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Thread: BOOK OF EQUANIMITY - Case 82

  1. #1

    BOOK OF EQUANIMITY - Case 82

    Case 81 never ends, yet now we turn to CASE 82: UMMON’S SOUNDS AND SHAPES:

    Unfortunately, all but one page of Shishin's Commentary is not available online, so l hope that you have the book.

    https://books.google.co.jp/books?id=...&q=260&f=false

    l do not feel that this is such a tricky Koan. We live in a world of separate things, shapes, sounds, moments and the like as perceived by the senses and mind. We even sometimes think of "Buddha" as another one of the separate things, and that we are one of the separate things too. To experience the liberation of Emptiness, one must see and experience beyond all that separation to the Wholeness of flowing Emptiness. Such is our True Home. The Preface to the Assembly is about this.

    However, the Koan may also remind us, in the Main Case, that the separate things, sounds, smells, sounds, etc. are also the very same Wholeness of Emptiness to those who so know. Then, one can find liberation right in this ordinary world, and the ordinary turn to something precious and sweet.

    l have read that "comets" are traditional signs of ill fortune, and the smoke and dusts are all the sense experiences that cloud the mind. All become clear. The whole universe of myriad worlds becomes illuminated.

    The Koan is just a piece of cake!

    PREFACE TO THE ASSEMBLY
    When sounds and colors are not let go,
    This state is known as “being conditioned by the environment.”
    If you are seeking by sound and seeing by shape,
    You will never experience the Buddha of this very moment.
    Aren't you pursuing a way to return home?

    MAIN CASE
    Attention!
    Master Ummon addressed the assembly, saying,
    "Hearing a sound, realize the Way.
    Seeing a shape, enlighten the mind.
    The Goddess of Compassionate Wisdom bought a common farm rice-cake.
    But, released from her hands, it transforms into a sumptuous bean-jam cake."

    APPRECIATORY VERSE
    Leaving the gate, spurring up the horse; sweep away the comet.
    The smoke and dust of ten thousand lands clears by itself.
    In the six senses and six sense experiences, trivial influences are forgotten.
    The three thousand worlds are illuminated with pure bright light.
    l am reminded of a very nice phrase from Genjo Koan in which Master Dogen speaks of delusion as our trying to impose our self and will on all the things of the world, yet when we allow all the things of the world to flow through us ...

    To carry the self forward and illuminate myriad things is delusion. That myriad things come forth and illuminate the self is awakening. ... When you see forms or hear sounds, fully engaging body-and-mind, you intuit dharma intimately.
    Question: Through Zen practice, have you learned to see through sounds and forms in a world of sounds and forms? What's that do for ya?

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    Last edited by Jundo; 06-01-2019 at 12:01 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  2. #2
    Nobody into the sounds and shapes of this Koan?

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  3. #3
    Sorry Sensei,

    Not yet ... and I try not to read your points on this Koan before getting a chance to work on the Koan for myself.
    Might be Wednesday before I can answer - it is just a question of time.

    Gassho

    Gero (sat today, just didn't get my reading done)

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Gero View Post
    Sorry Sensei,

    Not yet ... and I try not to read your points on this Koan before getting a chance to work on the Koan for myself.
    Might be Wednesday before I can answer - it is just a question of time.

    Gassho

    Gero (sat today, just didn't get my reading done)
    Ah, time! That is the last Koan, now gone.

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  5. #5
    For those who can't access the commentary by Shishin, he connects this Koan to famous Zen stories of folks who found Truth in things and forms and sound, like the monk who heard the bamboo ...

    One day as Xiangyan was scything grass, a small piece of tile was knocked through the air and struck a stalk of bamboo. Upon hearing the sound of the tile hitting the bamboo, Xiangyan instantly experienced vast enlightenment.
    Or stubbing a toe ...

    In Shobogenzo Ikka-no-myoju (One Bright Pearl). Dogen Zenji introduces a story of a Chinese Zen master, Gensha Shibi (Xuansha Shibei, 835-908). One day Gensha, while he was still a student, was leaving his teacher's monastery to visit other masters. Shortly after he left the temple, he stubbed his toe on a stone. As it bled with terrible pain, he suddenly had a deep insight and said, " This body is not existent. Where does this pain come from?"
    Gassho, J

    STLah
    Last edited by Jundo; 06-04-2019 at 02:04 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  6. #6
    Hello,

    it reminds me on the practical aspects of practice ;-).

    Grasping the nature of all things and phenomena...
    That we are the ones, adding meaning and significance to them and they don't possess such a priori.
    A reminder that there is no independent existence.

    Seeing through the 'importance', our and other's actions and the things around seem to have.
    Judging the impact they really have to my life and the drama, I add.
    It helps with not being a victim of greed, anger and ignorance that might arise otherwise.

    Gassho,
    Kotei sat/lah today.
    Last edited by Kotei; 06-04-2019 at 08:28 AM.
    古庭 KoTei / Ralf

  7. #7
    This has been rolling around my head since yesterday. I've never really worked with koans before so please excuse me if I'm way off track.

    It seems that hearing sounds and seeing shapes are just examples of the day to day and we can realise the way in whatever we are doing, it's nothing special but if you chase it you'll never find what you're looking for.

    It also seems to speak to sitting zazen and finding stillness and being comfortable in the chaos of our thoughts and therefore in the everyday world. Or maybe it's just my mind that's chaos.

    And rice cakes/jam cakes are possibly an illustration of form being emptiness and emptiness being form. There's no difference, all is just cake.

    I also started to wonder if sound (something we can't see or touch) represents the absolute and shapes that we can see represents the relative or concrete things in our world. But I may have gone way out there with that thought.

    Gassho,

    Neil

    StLaH

  8. #8
    Sounds and colors. Distinctions.

    Most times we live among others by finding distinctions. I am right; she is wrong. If she acted in accordance with what is obviously correct, we would have no trouble. She is not paying attention to facts.

    When (and if) I let go of such opinions, I discover that her very thoughts are nothing other than my own. Together, joning our thoughts, we are infinitely more than apart. What Shishin says about rocks rubbing against each other and over time becoming smooth, that's it. There is no peace in specializing in distinctions. But in appreciating the unique experience of each of the ten thousand things, in knowing that there could be no "world" without even one of these, that's it. "Every person I encounter is my Self."

    Gassho
    Meishin
    STLAH

  9. #9
    I agree with all the comments here. This is just the second koan that I analyze and it appears to have many layers of meaning.

    The first that I think of is what Meishin said: the distinctions we make can lead to separation and conflict, but through slowly and continually noticing it, we can became more round on the edges and perceive that our distinctions and conflicts arise from our inflated ego and not from our (Buddha-)nature.

    The other is similar and Kotei and Neil expressed it better than I could: the sounds and colors are the meanings we attribute to things that they don’t possess. The koan is about emptiness.

    But I also see some of the Identity of Relative and Absolute in the koan. The Preface appears to me to point to the Absolute as real Enlightenment, freedom from conditioning (as in the Theravada view of the conditioned as the samsara):

    When sounds and colors are not let go,
    This state is known as “being conditioned by the environment.”
    If you are seeking by sound and seeing by shape,
    You will never experience the Buddha of this very moment.
    But the Main Case points is to the Mahayana identity of relative and absolute, of samsara and nirvana:

    Hearing a sound, realize the Way.
    Seeing a shape, enlighten the mind.
    And this reminds me of the Sandokai verse that says:

    To be attached to things is primordial illusion;
    To encounter the absolute is not yet enlightenment.
    So the farm rice-cake transforms in/appears as the sumptuous bean-jam cake (which I presume is a manju).

    And in the Appreciatory Verse I found this apparently strange frase:

    In the six senses and six sense experiences, trivial influences are forgotten.
    I find it strange because the six senses and six sense experiences are really the relative, the ordinary, the mundane, this “samsara” world. So, how can they be forgotten unless we can see them as marvelous, miraculous, mystical in their very normal existence, freedom from permanence and self, that is, as “nirvana” in themselves.

    I hope I could make some sense.

    Thank you all for this discussion.
    Gassho,
    Mateus
    Sat/LAH

  10. #10
    Thinking about sounds and forms, I am reminded of when my wife turns on the TV when I'm doing my zazen in the other room. She doesn't realize how loud and clear I can hear it. If she knew, she'd be horrified. I don't need to tell her. At first it caused me great distraction and consternation. Now it's the Dharma of People Winning New Cars on the Price Is Right.

    Gassho
    Kyōshin
    Satlah

    Sent from my Pixel using Tapatalk

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Kyoshin View Post
    Thinking about sounds and forms, I am reminded of when my wife turns on the TV when I'm doing my zazen in the other room. She doesn't realize how loud and clear I can hear it. If she knew, she'd be horrified. I don't need to tell her. At first it caused me great distraction and consternation. Now it's the Dharma of People Winning New Cars on the Price Is Right.

    Gassho
    Kyōshin
    Satlah

    Sent from my Pixel using Tapatalk
    AMAZlNG ... that we live in a world where people can watch US game show "Price ls Right" in Vietnam.

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    AMAZlNG ... that we live in a world where people can watch US game show "Price ls Right" in Vietnam.

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    Thanks to a bit of digital trickery I have realized the Emptiness of national TV broadcasting. Vietnamese tv is nothing but American tv. American tv is nothing but Vietnamese tv. Avolokiteshvara practices prajna paramita by watching game shows in English.

    Gassho
    Kyōshin
    Satlah

    Sent from my Pixel using Tapatalk

  13. #13
    Okay, when I read it, it seemed pretty straightforward to me ... but I missed many of the aspects you have found in it.

    The first half of the main case ("Hearing a sound, realize the Way. Seeing a shape, enlighten the mind.") seems to spell out the concept of "mushou seppou" ([even] inanimate [objects] teach the Dharma). So hearing a sound or seeing a shape can induce awakening. Chapter 9 of Dogen's Shobogenzo picks this idea up: "The Voices of the River Valley and the Form of the Mountains"

    The second half of the main case seems to hint at the difference between intention and outcome:
    "Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva brought money to buy a farm rice cake." I guess Jundo's quote is from another translation. In the book by Shishin there is no statement of Avalokiteshvara actually buying a farm rice cake, just her/his intention to do so.
    "But, released from her hands, it became a bean-jam cake." Is the cake really transformed, or is it just the realization that one might strive for one thing but reality does not meet our expectations?

    This takes me to the Preface:
    "When sounds and colors are not let go, this is to be conditioned by the environment." When we do not just appreciate sensations right in the moment but keep dwelling on these after they are gone, we get detached from reality (thusness) and instead start living in our conceptualized views of the world, built by our memories.
    "Seeking by sound and seeing by shape, one will not see the Tathâgata." The term "seeking" implies one is not practicing aimlessness, so there is no chance to find the Buddha Nature. But isn't finding the Buddha Nature just like coming home?

    The Appreciatory Verse starts with the admonition not to dawdle, not to linger in the past , thus the dust of the world is cleared away if you live in the moment. When you are truly present in each moment, trivial influences like lingering in the past are forgotten. When you take this to heart, everything (in all 3000 worlds) becomes clear.

    In a nutshell the koan (the way I understand it) tells me to be awake in the moment and to find reality in all the information I get - while not putting in that type of striving for enlightenment which might make me a slave to my efforts.

    Hope I did not totally butcher it!

    Gassho

    Gero (sat today)

  14. #14
    Question: Through Zen practice, have you learned to see through sounds and forms in a world of sounds and forms? What's that do for ya?
    I walk back and forth to work each day (roughly 30 minutes one way). During those times lots of things appear in my mind. I reflect on what ever has happened at work or anticipate what will happen, I prepare for whatever the evening holds, I watch impatient drivers, people walking their dogs, listen to the birds, reflect on my practice, wait for traffic lights and the occasional train. Often what I find is that I get deep in thought and absorbed. Then something pulls me out and I bring my head up pause and look around. I listen to the sounds, smell the smells, feel the heat or cold and realize I’ve been lost in some story I tell myself about life.

    What I find when I pull myself out? Hard to describe. A sense of peace, calm, equanimity, and stillness. Unfortunately it never seems to last long before I get pulled back into another story.

    Have I learned to see through the sounds and forms of life? Yes but the learning continues as I expect it will for the rest of my days.


    Tairin
    Sat today and lah
    泰林 - Tai Rin - Peaceful Woods

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post


    Question: Through Zen practice, have you learned to see through sounds and forms in a world of sounds and forms? What's that do for ya?
    I count my Zen practice as learning from the teacher and th sangha and this thread is a good example. I like to sit with a koan for a few days and see what the sangha thinks and learn from that.
    I especially resonate with Master Dogen says about imposing one's self and will on all things. The thought arises, maybe the reverse is true that all things impose themselves on me since, in the absolute, there is no difference between me and all things.

    STLAH

    Kyousui - strong waters 強 水

  16. #16
    Hello all,

    From what I understand about koans, they seem to be a challenge to the student to discover his/her own expression of zen or "it," even if it is only "80%"--or less. My response to this koan is the following:

    Sound and forms and the mind that we "perceives" them re identical in at least one dynamic function: they are like Legos. When I was a kid, my friends and I started collecting Legos, which back in the 70s were much more basic. One of us would build a set following the directions--a Swiss villa, a firehouse, a helicopter--and then put it on his shelf. He was done and the Legos were done: they had found their permanent form, the thought of deconstructing the set filled my friend with anxiety. On the other hand, I would build a set, play with it for a bit, and then break it down and use the pieces to build whatever cam to mind, usually spaceships. (I was on a steady dose of Star Trek and Lost in Space at that tie.) My friend could never realize the possibilities of his own mind the Legos' potential for new forms because the only way he understood those bricks was as the form on the cover of the box they came in.

    I admit this is no Genjokoan, but its a metaphor that's helpful for me, and it's how I see sound and form--and the seeing of sound and form--at the moment.

    Gassho

    Hobun/Michael

    STLAH

  17. #17
    For Mahayana Buddhists, a single note by a single instrument of a symphony is not merely a "part" of the symphony, but is the whole symphony. The entire symphony fills the note, as do all the other parts and bars and instruments, as if the entire symphony and entire orchestra were embodied fully within each single note (and perhaps an endless string of notes containing whole orchestras playing symphonies containing notes containing whole orchestras ... )

    A drop of ocean is not merely a "part" of the ocean, but embodies the entire ocean within, and every other possible configuration of the ocean, and every shoreline or possible shoreline, and each grain of sand on those possible shorelines ... each drop or grain of which also does the same and on and on ...

    Today, on another thread, we discovered that ...

    it is believed that between 120 to 300 sextillion (that’s 1.2 x 10²³ to 3.0 x 10²³) stars exist within our observable universe. But looking closer, at the atomic scale, the numbers get even more inconceivable.

    At this level, it is estimated that the there are between 10 [to the power of] 78 to 10[to the power of] 82 atoms in the known, observable universe. In layman’s terms, that works out to between ten quadrillion vigintillion and one-hundred thousand quadrillion vigintillion atoms.
    ...
    This is to say that the number of legal configurations on a 13 by 13 goban is nearly equal to our current estimate of the number of elementary particles in the observable Universe. The number of legal configurations on a 19 by 19 board is vastly more than the square of that.
    https://www.treeleaf.org/forums/show...l=1#post241623
    That is to say that each single piece or each one configuration of the go board holds the entire board as well as every other possible configuration ... every particle of the universe does likewise for the whole universe.

    That said ...

    I was reading a Tibetan teacher's book today where he described "Emptiness" as not our usual concept of something "empty," meaning the absence of things. Rather, it is more like the fertile soil of all possibilities that holds both everything that is possible -- as well as -- the absence of all possibilities, and transcends all possibilities.

    In this way, Big "S" Silence, is not the absence of sound alone, but is every possible sound that can be made or heard, as well as small "s" silence, and is beyond and right through both ordinary "sound vs. silence." Each drop of this Silent Sound sings each and all possible silences and sounds as a chorus. In sitting Zazen, one "hears" (not in the normal way with just the ears) this Silent Sound. One "sees" (not in the normal way with just the eyes) everything in each thing and more.

    Something like that.

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    Last edited by Jundo; 06-08-2019 at 07:01 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  18. #18
    PREFACE TO THE ASSEMBLY
    When sounds and colors are not let go,
    This state is known as “being conditioned by the environment.”
    If you are seeking by sound and seeing by shape,
    You will never experience the Buddha of this very moment.
    Aren't you pursuing a way to return home?
    I was reflecting on the Preface to this koan today and I was reminded of this.

    At first, I saw mountains as mountains and rivers as rivers. Then, I saw mountains were not mountains and rivers were not rivers. Finally, I see mountains again as mountains, and rivers again as rivers.
    Shapes and sounds make up our existence. Delusion seems to arise when I put extra significance on those shapes and sounds.


    Tairin
    Sat today and lah
    泰林 - Tai Rin - Peaceful Woods

  19. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post

    I was reading a Tibetan teacher's book today where he described "Emptiness" as not our usual concept of something "empty," meaning the absence of things. Rather, it is more like the fertile soil of all possibilities that holds both everything that is possible -- as well as -- the absence of all possibilities, and transcends all possibilities.

    In this way, Big "S" Silence, is not the absence of sound alone, but is every possible sound that can be made or heard, as well as small "s" silence, and is beyond and right through both ordinary "sound vs. silence." Each drop of this Silent Sound sings each and all possible silences and sounds as a chorus. In sitting Zazen, one "hears" (not in the normal way with just the ears) this Silent Sound. One "sees" (not in the normal way with just the eyes) everything in each thing and more.


    STLah
    Jundo,

    Am I right, then, in thinking that to look at a flower is to see the flower, to see what the flower was, to see what the flower will be, to see what the flower could have been, to see what the flower might be, to see what the flower might become--in other words, to see the flower as a vorex of possibilities--while also accepting and seeing the absence of our concept of possibility? And then we smile and let go of all possibilities so that the can flower be whatever it is and is not?

    Gassho,

    Hobun/Michael

    STLAH

  20. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Joseph View Post
    Jundo,

    Am I right, then, in thinking that to look at a flower is to see the flower, to see what the flower was, to see what the flower will be, to see what the flower could have been, to see what the flower might be, to see what the flower might become--in other words, to see the flower as a vorex of possibilities--while also accepting and seeing the absence of our concept of possibility? And then we smile and let go of all possibilities so that the can flower be whatever it is and is not?

    Gassho,

    Hobun/Michael

    STLAH
    l don't know Hobun. l see the whole universe.

    When Buddha was on Vulture Peak he twirled a flower before the assembly. Everyone was silent. Only Mahakashapa smiled. Buddha said: `I have the eye treasury of the true teaching, the heart of Nirvana, the true form of non-form, and the ineffable gate of Dharma. It is a special transmission outside the teaching. I now entrust it to Mahakashapa.'
    Gassho, J

    STLah
    Last edited by Jundo; 06-09-2019 at 05:03 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  21. #21


    Sit. Watch. Listen.

    Gassho,

    Hobun

    STLAH

  22. #22
    Member Getchi's Avatar
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    All of a sudden I was reminded of the Flower Turning on Vulture Peak. Its these words and forms today that are appropriate, yesterdays answer is not correct today and no matter how hard we try, basic reality is humanities common feature, our distinctions are our individual self.

    So that chasing forms will lead to missing right now.

    I have no idea why this came to me like this, but its feels like a full answer. Which is a relief, because this case was really busting my mind, I had something just there but couldnt quit put it into words - thats where this came from.


    Gassho,
    Geoff.

    SatToday
    LaH.
    Nothing to do? Why not Sit?

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