Okay, all you Heaven Dogs. I’m working on some new material about my experiences during the Short Term Monastic Retreat this past July. But my writing time has been limited lately, so here’s an older post from the original version of Tengu House to keep your Bodhi Mind occupied in the interim. It ain’t necessarily Dharma, but it does explain what’s going on in Scruff’s little tiny brain from time to time.
The Same Piece of Water
So I’m sitting in front of the Buddha image, with a plain white candle and Japanese incense burning, having watered the bamboo and refilled the offering cup and rearranged my soft cushions.
I’m sitting in a kind of half-lotus with my hands in the cosmic mudra, but I’m not quite meditating. Something’s missing. Breathe in, breathe out, but still, no. I’m allowing my thoughts to wander, and as usual they’re wandering toward baseball.
Baseball. I have the unquestionable truth of the Dharma before me, and I’m thinking about sports.
So I breathe. Nothing else. Thoughts about baseball end with a sudden echo – I can actually hear a thought end mid-stream – and I breathe. My eyes are almost closed, but not quite. I no longer concern myself with whether my mouth or eyes are open or closed when I meditate. They just do what they want anyway.
No thoughts. No mind. Not searching for anything. No wisdom and no gain. Even the words it takes to describe the experience are absent during it. Perfectly free non-thinking. No gain and thus the bodhisattva lives prajna paramita…
BAM! I suddenly understand what the venerable Thich Nhat Hanh means by “interdependent co-arising.” This is one of the pillars of Buddhist thought – I wasn’t even thinking about it, but there it is, all of a sudden, rigth there in the front of my understanding.
Nothing exists by itself. We already knew that, of course, because of the great teachers, like venerable master Hsing Yun. But I can see, sitting here on my cushion, that the universe – all things, all conditions – are like the water in a bowl. No one part exists without the others, but also no one part of the water can move independently. If you disturb the bowl, does any one part of the water remain still while the rest moves about? Or does it all move in conjunction with the rest of it? There is no distinction between one part of the water and all the others. It’s all just one. Just water. To quote the venerable John Daido Loori Roshi, this is “Intimacy. No separation.”
Just Another Material Possession
The Buddha image, of course, is not the Buddha. When we put our palms together or prostrate ourselves before the Buddha image, we’re symbolically bowing to the Buddha nature within ourselves. The image exists to remind us of the Buddha nature, and was carved out of wood somewhere on the other side of the world, by a person who hadn’t been able to properly feed his family for some time, until he took the job of carver, making that serene expression I see on the Buddha’s face.
Again, no duality. No separation.
He and I are the same piece of water in the same bowl, and I move by staring at the face that he moved by creating.
I imagine that the man lives in a part of mainland China where clean water is rare, but satellite television is common. His children bathe in the river and have been sick for some time. But his brother helps by selling the Buddha statues he carves, and sometimes he gets a big order from a relative in Vancouver. Most go to California – the statues are popular in Chinese restaurants along Grant Street in Chinatown.
(More likely, my Buddha image was made by a Benghali immigrant working under sweatshop conditions in a machine shop in Manila. I doubt that any part of this carving was done by hand. But that's not the point.)
This is no separation. This is interdependent co-arising. Not only is my Buddha image – my purchased product, my material possession – linked to this man, but my very existence, my very life, is linked to him. I would not exist without either him or the combination of factors that led to his existence.
The same piece of water.