the character for the seal of emptiness has never been revealed" was interesting, and suggests the provisional nature of symbols. This with the line about not being able to draw emptiness makes me think that it is saying that emptiness cannot be represented, only experienced directly. As soon as you try and get conceptual, you've lost it. But then there's the art of Zen calligraphy - from what I've read it's about the experience and practice of brushing characters...they are not 'tr[ying] to draw emptiness'; they are practising emptiness through drawing.

    I also liked this line: "This circle contains everything, including the Buddha and awakened activity. It is so large that it even contains itself". What struck me about this is it is not something that can even be visualised, it's paradoxical. I feel like these symbols are there not to be understood conceptually, but to spark an experience in us, to speak to the nonconceptual part of the mind.

    Incidentally, are these circles the same as the enso? Also, I was looking at a map of the spread of Buddhism this morning, and it showed the spread of Mahayana and Vajrayana to Japan. Does this use of esoteric symbols derive from the Vajrayana school?

    The last part:
    "Activity sends forth the mysterious gist, and sparks lightning in the blue heaven; the eye enfolds the purple rays, and sees stars in the bright of day"
    was beautiful, and I thought it was about practice/expedient means and wisdom/insight, and maybe also about the relationship between compassion and wisdom.

    I liked that Wick grounded it all in our lives "We don't realise that we dwell in the land of the Buddha: that's the land of being born and dying, that manifests as being born and dying. This is not a symbol, but your life as it is".

    So much in this chapter...I'll have to reflect on it more.

    Gassho
    Eishuu
    ST/LAH

  7. #7
    Thank you Jundo for the information about Kirigami


    Tairin
    Sat today
    泰林 - Tai Rin - Peaceful Woods

  8. #8
    Like Eishuu I was struck by the opening: "It's like a man who tries to draw emptiness. No sooner does he use the writing brush then he goes wrong". All the teachings are just representations of the Truth. We can never encode the Truth we can only represent it in some way that is deficient.

    And then the back and forth kind of struck me like a dance or a game. A move by one, then a response by the other. And while each representation isn't True in and of itself (or at least the full Truth) - they reflect the Truth. Like the moon reflected on the surface of a lake.

    And I was also struck by the fact that each character is the previous character extended or modified. To me this seemed to speak to the interconnectedness of the teachings, of the interconnectedness of life.

    Just my random thoughts on this.

    Gassho, Shinshi

    SaT-LaH
    空道 心志 Kudo Shinshi
    I am just a priest-in-training, any resemblance between what I post and actual teachings is purely coincidental.

  9. #9
    Hello,

    I too think it's about the nature of symbols...


    I can't help reading it also as enlightenment story. ;-)

    „do you know letters or not“?
    - can you show the Truth/Reality with Symbols?

    „According to my capacity.”
    - as much as a human being can do so.

    The monk immediately turned around once clockwise and said, “What letter is this?”
    - turning around only clockwise in old (enlightenment seeking) rites, often depicts the sun, enlightening the world and the passing time (sun appears moving clockwise). He also looks in all directions, draws an En.

    Kyôzan drew the ideograph for “10” [ 十 ] in the earth.
    - the 10 directions. The Buddha. Everything.


    The monk turned himself around once counter-clockwise
    - he is turning back the time (moving the wrong way). asking the same again

    Kyôzan modified the sign “十” into a swastika [卍].
    - he is drawing the same again. still Everything, The Buddha…

    The monk drew a circle in the air and lifted his two palms like Asura [a Hindu god] vigorously
    holding the sun and moon and said, “What letter is that?”
    - an Asura (A-sura ... not lightcreature) is a dark creature, opposing the dharma. It holds the enlightenment in it’s claws.

    Kyôzan immediately drew a circle enclosing the swastika.
    - it is still the same. still Everything contained, The Buddha…. even this dharma opposing daemon is part of it all. En. containing everything.

    The monk at once represented the vigor of a Rucika [a powerful temple guardian].
    - I understand, all one bright pearl. He was struck by the light. (enlightened). All Buddhas there in this moment... He looking like the last/newest Buddha in the row. Rucika.

    Kyôzan said, “Good, good. Keep it with care.”
    Regarding the initial question…. It seems that he could!


    Gassho,
    Kotei sattoday.

    義道 冴庭 / Gidou Kotei.
    Being a novice priest doesn't mean that my writing about the Dharma is more substantial than yours. Actually, it might well be the other way round.

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