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Thread: BOOK OF EQUANIMITY - Case 81

  1. #1

    BOOK OF EQUANIMITY - Case 81

    Let us now return for some time to the Book of Equanimity ... this time, Case 81 - Gensha Comes to the Province

    Commentators seem all over the place on this hard case, but I feel that it is about time, the passing and presence of time ...

    The Koan and Shishin's comments can be found here ...

    https://books.google.co.jp/books?id=...ifests&f=false

    and

    https://books.google.co.jp/books?id=...ssness&f=false

    As with so many of the Koans, the intimacy of the "relative" and "absolute" is at work too.

    I believe that the central message of the Koan is that yesterday's happening (in this case, a celebration, but it could be a sad childhood or other tragedy, or just any moment of the past) is still present right here and now (shown by lifting the robe in a "here it is" gesture) even though now gone. Gensha's response that "there is no relation between them at all" means that it is also not the case that the past is still present. In other words, the past is just the past, and the present is just the present, and never the two shall meet. However, the past is still present too, as intimately as the robe one wears.

    I read the Preface as saying something like, when the mind moves, light and shadow, past and present and all division appears. With awareness, each separate moment and separate thing is seen as like grains in a cloud of dust floating through clear space. Raised up and known from one angle, there is just the open clarity free of dust. From another angle, there are all the separate things intimately present in each other. All are true ways of seeing the identity, yet lack of identity, of all things and moments, including yesterday and now.

    The Appreciatory Verse continues this dance of the absolute and relative. The boat (a moving thing) vanishes in the dark (the absolute). A thrust pole (also a thing that moves) is in the clear water (the absolute). Dragons and fish (living things like us) do not realize that the clear water (the absolute) makes their lives possible. The swirling stick makes waves and stirs up dust, but the wise dragon and fish are unimpeded. The sticks and grass, turtles and carp are also moving things that convey the same message.

    The absolute and relative, like Gensha and Shoto, meet together like a box and lid, or two arrows touching in mid-air (famous phrases from the Sandokai which we chant, "The Identity of Relative and Absolute").

    It is a tricky Koan.

    Question: In your life, can you see how moments of the past are totally gone, yet fully present right now too?

    Gassho, Jundo

    STLah
    Last edited by Jundo; 05-21-2019 at 07:37 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  2. #2
    I read this one a couple of times and must admit that found it 100% impenetrable. Koan study has been historically a source of near infinite frustration for me; hence my appreciation of Kodo Sawaki and the teachers (like Jundo, Okumura, Uchiyama, Nishijima, etc) who came after him with his "all zazen all the time" philosophy. I guess I'll never be a Mu-shouting Rinzai guy . My first reaction to reading this case: "'Them?' What/who is 'them?' What are they not related to? The robe? Each other? Something else?" Some time later and I have not moved past that reaction. I read both the author's and Jundo's commentary, which were good, and gave me plenty to contemplate. But I'm taking their word for it. I don't see how any of it relates to the actual koan. Honestly, Jundo could say that this koan was about literally any zen-adjacent topic, and I'd believe it.

    As for Jundo's question, "can you see how moments of the past are totally gone, yet fully present right now too?" Absolutely. Without going into gruesome detail, I went through a traumatic event some years ago due in part to a series of errors and poor choices. It's over, done, and gone forever. I wish I could go back and act differently but I can't. I can't rewind and change my actions, can't improve that situation. I've had to accept it, pick myself up and move on. But it's still right here. On the one hand, occasionally the memory will notably trigger my fight or flight, and I'll notice my heart rate increase, and my adrenaline surge. The forever-gone past still has that power (though it's thankfully diminishing) over my physical body On the other hand, because of those mistakes, I have learned the lessons and made the adjustments necessary to be better at my present life, and the memory reminds me to stay better at my present life each moment.

    Gassho
    Kyoshin
    Satlah

  3. #3
    Member Getchi's Avatar
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    Thankyou Jundo

    To your question, I think its not too easy for me to say yes or no. A traumatic childhood has shaped (or coloured) every choice and bias I have ever expressed. I have done things in the past I bitterly regret in order to fulfill my own wants and needs, and now I do things I am proud of for self and others. Exactly where the difference lays is hard for me to say, as the "same" me has done all those things, even while the past and present are intertwined, and even while they are distinct. Pretending our trauma is distinct from "ourself" (or mind) robs us of the chance to connect with a much deeper recognition of "self" (or Mind).

    Perhaps, incense smoke fills the temple, just as yesterday. Today a new bird sings. I cant really express it better then that im sorry.

    Kyoshin I hope sincerly that you can find peace friend, PTSD is an ever present entity that cannot be easily pinned down.


    Gassho,
    Geoff.

    SatToday
    LaH.
    Nothing to do? Why not Sit?

  4. #4
    In my very, very limited experience with Koan Practice I always struggled! I will however try.

    The Mind is always here "Now". If the mind settles on the past, the past is here "Now", if the mind is settled in the present then the present is here "Now". Past is present, present is past, past is past, present is present, and so on. But the mind can only exist "Now".

    I hit the floor, "KATZ!"

    Gassho,

    Junkyo
    SAT

    P.S. I am sure Master Bon Hae would have hit me several times for that answer!

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Getchi View Post
    Thankyou Jundo

    To your question, I think its not too easy for me to say yes or no. A traumatic childhood has shaped (or coloured) every choice and bias I have ever expressed. I have done things in the past I bitterly regret in order to fulfill my own wants and needs, and now I do things I am proud of for self and others. Exactly where the difference lays is hard for me to say, as the "same" me has done all those things, even while the past and present are intertwined, and even while they are distinct. Pretending our trauma is distinct from "ourself" (or mind) robs us of the chance to connect with a much deeper recognition of "self" (or Mind).

    Perhaps, incense smoke fills the temple, just as yesterday. Today a new bird sings. I cant really express it better then that im sorry.

    Kyoshin I hope sincerly that you can find peace friend, PTSD is an ever present entity that cannot be easily pinned down.


    Gassho,
    Geoff.

    SatToday
    LaH.
    I appreciate the good wishes, Getchi, and I share my own with you. I'm pretty at peace with things. Its annoying when my heart rate spikes, but it's just a physiological reaction at this point, and I don't get worked up anymore.

    My incense is gone. The room smells nice. There's ash on my Buddha.

    Gassho
    Kyōshin
    Satlah

    Sent from my Pixel using Tapatalk

  6. #6
    I had a rough childhood too (more psychological abuse than physical, but some of that too) stretching over 10 years. Mom was perpetually depressed, angry on a daily basis and sometimes suicidal, like living with a hurricane. I was depressed and angry with terrible darkness and headaches until mid-twenties. Nothing sexual apart from one sexual assault by a baby sitter during elementary school that I clearly recall.

    In any case, I sometimes am asked to advise people with ugly times in their past. I usually say that, as best one can, recognize the scars and any pain that remains, honor that fact, but also let it go too. As we do in Zen, it stays yet it is gone too, we wear it (sometimes we have no choice) as part of us in our bodies, but we release it like river water and let it wash away all at once. I even laugh about it with that dark survivors humor that people of Jewish culture and others are prone too (why do you think that there are so many Jewish comedians?)

    Is that not something like the "celebration" in the Koan?

    I counsel folks to remember, that it is okay to be a bit angry (it is the ordinary human reaction) but also to release anger and forgive at once (Zen folks can be angry and not angry at once, as we always function two ways at once, like the "gone not gone.") We try to recognize that the people who did wrong or acted badly are actually themselves victims of their own excess desires, anger and division within (we tend to say in Buddhism "there are no bad people, only people who act badly because they themselves are victims of the real wrongdoers of excess desires, anger and ignorance"). That does not mean that we can completely "let them off the hook" but it is a step to understanding and moving on, like those "reconciliation committees" they had in South Africa and elsewhere.

    https://www.theforgivenessproject.com/desmond-tutu

    Mom had her own demons and was herself a victim of her father's violent abuse ... and I assume he was mistreated by his father ... and on and on.

    I am glad that the abuse stopped with my kids. That is the end of the line for the anger and violence. That is the most important thing ... now, for though the past is present, the past is gone.

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    Last edited by Jundo; 05-22-2019 at 12:43 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    Let us now return for some time to the Book of Equanimity ... this time, Case 81 - Gensha Comes to the Province


    Question: In your life, can you see how moments of the past are totally gone, yet fully present right now too?
    This is my first attempt at observing and digesting a Koan here. The commentaries were very poetic and while a lot of the words haven't manifested in my mind yet, I somehow feel good about them.
    As far as answering the question; I just recently had an experience/feeling of agitation that I couldn't understand why it agitated me so much. After meditating for a bit, an old experience from my childhood arose and I knew, somehow, that was the trigger for my agitation in the present. The two incidents were only mildly related, but the current incident triggered the flashback to the childhood incident that I hadn't dealt with emotionally. Now I have the tools to deal with it and using the tools removed the pain.
    Sat/LAH

    Kyousui - strong waters 強 水

  8. #8
    Like Kyousui, this is the first time I study a koan. It’s a difficult task and I must rely on Jundo and others to understand the meaning. I could notice the connection to the Sandokai when I first read the Appreciatory Verse. And Junkyo’s comment really opened my mind.
    As for the question, I also have a lot of baggage from childhood and adolescence. Mainly bully related stuff. And I can notice how my reactions to certain things have became shaped by these past experiences. But also the good stuff.
    The mind really is only in present, and the past is present in the mind, but also past is past.
    Gassho,
    Mateu
    Sat/LAH

  9. #9
    We all carry some sort of baggage from our past. We don’t have to forget it, but we don’t have to let it define us either.

    I read the lifting of the robe as being similar to the English expression of sweeping something under the rug. Sweeping a thing under the rug doesn’t make it disappear (as my wife would be sure to tell me). The thing swept is still there just not in view. The past is the past. The present is the present. The past is part of the present as it informs the present but it is not the present.

    I really like this story and to me sums up a lot of what this practice is all about.

    A layman named Kyo came to see Master Gensha, wanting to know how he could put his energies into his practice of Zen. Master Gensha called out to him and said, “Kyo!” And Kyo said, “Yes, Master?” Gensha said, “Do you hear the sound of the bubbling brook outside the window?” He said, “Yes I do.” Gensha said, “Enter Zen from there.” Sometime later another student asked Master Gensha, “What if at that time there had not been a bubbling brook? What would you have said to that student?” Gensha called out the student’s name, “Chu!” “Yes?” “Enter Zen from there!”
    P.S. I am happy to be carrying on with the book. I visit these Koans fairly regularly to see if my understanding of them changes over time


    Tairin
    Sat today and lah
    Last edited by Tairin; 05-23-2019 at 01:15 AM.
    泰林 - Tai Rin - Peaceful Woods

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Tairin View Post

    I read the lifting of the robe as being similar to the English expression of sweeping something under the rug. Sweeping a thing under the rug doesn’t make it disappear (as my wife would be sure to tell me). The thing swept is still there just not in view.
    Tairin,

    Boy, I really like that. I'm going to spend a little time with it.

    Gassho,

    Hobun/Michael

    ST LAH

  11. #11
    Thank you Jundo,

    reading a lot about Shobogenzo Uji, the last weeks, I can only agree with what you wrote about the nature of time and being and the relative and absolute.
    The preface is asking how true man of the way converse when they meet. My (a bit romantic) view is, that sooner or later, they would converse about the nature of being, the relative and absolute. This is what they do in this case and what the way imho is about.

    Time is not coming, nor is it going. There is only Now and this Now is a dimension of being and not a container for some action.
    So where is the party gone? Where is the traumatic childhood (I've had, too) gone?
    It's all still here... Look! (lifting my robe a bit) Nothing is hidden.
    With all the mesh-like relations between all things and actions that all affect all others, it is still here. It just transformed.
    It's the only thing, that is, was or will be. The Absolute.

    In the Relative, childhood and thoughts and expectations about past and future pop up here and there.
    Experiencing people, things and actions, focusing on what lies right in front of me,
    taking one step after the other, lets the things from the past nearly vanish.

    Remembering the Absolute, while living in the Relative, helps finding a middle way.

    Gassho, Kotei sat/lah today.
    古庭 KoTei / Ralf

  12. #12
    Yes totally gone but fully present too. It's what is experienced in zazen. There is a thought and there is letting thought go. But where does that thought go? A neuroscientist might say it's still present in some fashion. But if there is no awareness, is it really "there?" No relation.

    The commentary on "entering Zen." Frankly there are times when I regret having entered Zen as an old man. I wonder what it is like to have practiced for thirty or forty years. But that has nothing to do with my own path regardless of these reflections. And to get right down to it, I'm entering Zen at this precise moment. There is no such thing as "thirty or forty years," even as there is definitely something called "thirty or forty years." (Look at some old photos then look in the mirror!)

    Gassho
    Meishin
    stlah

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Meishin View Post
    Yes totally gone but fully present too. It's what is experienced in zazen. There is a thought and there is letting thought go. But where does that thought go? A neuroscientist might say it's still present in some fashion. But if there is no awareness, is it really "there?" No relation.

    The commentary on "entering Zen." Frankly there are times when I regret having entered Zen as an old man. I wonder what it is like to have practiced for thirty or forty years. But that has nothing to do with my own path regardless of these reflections. And to get right down to it, I'm entering Zen at this precise moment. There is no such thing as "thirty or forty years," even as there is definitely something called "thirty or forty years." (Look at some old photos then look in the mirror!)

    Gassho
    Meishin
    stlah
    Seems like your experience this week with your Dad fits in here perfectly. Past here, past gone.

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  14. #14
    Yes it does.

    Gassho
    Meishin
    stlah

  15. #15
    Hi Jundo.

    I sat with this koan for a few days. It's funny but I have been reflecting about this these months after my mom passed.

    Question: In your life, can you see how moments of the past are totally gone, yet fully present right now too?

    Yes. The past is completely gone. Yet, it's all here now. I could go on and on about my hard childhood, about relationships gone wrong, about mistakes and poor choices... but I have come to understand that I am actually here thanks to all that. Every tear, every drop of sweat, every farewell and every laugh have all taken me here.

    So I am grateful for all that.

    The past is the prime matter that composes the present. So it's all whole and complete.

    Gassho,

    Kyonin
    Sat/LAH
    Hondō Kyōnin
    奔道 協忍

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    Question: In your life, can you see how moments of the past are totally gone, yet fully present right now too?
    Isn't this what memories are?
    When we recall a moment of the past, we imagine that we relive that moment ...when in reality we are just spending the current moment with something our mind has constructed.

    Sure, in most cases the relation between the actual instance of the past and the memory we recall of it are much closer related than "yesterday's festivities" and the lifting of Shoto's robe. But that memories and the past are not identical seem common sense ... at least to me when my wife explains to me that we had already decided on one thing and my mind has totally dropped that agreement from memory.


    Gero (sat today)

  17. #17
    Thank you, Jundo.

    I have been reflecting on this Koan and the many perspective offered on this thread. They have all given me moments to consider as I have gone about my day these past two weeks. I thank you. In response, I'd like to offer something, not as a contradiction, but as an addition. This is my first time writing about a koan, so I'm looking forward to stepping in (it).

    Using the koan as an opportunity to watch how the past emerges in my own mind, the story has become a warning to me. I've looked under my own robe, I what I've found is a set of recurring memories that generally feed emotions such as shame, regret, grief, denigration, and (of course) arrogance. There are, of course, others, but I've realized that the entire past does not, and cannot, emerge. From even a single remembered event, I maintain only a very narrow space: some key words or phrases, some actions, some images. These highly limited representations of the past can be beneficial, even those produce poison, but they don't carry the weight that I assign to them. I suppose I've chosen to keep these events close to me because I can "hang myself on them." Thus, it's good to have Gensha remind me--regarding the past as it was and the past that I protect with my robe--that "There's no relation between them at all."

    Gassho,

    Hobun/Michael

    ST/LAH

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