A Teisho Given on 3/9/13 By: BUD JIHO ABRAMOWITZ
When I was a kid growing up in Brooklyn, my mother had a mirror installed on one entire wall of our living room. This made the room look larger, and also made it possible, ostensibly, for one to see themselves as they passed by the mirror. The thing is, however, that the mirror had little filigree etchings – in the French provincial motif – over most of its dimensions which actually distorted and obfuscated one’s true appearance. If you wanted to see how you really looked, you literally had to get down on your hands and knees to find the one filigree-free spot on the lower right-hand quadrant of the mirror.
Perhaps in the Brooklyn of 50 years ago, it was best not to see one’s true countenance – who knows?
So what happened over the last 50 years? Has anything changed or am I still on my hands and knees “searching for the truth” of what’s real? I went to college, my parents died; I married, had children; worked as a court reporter in what is probably the most prestigious Federal court in the United States; became ill and lost the high frequency range of my hearing and could no longer work as a court reporter; got divorced, my brother died; tried some other things, and then – with lots of hard work – became a teacher, from which I have just retired, and am now about to embark on a journey to live in Ecuador.
In a “relative” type world, one might ask, “What truths have you learned”? “Where have you been”? And in a relative world, I might say, “Lots of suffering, lots of mistakes; wish I could do it all over again!”
I, however, would truly now not say those things, because about 13 years ago, Zen, Doshin, and the Southern Palm Zen Group found me. And, through a slow shift of consciousness – akin to Suzuki Roshi’s walking in a mist and not realizing how wet you’ve become – my understanding has ripened to know that there is no relative and absolute. You see, the source is on all sides and is unified and whole – NOTHING IS HIDDEN as Dogen learned, everything is right in front of us – with no filigree or blemishes – if you’ll just look.
When Dogen was a young monk, he traveled to China and, upon his arrival, met the head cook from Mount Ayuwang Monastery. At that time, Dogen thought that to practice meant to concentrate on zazen and to study the words of the ancients. He was stunned when this old monk told him, “You who have traveled from a far land do not know the meaning of Buddhist practice.” When Dogen met the same cook later at Tiantong Monastery, he asked, “What is wholehearted practice.” The cook replied, “Nothing in the entire universe is hidden.”
Ryuten Paul Rosenblum writes: “To sit down in the middle of our life wherever we are, whatever we are doing, we may begin to settle ourselves on our life as it is. We start at zero. We start here. Wherever we are is called here. We are constantly stepping into here, completing each moment – nothing is hidden. We are each in an absolutely unique place; no one else is sitting here. We are not in a generalized space, or a comparative space, or a space in terms of something else. We are not trying to fix anything. We are simply moving in accord with the fullness of life. To act on this is to settle ourselves exactly on this moment.”
There is nothing to gain and nothing to lose.
Through the practice, I’ve learned that Zen is action – action with wisdom – wisdom that manifests in compassion. It’s Doshin’s Southern Palm Two-Step: Know where you are, and bring a little kindness – to yourself and others. It’s that simple.
As Yuanwu wrote:
“Those who are determined to practice the Way practice self-awareness and self-understanding twenty-four hours a day. They think of this and focus on this. They know that the one Great Cause is right where they stand … Wayfarers don’t set up fixed locations in anything they do. They are clear and tranquil, with solid concentration, and the myriad changes and transformations never disturb them. They appear in response to conditions and go into action as they encounter events, leaving nothing incomplete.
You see, life is what happens to us while we are making other plans. Zen teaches that we move in harmony with our total forces – each moment its own.
Yuanwu also wrote: “If you don’t know it in your daily life, where then will you look for it?”
So, Zen tells us to swing with the punches, accept – with a curse or a laugh – and go on with the dance.
I truly don’t know where “this dance” will take me.
“Going into a wild field, not choosing, Picking up whatever plant comes to hand, Rootless but finding life, Apart from the ground, but not falling.” Of course, in Ecuador, I had better wash that plant before I eat it!
“My bags are packed The sun on my face JUST GO STRAIGHT!