Friday, December 21, 2012

"Throwing Away" the Oppressions of Old

In his commentary on Dogen's Genjokoan, Hakuun Yasutani writes:

What is essential is to throw away one's own views and oneself. To throw away all one's acquired affectations, which are the knowledge and experience accumulated since birth, to become a pure white sheet of paper, and to bring oneself in accord with the teachings of the buddhas and ancestors.

What is this business of "throwing away"? It's not about rejecting yourself, nor is it about getting rid of something, although maybe there will be a dissipation of certain things. Take the heaviness that accompanies everything that "I" hold on to, cling to as my own. You can't throw that away. When you've gotten tired of gripping tightly to whatever it is you're fixed to, the air will simply leak out, like from a tire, until it is empty and "gone."

Let's move into the garden for a moment. When a plant dies, it's body decays and goes back into the soil, providing nourishment for the next generation of plants - that is, if we allow it to do so. How often do we rip out "weeds," bag them up, and send them with the trash to wherever it is the trash is going? It's all a little too tidy right here for the time being, and yet the stuff has to go somewhere. This is not just about the garden; this is your life too! The words "throwing away" may not be the best translation, at least for us in the "West." Neither is the word "pure" maybe, which plays right into that desire to keep everything neat and clean at all costs, forgetting that the lotus blooms out of the mud, not out of sterile soil.

It's essential to let go of that which has passed, that which is, in the relative world, dead. If the tomato plant has birthed its fruit and withered, nothing I can do will bring it back. And if I try to hang on, I end up missing its current suchness, what it is right now: a decaying body ready to break back into the soil.

I'd like to apply all of this to our society. Today is December 21st, 2012. A day numerous people have claimed big things for. Apocalyptic things. Grand spiritual prophecy things. It's almost over, and nothing of the sort has clearly come to pass.

And yet, perhaps it's more like the tire of our old culture is draining. The grip on things like capitalism, colonialism, and various forms of oppression are slowly weakening. Slowly being "thrown away" by folks who spent lifetimes accumulating them.

May you all be well this Solstice day.

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