Get Your Head Out of a Bowl of Glue!

What follows is a quote from Chinese Zen Master Yuan Wu, the original compiler and commentator of the The Blue Cliff Record, 100 classic Zen Koans.  My seminar last weekend with Zentatsu Baker-Roshi focused on the third paragraph. My own commentary to follow soon 🙂


Mostly Yuan Wu:

Sit upright and investigate reality. Within an independent awareness, you must constantly step back from conventions and perceptions and worldly entanglements. Look to the void and trace its outline. Take your head out of a bowl of glue!

Observing the reality of physical existence is the same as observing the Buddha. Worldly phenomena and the buddhadharma are fused into one suchness. Go directly to your personal existence in the field of the five clusters of form, feeling, perception, associative mind, and consciousness – and then turn your light around: your True Nature, your Buddha Nature, will be still and clear and ‘as-is’, through and through empty. Accept It. This Mind is Buddha’s Mind. The myriad transformations and activities of the sensory world have never shaken it. Thus it is called imperturbable and the fundamental source.

Whether walking, standing, sitting, or reclining, concentrate on this fullness of mind. Be naked and pure without interruption, so that no subjective views arise and you merge with this Buddha womb. This is your own fundamental scenery, your own Original Face.

When the ancients employed their hundreds and thousands and mullions of expedient teaching devices, it was always to enable people to go toward this and to penetrate to freedom. As soon as you penetrate deeply to the source, you will case aside the tile that was used to knock at the gate.

Practice at this level for twenty or thirty years, cut off all verbal identifications, creeping vines, and useless states – until you are free of conditioned mind. This will be the place of peace, bliss, and rest. If you seek a time when you finish, there will never be a time when you finish.

Zen Again

My teacher (did I really say that? more on this later), Zentatsu Baker-Roshi, is in Boulder this weekend giving a seminar on the Evolution of Zen at the Chautauqua Community House. Spring rain and Winter’s final touch are mixing together and providing an excellent weekend to be indoors contemplating the human existence and meaning of self!

This seminar is much more casual than the Sesshin I attended several weeks ago – no robes, no chanting or prostrations, plenty of breaks and conversation. Roshi generally sets the context for our discussion then responds to questions, all the while trying to frame the theme, the Evolution of Zen.

We have been working extensively with the differences between “Evolution” and “Development”. Development is more static – moving within the field of the known, using that known to separate something else out, or ‘develop it’.  Evolution can be likened to an unrolling, a boundless process that is new in every moment. Something I am exploring personally is how do I create the conditions necessary to make my practice more likely to evolve?  Our Sangha (group practicing together including the teacher) has been looking deeply into trust, and how it, along with acceptance, are an integral part of evolving ones own practice. Another way to look at this is ‘being secure in vulnerability’, something I try to remain aware of, rather than close off and go within my own walls. We also explored the differences between Faith and Trust, two closely linked words, that are in Roshi’s words “part of the same experiential groove”. The subtle difference is that Faith walks a fine line with belief, which can be limited. Belief to me is static, based in the known and discounts the unknowable. As soon as you believe something, you are no longer open to the unknown, because you “believe this is the way it is”. Its security and safety and easier that way. I think I like Trust better as a word to describe opening myself to that unknown, as Trust is rooted more in experience, of which every moment is new and potentially boundless. At some level you even trust that you don’t trust.  There’s some Zen for you. 🙂  I’m out of time but will write more on my thoughts about what it means to have a teacher and practice with a group.