Monday, October 15, 2007

Six Flowers, one world

This morning in Shanghai, I began my day well before dawn, reading, as I often do, in Nishijima and Cross' translation of Dogen's Shobogenzo; chapter 59, Baike, or, "plum blossoms."

This afternoon I find myself back in beautiful
Hangzhou, on the banks of West Lake. It’s a positively balmy autumn afternoon, boasting scattered clouds, softened golden sunlight, and a paradoxical hint not of winter’s pending exhalation, but the future inward breath of spring.

Dogen often uses the image of plum blossoms to describe the work of the inner centers.
Everything within perception arises from the energy within our centers; as Master Bodhidharma said, "the opening of flowers is the occurrence of the world." Dogen goes on to remark, "A moment in which flowers opening is the occurrence of the world, is spring having arrived. At this moment one flower is present as the opening of five petals. The time of this one flower is able to include three flowers, four flowers, and five flowers, it includes hundreds of flowers, thousands of flowers, myriads of flowers, and kotis of flowers; and it includes countless flowers." (Page 142.)

In undertaking a significant inner study, we must carefully and repeatedly examine the physical conditions within the sensation of the organism. Not the many associative thoughts that flow as an inevitable result of our existence.

The difficulty is that associative thought, which is essentially a mechanical part, can’t be eliminated from the picture. It continuously pollutes incoming impressions by establishing commentary, and thereby usurps the role of real thinking.

Trying to free ourselves of associative thought is futile; it’s going to be there, no matter what we do. The trick is to become less invested in it. And I think we all get much too caught up in the circular analysis of associative thought without even noticing that that is where we are stuck. We live on a merry-go-round of psychological conjecture. Associative thought, since it is the biggest feature in our landscape, attracts the most attention from us, and once we are caught in it, we end up studying it as though it were the only part of ourselves needing attention to.

All such activity is commentary.

We need observation instead of commentary. Facts instead of conjecture. And the facts need to be assembled from within the physical conditions we encounter in an inner sense.

Not the thoughts about them.

In this regard we can speak of the structural parts of emotional center taking in inner impressions.

This is quite different from the effort to be present within the context of impressions entering from outside. These are the two different sets, or classes, of impressions that we need to consider in regard to the question as a whole. (In order to understand this in more detail, it is necessary to read and study the commentary on the nature of the fifth stopinder in Chapter 39 of Beelzebub's Tales to his Grandson--"The Holy Planet Purgatory." I am intentionally going to avoid embarking on what would have to be a rather a byzantine technical explanation in this post.)

The inner study of the six flowers is a specific study of vibration arising within centers. There is no need, in this type of study, to assemble cosmologies or apply them. The point, rather, is to develop the sensitivity of the inner sensory tools which receive vibrations and learn more about how they correspond both to each other, and to outer conditions. This is about developing a relationship to a finer kind of inner energy. It is not about analyzing the relationship or explaining the relationship, it is about living within the relationship, investigating the relationship.

We don’t know what we will find here; it is a work in process, a demand that suspends belief, inviting verification in its place. We do need, however, to become invested within the available energy of the body through our work of attention with the six flowers. this is the place where life is beautiful.

May your trees bear fruit, and your wells yield water.

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