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Thread: BOOK OF EQUANIMITY - Case 87

  1. #1

    BOOK OF EQUANIMITY - Case 87


    We continue now with some words about cutting free of words ... Koan 87, "Sozan's With or Without."

    Let me first mention that our Master Dogen had an interesting approach to words, and he wasn't against them as much as some Zen folks. He asked us to hear the Silence and Wholeness in the words, and to see that well chosen words can convey the Buddha's Truth. Most people do not hear the Silence and Wholeness and Truth in words, so words are an obstruction. However, those same people don't hear the real Silence and Wholeness and Truth in ordinary earthly "silence" either! They are still entangled in inner noise even in the quietest valley. Real Big S "Silence" is not a matter of words or no words, silence or noise, and sings its song as all of that.

    For Dogen, one does not get "unentangled" from vines by needing to physically cut them away, but rather by never feeling entangled by them even as they twist and twist. (That's so even though we keep doing what we can to drop away the tangles and fetters of greed, anger and ignorance that we can. We are unentangled with what we can cut away, and unentangled with what we can't.)

    In other words, Soto folks find freedom right within tangled life, including the tangled words, when we can see the untangled simplicity that is here too.

    Today's Koan is another where a fellow asks the same question, and gets the same answer twice, but gets it the second time: Sozan asks something like, "To have words and no words [silence] is like a vine of tangled words around a single silent tree. But when the words and silence both disappear, where do the words return to?" Or, in an alternative reading, perhaps it is more like, "Words tangle around the tree of the world, trying to describe and label and categorize the world. But when both the world and the words are all dropped from mind, where do the words go? " Isan laughs, Sosan says "Ya mean I came here just to be laughed at?," so Isan offers to pay for his bus ticket.

    When Sosan finally gets it, he realizes that Isan's laugh was actually a sword ... a sword of Wisdom to cut away silly questions and pondering (the question is not that far from "if a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound?" ), a sword to cut away vines whether physically cutting them away or even while letting them be as they are, thus to bring life and wholeness to both vines and tree, sound and silence, words and world, which truly never have needed to be cut apart at all in their wholeness. Things are untangled even as they tangle so long as we don't tangle with em! Life's tangles are untangled if the heart is untangled, whether the problems and questions we can cut away or those that we cannot. It takes two to tangle, thus so long as we drop all need to divide in one or two, what tangles with what?

    The Preface to the Assembly seems to mean something like that the student struggles with a door or struggles to sail a boat, feels trapped in a valley with no escape, but suddenly the door opens, the boat rights itself, a gateway out of the valley reveals itself as right here all along.

    The Appreciatory Verse reminds us that the laugh was the sword of wisdom that untangled the words and thoughts that seemingly ensnared us with no escape.

    Let me ask you a practical question in your life: If you feel entangled in circumstances, or ideas and judgments about circumstances, that you cannot easily cut away ... a tangled mess that no machete can cure ... how can you "unentangle" your mind about it even as the tangled circumstances remain? Can you find the straight and simple that is all the twisting knots?

    Gassho, J

    STLah

    PS - I think that many of you already know Japanese Kudzu, which wrestles with our trees in our back field too here in Tsukuba. I bow, and then hack away. Kudzu is one of the life problems I tangle with every few months. While I respect it, I also respect the tall trees it wants to strangle and kill. Alas, it takes an actual machete and not only a "sword of wisdom" ...


    Thank you Japan! Zen is not its only tangled gift to the west!

    Last edited by Jundo; 06-29-2020 at 12:01 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  2. #2
    I'm probably barking up the wrong vine covered tree but this koan seems to me to say 'what happens when we stop splicing the world up into into subject/object with words?' but also I also think there's more to it than that almost 'what is left when we drop all concept of relative and absolute, what is suchness?'

    Does the laugh that is also a sword (razor sharp wit?) points to cutting away the thoughts that entangle us. To just sit with those thoughts but not let them entangle us in delusion?

    Gassho

    Heiso

    StLah

    Sent from my E5823 using Tapatalk

  3. #3
    Let me ask you a practical question in your life: If you feel entangled in circumstances, or ideas and judgments about circumstances, that you cannot easily cut away ... a tangled mess that no machete can cure ... how can you "unentangle" your mind about it even as the tangled circumstances remain? Can you find the straight and simple that is all the twisting knots?
    Yes although I think not as often as I did when I was younger. Maybe in my older age I am less inclined to situations where Ill get entangled. Or maybe I am able to recognize them quicker. I have a situation right now with my parents related to COVID19 and I am bracing myself for the unpleasant task of untangling. My mom is going to be disappointed which is the real entanglement. Not the situation but the perception or maybe my perception of the perception. I think many of the entanglements are actually just all stories I manufacture in my mind. Well see.


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

  4. #4
    This story reminds me of times (not recent) when I felt that the rug was pulled out from under me, and before I could do anything else, I was overcome by laughter. There is really nothing to hang on to. As far as entanglements go, the practice of zazen seems to have given me equanimity. Lately I've had very high blood pressure, making me aware of my mortality, but it doesn't trouble me as it could. I feel at peace with impermanence. It just seems like an inconvenience to the people around me. At the same time, my PA increased my BP medication, I've scheduled an appointment with a cardiologist, and decreased my salt intake and increased my water intake. I have a lot to be thankful for.

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

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