Friday, July 16, 2010

Living on Dogen Time

Over at Ox Herding this morning, Barry has a post referencing a selection from Zen Master Dogen's teaching Uji, or The Time-Being. Sometime prompted me to go back to the whole teaching, and take another look myself. I found this:

Although the views of an ordinary person and the causes and conditions of
those views are what the ordinary person sees, they are not necessarily the
ordinary person's truth. The truth merely manifests itself for the time
being as an ordinary person.

How do we take care of what we see without getting caught by it? This is what I seem to be working with these days.

I had a wacky period of zazen before bed last night. Burning ball of fire. Floating upwards and out of my body, all except a tingling in my fingers as they tensed in mudra. Deliberately sending Metta towards those who abuse others in the world, wishing them liberation from hatred. A breaking calm followed by a return of "ordinary" mind chatter. All of this in about a half an hour.

I think I have spent much of my life caught up in a pressurized sense of time. It's a time punctuated by achievements, failures, and fears around both. A time littered with longings clung to and avoided; a time that feels relaxed when things are viewed as going well, and frantically calling for fixing when things are viewed as not going well.

This probably sounds familiar to many of you. I don't know anyone who doesn't get caught up in the appearance of things sometimes. Perceiving nouns where there is only verbing naturally leads a person to that.

When I was 13, my mother's father died of cancer. He was like a second father to me, and for various reasons, his funeral ended up being a traumatic experience. At one point, I was sitting with two or three of my cousins, waiting in the funeral home for something I can't recall now. My grandmother came up to us and, responding to our wet eyes, said "Don't cry. You're grandfather wouldn't want you to cry."

I haven't cried easily in the twenty years since. And recently, I've found myself wanting this release, talking to myself to just let it go. In fact, this has come up during difficult periods for much of the time since I started meditation practice. An awareness of this blockage and a desire to get it to move, believing I'd be more alive to the pain of the world if I just cried easier.

Death and crying. Both releases that really can't be forced. Even a person who is murdered, whose death appears to be forced, still dies in his/hers' own way. The release comes when it comes, in other words.

How do we take care of what we see without getting caught by it?

Begin by not getting caught up in getting caught up.


Brikoleur said...

"Begin by not getting caught up in getting caught up."


Anonymous said...


Your suffering seems so complete in every direction, writing, work, relationship, family history

Do you have a koan in this case? If so which? If not, now what?

Nathan said...


Well, life as it is right now is the koan.

However, I may ask for a specific koan to work on during dokusan soon.

Although, what's interesting is that our teacher introduced the following to us about three weeks ago:

A monk asked Chao Chou, “The myriad things return to one. Where does the one return to?”
Chou said, “When I was in Ch’ing Chou I made a cloth shirt. It weighed seven pounds.” (Translated by Thomas and J. C. Cleary)

I'd never heard of this one and I found it pretty confounding, even with some explanations. So, maybe this is exactly what I need to work on.