Monday, March 3, 2014

Zen Flow

Here are a few lines from Master Sengcan's dharma poem "Trust in Mind" (Xinxinming).

"If you wish to see the truth,
then hold no opinions for or against anything."

Take a look at those first words - "If you wish to see the truth." How often do you truly wish to see the truth? And how often do you do anything in your power to turn away from it?

This line seems to point at the choice that's required of each of us in every moment to want to see the truth. We have to aim ourselves in the right direction - or, more accurately, allow ourselves to be aimed in the right direction by life itself. If we're too busy being obstructionists, propping up sham arguments about ourselves and others, there's no room for the truth to seep in.

In the second part of the line, the word "hold" stands out in my opinion. As in hold tightly. Sometimes death grip tightly.

When I first read this line, I thought it meant don't have any opinions about anything. Which reminds me of a former sangha member who ran for Mayor several years ago. He went door to door talking to people about his campaign. When they'd ask him what he stood for, he said "I don't have an agenda, other than what the people tell me." When they'd press further about specific plans, he'd say "I don't have any fixed plans. I'm listening to the people first." Needless to say, he didn't get many votes.

In some ways, it was kind of amazing that he went into the community offering to be a mirror for the rest of us. Politicians always claim to represent "everyone," but they never do. Primarily because it's impossible, but also because the vast majority of them are beholden in some manner or another to special interest elites. Whatever mirroring of everyday folks they do is mostly extra, carrots in exchange for votes and/or doing something to appease their uneasy consciences.

Anyway, one of the themes I see in Master Sengcan's poem is flow. Being able to flow in the absolute and relative realms. Not getting caught by either emptiness or concrete things and experiences.

So, having opinions, even strong ones, isn't the issue. But is there flow and openness? Are you able to enter into situations, express yourself clearly, do what needs to be done, and then move on?

Of course "moving on" sometimes involves repetition or slight revision. Conversations about race and racism tend to be like that for example. But even there, in the heat of all that karmic collective muck, you can find spaciousness. Not easy, but it's possible.

"With a single stroke we are freed from bondage;
Nothing clings to us and we hold to nothing.
All is empty, clear, self-illuminating..."

What is the single stroke? What is the truth of this moment? We don't need to withhold ourselves to be mirrors for each other.


Anonymous said...

By moving on, do you mean, saying your peace and then letting go?

Nathan said...

Yes, that's basically it. Although sometimes it takes awhile to finish saying or doing what's needed.