Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Visiting The Wild Land

Having mentioned his name yesterday, i couldn't skip the chance to pass on some of Musō Soseki's poetry today. Especially when i admitted to so liking the words of Ryōkan yesterday and don't want Musō to think my preferences are waivering.

I posted one of my many, many Musō favorites in a post some time back. That poem was called Time For A Walk and i think it should be required studying for all monastics everywhere. I think, but won't dig it out, that i posted another one even further back in time, but i'll just post it again below here simply because i like it so much.

The first poem is called Beyond The World and comes from the book Sun At Midnight:

This place of wild land
     has no boundaries
          north south east or west
It is hard to see
     even the tree
          in the middle of it
Turning your head
     you can look beyond
          each direction
For the first time
     you know that yoru eyes
          have been deceiving you

Where is that wild land with no borders? For beginners like most of us it's on our zafu and nowhere else. For those with better eyesight it could be anywhere and everywhere they find themselves.

A land is wild when the laws and customs of other people have not been imposed on it. A land is wild when the "normal" expectations of "civilization" don't function there, when the normal self imposed rules, beliefs of right and wrong, good and bad, acceptable and not acceptable, holy and secular, spiritual and mundane, your's and mine, .... don't apply.

This wild land could be anywhere and when you find it there are no borders, no boundaries — there just is. There are no delineations of any type. There are no categories, boxes, or filters. What is, simply is. Or maybe, is not. How can there be a north, south, east, or west when everything is one, when there is only Being. In this land, you look beyond all directions because there are no directions to look at in the first place.

There is no tree in the middle? Where is the middle? What is a tree? Who decided that? In the wild land, there is everything and there is nothing; no more and no less. Outside of the wild land we categorize that object and call it an oak tree, and we say it's half way between there and there so it stands tall in the middle. Clear you mind of all those distinctions and where did the tree go? Let go of you, and tree, and here, and there and then where do you stand?

My lesson is learning to keep these new, improved eyes focused even while talking to someone i would typically hate. Keeping these eyes focused when i'm stuck in rush hour traffic. And as i learn to do that, i come to see that my "regular" eyes have been deceiving me for a good many decades. Sadly. Unfortunately.

The second poem points to the same way of looking at the world as Ryōkan was pointing to in his poem about cherry trees.

The sounds of the stream splash out the Buddha's sermon.
   Don't say that the deepest meaning comes only from one's mouth.
Day and night eighty thousand poems arise one after the other,
      and in fact not a single word has ever been spoken.

Stop and notice the messages found in nature. Stop thinking 'I'm in here and nature is out there.' Notice the message that nature is offering at all times, non-stop, for all to hear. Melt into the stream and understand the world from that perspective.

"[I]n fact not a single word has ever been spoken" — any more than that and too much has been said, even though the streams and the cherry trees talk all day and all night long.

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