Thursday, December 30, 2010

Baby It's Cold Outside

A teaching just as true and appropriate today as it was when Tozan was alive in the 9th century:

"In the old days in China there was a priest named Master Tozan. A monk asked him, 'How can we escape from this severe heat and cold?' This is not just a question about sever heat and cold. It is a question about the very reality we are always facing—a melancholy and difficult reality, a reality that is full of suffering. People are sick and in pain; people have lost their homes in disasters and wars and have nothing in which to believe any longer and are suffering in their despair. For those whose belongings have all been destroyed, their refuge in the material world has been shown to be empty and meaningless. This kind of pain is always occurring all around us.

"Master Tozan answered the monk, 'You have to go where there is no hot and no cold!'

"The monk continued, 'Where is that place where there is no hot or cold? Where is that true place of refuge for the mind?'

"The priest answered, 'When it is hot, become that heat completely! When it is cold, become one with that cold—completely and totally! When it is painful, become that pain completely and totally, and when you are miserable become that misery totally and completely! In the very midst of that, go beyond all thoughts you hold in your mind, let go of all ideas of good and bad or gain and loss—let go of all these thoughts—and from there grasp that place of your very own vivid life energy! That which directly experiences that "ouch"—feel that life energy directly, grasp the life energy that feels that pain and sorrow.'

More important than finding a way out of pain and suffering, or trying to find a place where there is no pain and suffering, is to go directly to that place where the pain and suffering are being experienced, to go to where you feel that pain and that sadness directly and totally. Touch that life energy directly and with your own experience. Use that actual direct experience which you have grasped as your base, and stand up strong and firm. This is how the master answered the monk."

The Path To Bodhidharma
Shodo Harada

Remember, though, that "go beyond all thoughts you hold in your mind, let go of all ideas of good and bad or gain and loss—let go of all these thoughts" does not mean you become a brainless, non-thinking zafu decoration. If you find worthless, counterfeit dollar bills in your wallet, knowing that using them will simply get you in trouble, you throw them away, you get rid of them. But you don't throw away all your money; much of it is valuable and needed to function in daily life. What you are being asked to do is become discriminating enough to separate the valuable from the worthless, that which causes trouble from that which is beneficial.

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