Reaching for the Pillow

Yunyan asked Daowu, “How does the Bodhisattva of Great Compassion use so many hands and eyes?”

Daowu said, “It’s just like a person in the middle of the night reaching in search of a pillow.”

Yunyan said, “I understand.”

Daowu said, “How do you understand it?

Yunyan said, “All over the body are hands and eyes.”

Daowu said, “What you said is all right, but it’s only eighty percent of it.”

Yunyan said, “I’m like this, elder brother. How do you understand it?”

Daowu said, “Throughout the body are hands and eyes.” Continue reading

Ordinary Mind

kim-phucJoshu asked Nansen, “What is the Way?”

“Ordinary mind is the Way,” Nansen replied.

“Shall I try to seek after it?” Joshu asked.

“If you try for it, you will become separated from it,” responded Nansen.

How can I know the Way unless I try for it?” persisted Joshu.

Nansen said, “The Way is not a matter of knowing or not knowing. Knowing is delusion; not knowing is confusion. When you have really reached the true Way beyond doubt, you will find it as vast and boundless as outer space. How can it be talked about on the level of right and wrong?”

With those words, Joshu came to a sudden realization. Continue reading

Chopping Wood

It is a cold morning in late January. Since wood is the only source of heat I use at this time of year I need to grab my hat and coat and head out to the woodpile in order to warm my home. As I feel the cool air I pause momentarily, realizing my relationship to the cold, the warmth of the fire and the wood. It is a relationship as old as the first humans who gathered by a fire to keep safe and ward off the chill of the night. Now, as then, if I don’t go out and return with my sling of wood, it will be a long cold day. In this simple relationship, my actions have a direct and immediate consequence.

Yet this is a relationship that we in much of the Western world sought to eliminate in the last century, when we brought central heat into our homes. No effort need be expended. No pause to acknowledge of our relationship to the world. Just a spin of the thermostat and the inconvenience of experiencing cold is eliminated. No wonder we respond like petulant children when our link to the blandness of perpetual comfort, the global oil pipeline is threatened. Continue reading

Meeting the Neighbors

Black_bearsThis weekend I met our new neighbors. I recently purchased 10 acres of mature forest land on the slopes of a small mountain in northeastern Vermont. The property is fairly remote, being off grid and on a road that is not plowed in winter. There are only a few buildings along the three miles of the road that is drivable during the summer and fall and most of those are seasonal camps. Only two households reside here year-round. Continue reading