Sunday, September 28, 2014

I don't think; therefore I'm not.

This is a short sentence, but pregnant with a lot of meanings, it seems. Once more I borrowed a phrase from Sean Murphy’s “One Bird One Stone”, page, 94. It is suh spectacular book.

               The picture on the card is a black & white version of a photo found at the Buddhist Center webpage. The amazing sculpture was made by Sukhi Barber. You can see many of his other works and also her bio here.

               In my blogs, i only speak as a poet. My quest in life is to speak and live to the full extension that being a poet may allow one to do. Therefore, here i speak as a poet.

Katagiri Roshi’s quote above refers to the well unknown and over beaten Descartes’ quote “I think; therefore I am.” These days the prevalent way of being in society is in the most intimate tune with Descartes’ thought. It seems to me that the implicit suggestion of Descartes is that humans mainly experience life through thinking. The problem is that we can overemphasize the importance of thinking to the point that we confuse thought with Reality. One may even reach the point in which one thinks that one is what oneself thinks. As the last sentence shows, many times thinking can make life more complicated. Most of our limitations and suffering come through a dangerous mix of misguided thoughts and toxic emotions. That happens because thinking gives power. However, many times power causes isolation and aversion to change. That is very much against Reality that is whole interconnected and in constant change. 

               Katagiri suggestion is anti-philosophical: Do not think. Do not let yourself be limited by your own thoughts because thoughts are not Reality. Therefore, what you think you are is not real. Katagiri Roshi is saying that we can be free of the worst prison of all; the prison we most love and call home, the tower prison of “I”. Identity is made of thought. The only way of escape that prison is to let go of attachment to thoughts. Once we realize we are not what we think, and let go of attachment to overthinking, we realize the freedom that we have been all along.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Summer Grasses: All that remains of Great Soldiers' Imperial Dreams.

Photographer: Num_Skyman

Here lays

a small dead squerl

ready to become

a Rose

- Anonymous (an young boy)*

*from One Bird One Stone, pg. 168 by Sean Murphy

            Two awesome zen poems. They contrast with and complete each other at the same time. Basho says that all it remains from great soldiers' imperial dreams are summer grasses. However, maybe, he did not imply  that there is something wrong with being summer grass. What I read in this poem is a love for simplicity. In the end, a summer grass blade or bush maybe as happy or happier than a soldier chasing glory. No fights, no struggle. All a summer grass bush has to do is enjoy the summer and grow towards the sun. 

Writing about it, I can feel smell of grass exploding with life. And from the remains of dead soldiers and dead dreams, life come back strong.

            The young boy’s poem is very ingenious too. It is more pleasant to human taste. I guess most of people would chose to become a rose instead of a bush of grass. However, this seems to be one fo the very roots of human suffering:  picking and choosing. (For more great discussion on picking and choosing, see Treetop Zen Center Webpage article: The Ultimate Path is Without Difficulty. )

            As Jianzhi Sengcan says in a poem:

The Perfect Way is only difficult

For those who pick and choose.

               A rose does not choose to be a rose. A bush of grass does not choose to be a bush of grass. They are just what they are and live their lives along. The rose does not see itself in comparison to the bush of grass. The bush of grass does not compare itself to the rose. 

The renowned poet Gertrud Stein said “A rose is a rose is rose.” We can also say a bush of grass is a bush of grass is a bush of grass. However, we may not be able to say: A person is a person is a person. We humans live in comparison.  We live in comparison to other people, to what we used to be, to what we should be, to what we must be, to what we could be, to that we would be.

 It is always the could-should-would game. It is always the picking and choosing game. And it is almost always a game of suffering. It is a battle and a struggle for glory. In the end, we die and become food for grass, for roses, for worms; beings that are happy just as they are.

Friday, September 12, 2014

In the Yard, a Couple of Graceful Twigs

Photographer: Jack Pal

      This is a striking verse of a poem written by Zhou Lu Jing titled “Hermit Crazy about Plum.” This version was translated by Chan Master Tsung Tsai and George Crane. Once more i borrowed a piece of Sean Murphy incredible book “One Bird One Stone.”

     This verse could pass as uninteresting, as most of zen short poems could pass as uninteresting if it is not looked at with the right eyes and understanding. Maybe, the more appropriate word to use it is not even understanding, but appreciation. Understanding in some level implies knowledge. However, because Zen is, in accord with what I was told once, a process of unlearning, the word knowledge should not be brought up in this case.

     I am not gonna try to give an intellectual explanation of this verse. That could easily become boring pretty soon. I am gonna tell why i chose this verse as the quote of the week. Once I was taking a seminary on self-improvement. The speaker was talking about the joy of living and appreciation of life. He said that when we become adults we tend to need more and more complicated things to find satisfaction. However, he said, children can find great pleasure on playing with the simplest things, even a couple of twigs. This is what this verse seems to be about: having the humbleness and the courage of finding the most sublime grace in a couple of ignorable twigs.
There is a quote from Marcel Proust that I use as personal signature in my e-mail. It comes very much into place here. i am going to close this comments with it:

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”

Oh, actually… another quote. This is from Antoine de Saint-Exupery.

“What is essential is invisible to the eye.”

When you look at those twigs what do you see?