Sit-a-Long with Taigu: Understanding in our bones and flesh

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Here is a very short passage from the journals of the wandering monkSantoka, translated in Mountain Tasting by John Stevens (a book I really recommend; that is an image of Santoka at left):

Again, I've departed on a journey. There is nothing you can say about me except that I am a foolish pilgrim who spends his entire life wandering like the drifting water plants that float from shore to shore. It appears pitiful, but I find happiness in this destitute, quiet life. Water flows, clouds shift ceaselessly. When the wind blows, leaves fall. Like the fish swimming in the water or the birds flying, I walk and walk, going on and on. In my travels, I touch people and things, letting my heart freely reflect events, recording events just as they occur. The Record of a Beggar Monk will tell the story of my life.

(Click through to read more, and for today's talk and "sit-a-long" video.) 

The freedom expressed and unfolded by Santoka, his ability to experience poetry, begging, wandering and sitting as not two, is very remarkable. In fact, he refers to Genjokoan in this fragment of his journal:

A fish swims in the ocean, and no matter how far it swims there is no end to the water. A bird flies in the sky, and no matter how far it flies there is no end to the air. However, the fish and the bird have never left their elements. When their activity is large their field is large. When their need is small their field is small. Thus, each of them totally covers its full range, and each of them totally experiences its realm. If the bird leaves the air it will die at once. If the fish leaves the water it will die at once.

Know that water is life and air is life. The bird is life and the fish is life. Life must be the bird and life must be the fish. You can go further. There is practice-enlightenment which encompasses limited and unlimited life. (Dogen, Genjokoan, translated by Tanahashi)

Zazen gets up and walks, eats, sleeps, drinks, gets involved in ten thousand activities... In this way, the bird or the fish do experience the vast expanse of sky and sea, there is no bound to sitting as it goes into the world and radiates. Going on, walking, working, doing things is for us the daily manifestation of Genjokoan. Buddhist sutras have to be understood in our bones and flesh, experienced in the very core of our being and acted freely. This is the way to study, not with our brain, but in doing.

Today's Sit-A-Long video follows. Remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells; a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended.

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