Monday, August 30, 2010

A Zen student must go straight

In order to be worthy as a Zen student
I must go straight on a narrow mountain road
that has ninety-nine curves.

[image:  David Link, sierracanon]

A very energetic mind this morning, after (at last) a good night's sleep.

Somehow I thought of this koan, one that my teacher Amasamy included in his booklet on koans.  It is a metaphor that sinks in as an image.  How do you go straight when the road curves?  Picture it.

Looking for the correct wording of this koan, I found a book online, The Flowing Bridge, which has a chapter about it.  It led me on what is probably a fool's path, trying to get emptiness in my gut by understanding it cognitively.  Definitions, Japanese-English dictionary (ku).  The author says you follow Essential mind, which makes me feel indeed like an unworthy Zen student, so involved these days with the phenomena of my personal body, so little time and energy to just stroll, just be, to be aimless.  I used to read Dogen, not with the guidance of any teacher or sangha, just because I wanted to.

In earlier years, on retreats with teachers, especially Amasamy, who is also a Jesuit priest, and has a history as a mystic, I sometimes got quite mystical.  This poem comes to mind, written in that state of mind. God, I miss those retreats.

by Jeanne Desy

For I have seen the ten thousand webs of the weaver,
so many wheels on the wire fence,
felt myself a wishbone to be taken and split,

fashioned small semblances on paper, in speech,
a thousand times, contrived a thousand masks,
to what purpose?   O Death, I hear your song.

Host to a multitude, I studied everything, 
retained it all, remember nothing now.
I am held in the hand and not found.

Realized the first riddle, whispered the answer,
not heard what I said, slept and forgot,

saw the holy shuffle of skeletons
around the meditation hall,
our bony rattle silenced by flesh,
soft body, soft breath. 
It is easy to die, said the Master—
all you do is breathe out.

Four yellow butterflies dance around my feet
   on a road where gravel casts shadows.

The goat turns from the herd, steps toward me,
   the duck stops splashing to look in my eyes.

I unfold and become
galaxies woven on the yew,
   prayer flags fastened to grass,
      sighing in the breeze,
         invisible web     a net of dew.

August 2001
Amasamy retreat

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