Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Returning To Silence

I was very happy with the Katagiri Roshi memorial this morning, in that everything went smoothly, and people seemed to enjoy the inclusion of the Peaceful Life poem. Michael also reminded us, at the start of the ceremony, of my favourite story about Katagiri, when he is asked to say some inspiring words at a big dinner of donors and potential donors, and starts off by saying, "You're all going to die".
At breakfast there were more memories of him invoked over amaranth and apple muffins. Blanche spoke about some of the episodes in his earlier life, and also mentioned an exchange he had with Lou, saying a little pointedly, "Everyone wants to be my student, but nobody wants to move to Minnesota". This phrase goes directly to the point of how much are you willing to give up for your practice, which all of us have been confronted with in one form or another.
I have not read Returning to Silence for a few years; when I read it early on in my practice, I found it a little too severe; coming back to it a few years later it made more sense. I pulled it down from the shelf this morning after my renewed rendez-vous with Dogen, and alighted upon this:
"Zazen is not a method. If you think so, then zazen becomes a toy. If you are going to use zazen as a toy, it's not necessary to do zazen; there are lots of other toys that are better.
Those who do not have faith will not accept zazen, however much they are taught. If you don't trust this silence and the vastness of existence, if you do not soak yourself in this realm, how can you trust yourself? How can you trust others? How can you deal with human life? No matter how long you try to study the sutras or Zen, you will never understand. Even though you say, 'I understand', that understanding is not understanding".


Chris Burnham said...

I ask myself frequently what/how much I am willing to give up for my practice. Is any amount ever sufficient? Or, holding even a trifling thing back, does one then treat zazen as a toy? Are these failings inevitable?

Shundo said...

There was a line from the Harada Roshi book that I nearly quoted the other day: "A big offering is that which is most difficult to give - to give yourself to all things. That is real giving".
Failure is inevitable. The constant effort and the intention to do the best you can is the best we can do.