Monday, January 24, 2011


"...we should remember that from the beginning we have never lacked the supreme state of bodhi, and we will receive it and use it forever. At the same time, because we cannot perceive it directly, we are prone to beget random intellectual ideas, and because we chase after these as if they were real things, we vainly pass by the great state of truth. From these intellectual ideas emerge all sorts of flowers in space: we think about the twelve-fold cycle and the twenty-five spheres of existence; and ideas of the three vehicles and the five vehicles or of having Buddha [-nature] and not having Buddha [-nature] are endless. We should not think that the learning of these intellectual ideas is the right path of Buddhist practice. When we sit solely in Zazen, on the other hand, relying on exactly the same posture as the Buddha, and letting go of the myriad things, then we go beyond the areas of delusion, realization, emotion, and consideration, and we are not concerned with the ways of the common and the sacred. At once we are roaming outside the [intellectual] frame, receiving and using the great state of bodhi."

--Dogen, Shobogenzo vol. 1, Bendowa, "A talk about pursuing the truth", P. 8, Nishijima & Cross, 1994.

"Our true nature, an unknown that cannot be named because it has no form, can be sensed in the stop between two thoughts or two perceptions. These moments of stop constitute an opening to a presence that is without end, eternal. Ordinarily we cannot believe in this because we think anything without form is not real. So we let pass the possibility of experiencing Being... The highest form of intelligence is meditation, an intense vigilance that liberates mind from its reactions, and this alone, without any willful intervention, produces a state of tranquility."

--De Salzmann, The Reality of Being, P.278, Shambala Publications, 2010

It's unusual for me to quote at such length in this space, but the relationship between these two passages–written nearly 1,000 years apart, on opposite sides of the planet, from a man and a woman exposed to completely different cultures and influences, is quite interesting. (Readers might want to buy both books, if you don't already have them, and read the entirety of the relevant passages.)

This morning, while I was sitting, the parts of me that are alive and that do not necessarily rely on words to function embarked on a search for a place where there were no words.

Every effort was mistaken, because the part of my mind that engages form is supple and energetic; at every turn, the attempt to release, to let go of it, was mediated by the form itself.

I am indeed engaged in something that takes, as DeSalzmann explains it, an "attitude of vigilance."

It requires intimate, careful observation; it needs to enter into territory that the intellect is incapable of evaluating.

And that which is necessary must be allowed to penetrate me... an action I unconsciously resist, without even knowing it.

I'm recommending Bendowa and The Reality of Being ( specifically, the essays included under “An Attitude of Vigilance”) simply because for me, they so deftly summarize what is necessary--

and cannot be realized with the mind.

May our prayers be heard.

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