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Thread: BOOK OF EQUANIMITY - Case 86

  1. #1

    BOOK OF EQUANIMITY - Case 86

    Dear All,

    For the next few weeks, as we have for the last few years, we will continue with a few Koans from the Book of Equanimity (also known as the "Book of Serenity," or 従容錄, Shōyōroku), an old collection of Koans much cherished in the Soto world.

    (In late July, we will move on to Zen Women by the wonderful Grace Schireson, so get your books now. Details here: https://www.treeleaf.org/forums/show...race-Schireson)

    Today, we will look at Koan 86, entitled here, "Rinzai's Great Enlightenment."

    This edition which we are using is from a marvelous commentary by Rev. Gerry Shishin Wick in which he truly manages to bring these Koans down to earth and daily life. It would be a beautiful addition to your bookshelf, and I do encourage everyone to purchase one. In the meantime, to those who need while waiting for delivery or just want to try a bit, there is a copy online (in my understanding, with author's assent) here:

    https://terebess.hu/zen/mesterek/equanimity.pdf

    Now, a couple of points about this Koan before we jump in: First, it is one of those Zen stories with some slapping and hitting, but I don't really think that these guys were beating each other senseless (only trying to gently poke a little sense into each other). I assume that the "striking" was pretty friendly and light.

    Second, this is a case in which I am going to disagree somewhat with Rev. Wick's presentation a little. Shishin is from a mixed "Rinzai-Soto" lineage in the Harada-Yasutani line which emphasizes rather intense Koan Introspection Zazen and a hard push for "Kensho" experiences. While I don't think that Shishin is so hard core about that, it does peak through in some of his ways of expressing things here sometimes.

    In fact, the "Rinzai" we encounter in the story is just a student, before he became the great "Master Rinzai." But more than that, as I have written about elsewhere, "Rinzai" is not quite the same as the "Rinzai Lineage" which developed many centuries after his time. To make a long story short, in the record of Rinzai's teachings that we have, there is more about his words that resonates with "goalless" practice like Shikantaza than a hard push Koan Introspection as later developed in the Rinzai Lineage with masters such as Tahui and Hakuin, centuries later. Here are a couple of examples:

    “In my view there is no Buddha, no sentient beings, no past, no present. Anything attained was already attained—no time is needed. There is nothing to practice, nothing to realize, nothing to gain, nothing to lose. Throughout all time there is no other dharma than this. ‘If one claims there’s a dharma surpassing this, I say that it’s like a dream, like a phantasm.’ This is all I have to teach.

    “Outside mind there’s no dharma, nor is there anything to be gained within it. What are you seeking? Everywhere you say, ‘There’s something to practice, something to obtain.’ Make no mistake! Even if there were something to be gained by practice, it would be nothing but birth-and-death karma."

    More here: The Shikantaza Teachings of ... Master Rinzai!
    https://www.treeleaf.org/forums/show...ster-Rinzai%21
    In any event, what about today's Koan? Let's begin (as I usually do) with the "Main Case," and then examine the Preface and ending Verse later.

    I feel that the Koan plays on the difference between "having nothing to say or worth saying" and "nothing to say because one knows, and so nothing more in need of saying." Young Rinzai moves from the former to the latter in this Koan.

    First, Rinzai is just afraid to speak, or has nothing worthwhile to say, so is pushed into one of those general questions like "What is the meaning of Zen?" The teachers refuse to give a straight answer. Then, confused at where the "fault" is found in his question, he is pushed into realizing this "Ultimate Meaning" which is leaping through all "fault and faultless," free of our small human measures of good/bad, perfect/imperfect, flawed or flawless that human beings impose on the world. It is the shining jewel found even in the flawed stones.

    The Preface to the Assembly describes Rinzai in superlative terms, someone extra-ordinary, with eyes like a dragon, a heart like a bear, etc. Even so, he is no match for the "sword of wisdom" which is beyond all our measures, personal plans and strategies. The Koan expresses why that is so, and has to be thus.

    In the closing Appreciatory Verse, some commentators say that Rinzai is the fledging who naturally flies like the phoenix, the horse who runs on without effort for thousands of leagues, the flute which naturally plays the beautiful tune, all functioning freely. We fly and run and play diligently, yet there is nothing to attain. He stroked the whiskers of his ferocious teacher, who began to purr. The clouds parted, and wisdom suddenly appeared, although the sky is always present.

    So, can you taste that beyond "fault and faultless" even in this world of faults? What is the difference between "having nothing to say" and "everything said"?

    Gassho, J

    STLah

    Last edited by Jundo; 06-28-2020 at 11:55 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  2. #2
    Thank you Jundo for your wonderfully clear insights

    Gassho, Chris satlah

  3. #3
    Thank you for your interpretation Jundo. It makes sense. Maybe related but I often feel I have little worthwhile to say here, or that anything I am about to say is obvious, or that I just don’t feel I have the right words to get my point across. Maybe it is this feeling that I need to say something profound. Some times it feels like a simple gassho is enough.

    Perhaps that’s how Rinzai felt too. Then he was pressed to speak but instead of asking his own question he was given one of the canned questions. Perhaps Obaku hit him because he knew the question wasn’t genuine. Or perhaps I am over thinking this.

    In our Zen practice, we’re not like beasts of burden or assembly-line workers, just doing the same thing over and over and over again. We have to infuse life, vitality, and energy into everything that we do by being present. Whether it’s painting the wall, cleaning the kitchen, or pulling the weeds, it’s the most wonderful weed pulling I’ve ever done. I want to do that over and over and over and over again, with each breath
    There is definitely nothing robotic about this practice. Every day, every sit, every activity or interaction is unique.


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

  4. #4
    Member RobD's Avatar
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    Thank you for your insights Jundo. I have always had an aversion to beginning Koan study. They've always struck me as very intimidating, yet this one feels like the perfect Koan for me to start with (serendipity?!?).

    After a couple of careful readings earlier this week and then another following tonight's Zazenkai, I can't help but feel that this Koan is simply an extra-strength, fast-acting antidote to overthinking. And that is something that I desperately need.

    It is as if Rinzai had nothing to say/ask, but was coerced into seeking an intellectual answer from his teacher, but Obaku pointed out that the answer was right in front of Rinzai the whole time, so he never really needed to ask in the first place... or did he?

    Gassho,
    Rob

    SatToday
    Last edited by RobD; 06-27-2020 at 03:54 AM.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Tairin View Post
    Thank you for your interpretation Jundo. It makes sense. Maybe related but I often feel I have little worthwhile to say here, or that anything I am about to say is obvious, or that I just donít feel I have the right words to get my point across. Maybe it is this feeling that I need to say something profound. Some times it feels like a simple gassho is enough.

    Perhaps thatís how Rinzai felt too. Then he was pressed to speak but instead of asking his own question he was given one of the canned questions. Perhaps Obaku hit him because he knew the question wasnít genuine. Or perhaps I am over thinking this.



    There is definitely nothing robotic about this practice. Every day, every sit, every activity or interaction is unique.


    Tairin
    Sat today and lah
    I feel the same way often, Tairin. Thank you for your post. 🙏
    Thank you, Jundo, for guiding us through these koans. Like Rob, I often found koans intimidating on my own.

    Gassho,
    Onkai
    Sat
    On (Warm)
    Kai (Sea)

  6. #6
    Thank you everyone.

    And thatís a great link Jundo, to your discussion of Rinzai, thank you!

    Gassho
    Jakuden
    SatToday/LAH


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro
    清 道 寂田
    SEIDO JAKUDEN
    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).

  7. #7
    By the way, people often say that they struggle with the strange imagery of the Koans, and the funny words ...

    ... yet folks list to weird imagery and lyrics in pop music all the time! What the heck is hitting with a rhythm stick ... ich liebe dich (I love you) ... and why in Sudan?



    Maybe best not to answer that.

    Gassho, J

    STLah

    PS - In any case, the meaning may not be what you think!

    It is well known that the Ian Dury song "Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick" was inspired by his disability; Dury was born in Harrow in May 1942 (not Essex as he would claim early on in his music career), and contracted polio when he was seven years old. Although unlike Michael Flanders of the Flanders & Swann duo who suffered the same fate six years earlier, Dury was not confined to a wheelchair, his body was still deformed by the disease, and he used a walking stick for the rest of his life.

    According to biographer Richard Balls, the line "It's nice to be a lunatic" was probably inspired by a caustic remark from a lecturer in his days at Walthamstow Art College.

    Dury gave the completed lyrics to his songwriting partner Chas (Chaz) Jankel in the autumn of 1978; apart from the apparent suggestiveness of the title and the lyrical content, the song has an excellent bass line, and an innovative saxophone solo by Davey Payne - who actually played two saxophones at once!

    https://www.songfacts.com/facts/ian-...r-rhythm-stick
    Last edited by Jundo; 06-29-2020 at 04:58 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  8. #8
    it seems the book is out of stock ?
    does anybody know if there will come a reprint ??
    gassho
    Hosei
    sat today
    Mountains are waters and waters are mountains ............

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Kyotaku View Post
    it seems the book is out of stock ?
    does anybody know if there will come a reprint ??
    gassho
    Hosei
    sat today
    Hi Hosei,

    I have it still available on Amazon Netherlands ...

    https://www.amazon.nl/Book-Equanimit...3461633&sr=8-1

    It is also available, new and used, from some other sources ...

    https://www.bookfinder.com/search/?f...97963026_1:5:7

    Gassho, Jundo

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    Hi Hosei,

    I have it still available on Amazon Netherlands ...

    https://www.amazon.nl/Book-Equanimit...3461633&sr=8-1

    It is also available, new and used, from some other sources ...

    https://www.bookfinder.com/search/?f...97963026_1:5:7

    Gassho, Jundo

    STLah
    Hi Jundo,
    Netherlands says unavailable, in Dutch . Will look at the other resources but that gives often very high additional costs to Netherlands.
    Thanks
    Gassho 2
    Sat Today
    Mountains are waters and waters are mountains ............

  11. #11
    Remarkable choice. A rinzai book in Dogen studie group
    Mountains are waters and waters are mountains ............

  12. #12
    Thank you Jundo and everyone for your comments.

    Like Rob I have a tendency to overthink to shy away from koans and like Tairin a tendency to think I don't really have much to say.

    Gassho
    Heiso
    StLah

    Sent from my E5823 using Tapatalk

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Kyotaku View Post
    Remarkable choice. A rinzai book in Dogen studie group
    But not a "Rinzai" book. Shishin Wick is from a mixed Soto-Rinzai Lineage, but also, "Book of Serenity" is considered basically a Soto Koan collection.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Equanimity

    Gassho, Jundo

    PS - Amazon.nl tells me that it is available. Hmmm.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  14. #14
    "Tijdelijk niet op voorraad " means temporarily out of stock :-)
    so maybe it seems available
    but I will try another from the search you sent for which I am grateful

    I have the Cleary translation already , which is also complete by the way , as the comment on Amazon says the only complete translation by Wick
    but I loved Wicks book about the heart way also very much , I also liked his Great Heartway book very much , an honest personal record too
    I trained amongst others also in the Maezumi Roshi tradition for several years with Genpo and some of his successors , but was not too good at koan work
    and the remarkable thing is since I quit serious koan study sometimes more of them get clear and "solved" and were even confirmed later by zen teachers ( "masters" :-) )
    nice how these things can work out
    love this book thread by the way and will read back most of it as I arrived at it later
    thanks again

    gassho
    Hosei
    Mountains are waters and waters are mountains ............

  15. #15
    Thank you Jundo for your excellent discussion. Like Tarin and the others I often feel that I don't have much to add.

    It is interesting to me that Rinzai sort of had to be pushed into a place of discomfort in order to have the breakthrough. That seems to be a general truth in life. The valuable lessons are the ones we struggle with.

    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.

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by Kyotaku View Post
    "Tijdelijk niet op voorraad " means temporarily out of stock :-)
    so maybe it seems available
    but I will try another from the search you sent for which I am grateful

    I have the Cleary translation already , which is also complete by the way , as the comment on Amazon says the only complete translation by Wick
    but I loved Wicks book about the heart way also very much , I also liked his Great Heartway book very much , an honest personal record too
    I trained amongst others also in the Maezumi Roshi tradition for several years with Genpo and some of his successors , but was not too good at koan work
    and the remarkable thing is since I quit serious koan study sometimes more of them get clear and "solved" and were even confirmed later by zen teachers ( "masters" :-) )
    nice how these things can work out
    love this book thread by the way and will read back most of it as I arrived at it later
    thanks again

    gassho
    Hosei
    If it is out of print, then I think that it is fine to use the PDF link version instead of buying a used copy. We will finish our readings during July, so the book may not arrive on time.

    https://terebess.hu/zen/mesterek/equanimity.pdf

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    If it is out of print, then I think that it is fine to use the PDF link version instead of buying a used copy. We will finish our readings during July, so the book may not arrive on time.

    https://terebess.hu/zen/mesterek/equanimity.pdf

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    thanks Jundo , good idea
    plus I have the Cleary one , which had actually much more comments in it
    gassho
    Hosei
    Mountains are waters and waters are mountains ............

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