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Tuesday, 12 December 2017

391 – Shodo Harada



                To stress the importance of assuming a proper posture when meditating, Shodo Harada told the story of “a rich man who wanted a third-floor residence so that he could be higher than any of his neighbors. When the carpenters arrived they naturally began construction from the bottom floors. When the rich man saw this he became angry and said to the carpenters, ‘I said I wanted a third-floor residence, so I don’t need anything else, just the third floor. Why should I waste my money building the bottom floors?’”

Sunday, 10 December 2017

390 - From Zhuang Zhou



                Master SSu, Master Yu, Master Li, and Master Lai were all four talking together. “Who can look upon nonbeing as his head, on life as his back, and on death as his rump?” they said. “Who knows that life and death, existence and annihilation, are all a single body? I will be his friend.”
                The four men looked at each other and smiled. There was no disagreement in their hearts and so the four of them became friends.
                All at once Master Yu fell ill. Master Ssu went to ask how he was. “Amazing!” said Master Yu. “The Creator is making me all crookedly like this! My back sticks up like a hunchback and my vital organs are on top of me. My chin is hidden in my navel, my shoulders are up above my head, and my pigtail points at the sky. It must be some dislocation of the yin and yang!”
                “Do you resent it?” asked Master Ssu.
                “Why no, what would I resent? If the process continues, perhaps in time he’ll transform my left arm into a rooster. In that case I’ll keep watch on the night. Or perhaps in time he’ll transform my right arm into a crossbow pellet and I’ll shoot down an owl for roasting. Or perhaps in time he’ll transform my buttocks into cartwheels. Then, with my spirit for a horse, I’ll climb up and go for a ride. What need will I ever have for a carriage again?
                “I received life because the time had come: I will lose it because the order of things passes on. Be content with this time and dwell in this order and then neither sorrow nor joy can touch you. In ancient times this was called ‘freeing of the bound.’ There are those who cannot free themselves, because they are bound by things. But nothing can ever win against Heaven—that’s the way it’s always been. What would I have to resent?”
                Suddenly Master Lai grew ill. Gasping and wheezing, he lay at the point of death. His wife and children gathered round in a circle and began to cry. Master Li, who had come to ask how he was, said, “Shoo! Get back! Don’t disturb the process of change.”
                Then he leaned against the doorway and talked to Master Lai. “How marvelous the Creator is! What is he going to make of you next? Where is he going to send you? Will he make you a rat’s liver? Will he make you into a bug’s arm?”
                Master Lai said, “A child obeying his father and mother goes wherever he is told, east or west, south or north. And the yin and the yang—how much more are they to a man than father or mother! Now that they have brought me to the verge of death, if I should refuse to obey them, how perverse I would be! What fault is it of theirs? The Great Clod burdens me with form, labors me with life, eases me in old age, and rests me in death. So if I think well of my life, for the same reason I must think well of my death. When a skilled smith is casting metal, if the metal should leap up and say, ‘I insist upon being made into a Mo-yeh [a famous sword]!’ he would surely regard it as very inauspicious metal indeed. Now, having had the audacity to take on human form once, if I should say, ‘I don’t want to be anything but a man! Nothing but a man!’, the Creator would surely regard me as a most inauspicious sort of person. So now I think of heaven and earth as of a great furnace, and the Creator as a skilled smith. Where could he send me that would not be all right? I will go off to sleep peacefully, and then with a start I will wake up.”
 – Burton Watson translation

Friday, 8 December 2017

389 – The Death of the Buddha



                When the Buddha was on his death bed, he told the assembled monks that if they had any unresolved questions, they should put them now, so that they would not later be able to say that they wished they had posed certain questions which remained unresolved. But not one question was raised, and the Buddha’s attendant, Ananda, spoke, saying, “Lord, your teaching has been most clear, and there is no question among any of these gathered here concerning it.”
                The Buddha looked over all the bhikkhus, arhats, and lay people gathered there, and he spoke one last time: “Remember this: Impermanence is inherent in all component things. Work out your own salvation with diligence.”
                Then he closed his eyes and passed into Nirvana—never to be subject to rebirth again.

Monday, 4 December 2017

388 – The Sixth Patriarch Has No Skillful Means



                A monk once paid a visit to the Sixth Patriarch and boasted: “This monk has skillful means which allow him to cut off all thought. Thus, in the midst of activity, his mind remains still and so wisdom increases day by day.”
                To which the Sixth Patriarch replied: “This monk has no skillful means. He does not cut off thought. Thus in the midst of activity, his mind is frequently active. How can wisdom grow?”