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Thread: BOOK OF EQUANIMITY - Case 89

  1. #1

    BOOK OF EQUANIMITY - Case 89

    Now sprouts Case 89, "Tozan's No Grass."

    This is another Koan about the tangled world of separate things, multiplicity and complexity, represented by endless miles of grass ...

    ... and the state of mind where all that drops away.

    Sometimes folks believe that the world of complexity and division is merely a bad thing, and that the purpose of our Zen practice is just to realize once and for all the realm where all that division drops away, then stay there. Maybe we should turn within ourselves, our own mind, to realize that realm, not letting our senses reach outward. Master Dogen and other Zen folks had the understanding, however, that this world of complexity and frictions ... me and not me, me and you, this and that, friend and enemy, beauty and ugliness, sickness and health, life and death ... is, to the wise eye, just the same as the realm beyond all that chaos and confusion, whether we stay or go, look inside or out, so don't be afraid to wander through this life and world.

    We can travel in the tangled world, yet be untangled.

    The tangled grass also represents our mental tangles that arises in this complex me/not me world: Our fears, desires for what we need or want, our mental categories and divisions into friend vs. enemy, the things we love and the things we detest, what we run toward or run from, etc. An aspect of our practice is to leap beyond all that, to a realm without oppositions, nothing lacking, no other place to be. But, said the Zen masters, if we are wise and careful, we can still find such even while alive in this world of sometime troubles, lack and moving. Shishin Wick, in his commentary, emphasizes the clear mind where the tangled grasses don't arise, but I remind you that it is all right here ... even in this weedy and overgrown world ... and don't think of enlightenment as "the greener grass on the other side of the fence!"

    The Main Case features monks ready to leave the monastery to travel at the end of their long summer retreat. If they stay or go, there is grass everywhere, yet there is also the place of no grass everywhere beyond staying or going, inside or out.

    The Preface hints that if your mind gets tangled, then you get buried thousands of feet deep in the complex mess. Just the same, try not to move and not be caught by the world, and you are still caught. But just toss away all concern with caught or not caught, or even toss away mere ideas of trying to be both or neither, and you are free to roam to your heart's content.

    In the Appreciatory Verse, when free whether inside or outside the gate, it is easy to place your feet even in a thicket. The line about the "in darkness, outside drawn blinds, it's hard to turn your body around" is not so clear, and the few commentaries I looked at seem scattered. I will interpret it as something like, "if you just turn off the lights so that the division vanishes, pull the blinds down over your eyes to close out the world, you cannot move" and are just stuck there. Instead, be like the old tree that is clear of all division in winter, but then is ready to burst forth and return to profuse life in the spring. (The "about to enter the burned out fields" at the end refers to a custom in old China, and even in the Japanese farming community where I live now, of burning some fields at the start of spring to clear the way for all the new growth and profuse richness of the coming season).

    Question: In your Zen practice, are you finding the untangled place in all the tangles, just here whether you stay or go?


    As Furtado Roshi teaches, in a world of needs, wants and all our endless desires ... with a mind measuring "good and better" and "having" of things we touch and encounter ... beyond what we "like" or "love" or do not at all ... as she turns around ... we stain our jeans yet all is pure ... we're right in it! This we believe even when we lose our place and life makes us so tired ... all our faults and hidden skeletons vanish ... and then even the sometime dishonesty and conflict we encounter in this world is somehow beautiful.

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    Last edited by Jundo; 07-13-2020 at 01:43 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  2. #2
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    This Koan actually resonated with me quite strongly as I've been wrestling with similar concepts lately myself. The whole idea of seeing beyond BOTH duality and non-duality was something that I've always kind of casually nodded my head at as it sounded good, but I couldn't quite wrap my mind around it. However, this concept is now slowly seeping its way into my practice. Helping it was this passage I just recently read (excerpt) from Hee-Jin Kim's "Eihei Dogen: Mystical Realist":

    "The total realization of Buddha-nature does not obliterate the individual particularities and identities of events, things, and persons as though they are dissolved in an undifferentiated ream. . . . Dogen maintained that the concrete peculiarities of dharmas, radically discrete spatially, and temporarily, are interpenetrated and unobstructed--each exerts total realization in its own right. Furthermore, in effect: 'Though not identical, they are not different; though not different, they are not one; though not one, they are not many.' The particularities in question are not dissolved or fused in Buddha-nature. The all-inclusiveness of Dogen's mythopoeic vision should be understood in this manner."

    Having read that passage just the other day and then taking a few turns with this Koan was quite serendipitous (unless of course, I'm reading this all wrong, which wouldn't be surprising... ).

    I'm also grateful to Shishin Wick for explaining the contextual significance of "grass" in Chinese. Based on the commentary, "grass" may have been better translated as "weeds" for a western audience. As I'm learning more and more with older texts, context is everything.

    Jundo, to answer your question, I'm not sure if I've actually found that untangled place amidst the tangles of practice/life, but I have found that I am slowly surrendering my battle with the tangles/weeds that arise and have started to accept them (and even appreciate them) equally with the flowers.

    Oh, and I also particularly enjoyed the passage on page 284 where Wick uses the metaphor of individuals in a crowd to provide perspective on how individual thoughts compile into ideas, etc. and we need only look at the space between the thoughts (like the gaps between individuals in a crowd) to see through the "solidity" of our thoughts.

    Gassho,
    Rob

    -st-

  3. #3
    Yes. Once it is explained that grass in this context are weeds then the Koan makes a bit more sense.


    Interesting that this Koan along with the previous two seem to be very thematically related. Do we know if the Koans in the Book of Equanimity was organized with any structure in mind or was it just happenstance? How were the koans here picked?

    If we look closely at our mind, we see there are gaps between the thoughts. Who are you when there are gaps between the thoughts?
    This little phrase in bold really grabbed hold of me. I don’t want to say too much because I won’t do it justice but I see at least those gaps are when I put the stories down and just am.




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

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Tairin View Post
    Interesting that this Koan along with the previous two seem to be very thematically related. Do we know if the Koans in the Book of Equanimity was organized with any structure in mind or was it just happenstance? How were the koans here picked?
    Well, the Koans are those of our great Ancestor in Soto Zen, Hongzhi, with commentaries by Wansong in the Preface and Verses. Wansong is said to have compiled them in this order. I have not seen much written on the whys of the specific order.

    Yes, there are patterns, although it could all be just like songs on the jukebox, coming up as they do yet singing the same themes of love. In this case, the central theme that runs through most of the Koans (as you have probably guessed) is the dance of "relative and absolute" ... which is not surprising, as much of Zen has to do with the dance of "relative and absolute."

    Gassho, Jundo

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    In this case, the central theme that runs through most of the Koans (as you have probably guessed) is the dance of "relative and absolute" ... which is not surprising, as much of Zen has to do with the dance of "relative and absolute."
    Yes. I knew this was going to be the answer.


    Tairin
    Sat today and lah

  6. #6
    Question: In your Zen practice, are you finding the untangled place in all the tangles, just here whether you stay or go?
    I am attached to the way things are. There is sadness about the truth of impermanence, yet there is beauty even in that sadness. When I sit zazen, I can let everything go and just breathe. When I get up again, I return to my wants and goals but can hold them a little more loosely.

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

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    Question: In your Zen practice, are you finding the untangled place in all the tangles, just here whether you stay or go?
    Allow me to start by saying thank you for the teaching and interpretation, I very much enjoyed it. I also really like Rob's quote from the "Mystical Realist" book, I may have to check that out! To answer the question, I seem to find that untangled/tangled place quite often, although very briefly. All of a sudden I'm there, but only until "I" realize that I'm there, and it starts the cycle of trying to not try to try to not try, an endless loop. I can't force it to happen, it just does, but even in those short moments I feel the answers all make perfect sense. Who knows, not me

    Gassho,

    Joshua
    SatToday/LaH


    Sent from my Pixel 3 using Tapatalk

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by SlappyPenguin View Post
    ...All of a sudden I'm there, but only until "I" realize that I'm there, and it starts the cycle of trying to not try to try to not try, an endless loop. Sent from my Pixel 3 using Tapatalk
    Oh, man. That really sums it up!

    Krista
    st/lah

  9. #9
    First, I just want to say that I'm loving Jundo's commentary on these koans. They are profound and playful, which is what I expect from a teacher who about to publish The Zen Master's Dance, soon to be read (hopefully) by the Zen master's dunce (me). This is also what has continually drawn me to Zen: it's medicine that teases.

    As for this koan, the first time (3 years ago) and the second time (2 years ago) that I read it, I hated it. I'm being honest here. Here was my thinking: what's the point of this Zen if I'm always having to walk in the grass? I want to go where there is no grass. Reading it now after Jukai and lots more shikantaza, the koan calls to mind the bodhisattva vows: how can we save, transform, perceive, and attain where there is no division? How can we be bodhisattvas if there is no grass? I think Tozan's lesson is clear: if you want to travel to the place with no grass, start pulling grass, and, like what Joshua says, do it again and again. Thank you for this opportunity, and don't take my word for anything.

    Gassho,

    Hobun
    STLAH

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Joseph View Post
    First, I just want to say that I'm loving Jundo's commentary on these koans. They are profound and playful, which is what I expect from a teacher who about to publish The Zen Master's Dance, soon to be read (hopefully) by the Zen master's dunce (me). This is also what has continually drawn me to Zen: it's medicine that teases.

    As for this koan, the first time (3 years ago) and the second time (2 years ago) that I read it, I hated it. I'm being honest here. Here was my thinking: what's the point of this Zen if I'm always having to walk in the grass? I want to go where there is no grass. Reading it now after Jukai and lots more shikantaza, the koan calls to mind the bodhisattva vows: how can we save, transform, perceive, and attain where there is no division? How can we be bodhisattvas if there is no grass? I think Tozan's lesson is clear: if you want to travel to the place with no grass, start pulling grass, and, like what Joshua says, do it again and again. Thank you for this opportunity, and don't take my word for anything.

    Gassho,

    Hobun
    STLAH



    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).

  11. #11
    Yes, I think for me the explanation that grass can also mean weeds made a big difference to my reading.

    To paraphrase Ralph Waldo Emerson - weeds are just plants we have yet to find a use for - so while I'm still tangled in them on a daily basis, my practice is helping my find use for the weeds and understand that ultimately there is no difference between the weeds and the flowers.

    Gassho

    Heiso
    StLah

    Sent from my E5823 using Tapatalk

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Heiso View Post
    Yes, I think for me the explanation that grass can also mean weeds made a big difference to my reading.

    To paraphrase Ralph Waldo Emerson - weeds are just plants we have yet to find a use for - so while I'm still tangled in them on a daily basis, my practice is helping my find use for the weeds and understand that ultimately there is no difference between the weeds and the flowers.

    Gassho

    Heiso
    StLah

    Sent from my E5823 using Tapatalk
    That is a lovely way of looking at things. Some things are harder to see that way than others, but I'm trying.

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

  13. #13
    I might offer caution about seeing "weeds" as only bad things, unlike "grasses" which are all the divided things of the world, even those we personally judge as beautiful or nice to our human tastes.

    Thus, the Koan speaks of the place where there is "no grass [whatsoever]," and all the separate things have dropped away, all separate phenomena, not just the things we find bothersome or harmful.

    And yet, as Dogen reminds us in the Genjo, although we see through all the separate things including birth and death, "flowers fall even if we love them, and weeds grow even if we hate them, and that is all."

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    I might offer caution about seeing "weeds" as only bad things, unlike "grasses" which are all the divided things of the world, even those we personally judge as beautiful or nice to our human tastes.

    Thus, the Koan speaks of the place where there is "no grass [whatsoever]," and all the separate things have dropped away, all separate phenomena, not just the things we find bothersome or harmful.

    And yet, as Dogen reminds us in the Genjo, although we see through all the separate things including birth and death, "flowers fall even if we love them, and weeds grow even if we hate them, and that is all."

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    Thank you, Jundo

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

  15. #15
    When I meet my self, there is no self.
    Lost in thought during zazen- lost; realizing Iím lost in thought waking up
    Grass, no grass; whatís the difference?

    gassho

    rish
    -st

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