Saturday, September 6, 2014

Can a Man of zen be a Man of Faith? “Sometimes I bow to the dust…”

Hakuin (Torei Enji)

“Sometimes I bow to the dust…” – Soen Nakagawa Roshi

               Today, i am answering the inquiry of my friend Raquel. After reading my blog yesterday, she was surprised to find out that i do not consider myself a man of faith. Now, i realize that a better word for me to use would have been: Belief. When i said i am a man of faith, i meant to say i am not a man of belief. i believe when i see it. However, at that point belief is not belief any more. If you see, you know it, you do not believe anymore. i could go deeper into epistemology here, and expand on the issue that many times even perception is deceiving. Our perception can be manipulated by our beliefs. Also, our perception is always limited by its own physical nature. For example, even though the sky seems to be opaque blue from Earth, when one looks from space the atmosphere is transparent. However, this is not a blog about philosophy or science. It is about zen, art and poetry.

               Anyway, what is the role of faith in zen? Can a man of zen be a man of faith? Well, in accord with Zen Master Torei Enji Zenji (1720-1792) [Zenji’s art work] , successor of the very renowned Zen Master Hakuin Ekaku, [Hakuin’s art work here], a man of zen must be not only a man of faith, but a man of GREAT faith (my capitalization). Surprisingly , he also says that a zen practitioner must also have great doubt, and great determination to in order to manage the conflict and paradox of having great faith and great doubt.

               i won’t babble about the meaning of great faith here. i just want to transcribe the words of Soen Nakagawa Roshi. i came across his words this morning. He talks about his own experience of great faith in such beautiful way, that it sounds like a prose poem. The best answers to, maybe not the biggest, but to the most important questions in life come from Art, not Science or Philosophy. Therefore, Soen Roshi’s words come very well into place here. If i was a man of faith, of belief, or whatever, i would say the passage below came to me as a mystical answer to the question i myself had about the meaning of faith in zen. Regardless, of its esoteric or just coincidental source, i hope these words are deeply touching to my friend Raquel and to you who is reading this blog as they are to me.

               From One Bird, One Stone – 108 American Stories by the awarded author Sean Murphy; pg.82-83: (By the way, a wonderful book! One of the best i have ever read on American zen and zen in general.)

               Dharma Words from Soen Nakagawa Roshi
               "There is a wonderful Buddha statue at the Metropolitan Museum. There are national-treasure Bodhisattvas and many statues. They are wonderful, of course…But you are living Bodhisattvas, each of you, living! Not bronze or wood. Sometime, something bad may happen. “Oh, I will pray to Buddha.” No, no, no! There is no such Buddha. Realize this and every human being becomes wonderful…Open your own eyes!...Don’t think. “Oh, I am not yet enlightened. Some day I’ll get enlightenment.” From today, forget such! From the beginning. we are the Enlightened One. Believe this with with definite faith…So with this mind, please, let us bow to each other...
                     Without exception, each of you is a living Buddha…Without exception, okay?"

                    In accord with the Sean Murphy, Soen Roshi’s last visited United States in 1982. In that occasion he said:

               "Cooking, eating, sleeping, every deed of everyday life is nothing else than this Great Matter. Realize this! So we extend tender care with a worshiping heart even to such beings as beasts and birds – but not only to beasts, not only to birds, but to insects too, okay? Even to grass, to one blade of grass, even to dust, to one speck of dust. Sometime I bow to the dust…”



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