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The Three Flavors of Awakening

Study & ArtsGuiding TeacherComment

A dialogue with Master Changcha, as recorded in the Essentials of the United Lamps of our  [Zen] School and featured in the "Unfathomable Depths," a contemporary Zen text on an ancient Chinese poem.

Snail with raspberry.jpg

Konin’s Introduction:

The Master speaks of the monk’s sword, but it is his own that cuts thoroughly. The monk reveals his inquiring mind, but ends with a thump. All the fog in the world couldn’t soak his robes, so it’s best that he follow the path. How about you? Can you taste all the flavors at once?

Encounter:

A monk asked, “I am not yet clear about the right opportunity for enlightenment. Please give me instruction.”

The master replied, “In the uneven pine and bamboo grove, the fog is thin; because of the many layers of mountains, the moon comes out late.”

The monk intended to say something else, but the master said, “Before using your sword and armor, your body has already been exposed.”

The monk asked, “What do you mean?”

The master replied, “The good knife does not cut the bamboo before the frost comes. The ink painting can only praise the dragon on the sea.”

The monk circled the master’s seat and then left.

The master said, “If you close your eyes and eat a snail, it will at once be sour, tart, and bitter.”

Konin’s Brief Commentary:

A monk asked, “I am not yet clear about the right opportunity for enlightenment. Please give me instruction.”

– Is there ever a wrong opportunity? Get off your duff!

The master replied, “In the uneven pine and bamboo grove, the fog is thin; because of the many layers of mountains, the moon comes out late.”

– When caught by differences, you will find yourself up to your hips in mud.

The monk intended to say something else, but the master said, “Before using your sword and armor, your body has already been exposed.”

– What’s the use of a sharp tongue when you’ve already bared your backside?

The monk asked, “What do you mean?”

– At least he hopes his breath isn’t wasted.

The master replied, “The good knife does not cut the bamboo before the frost comes. The ink painting can only praise the dragon on the sea.”

– A hot hand won’t help you now. Another kind of rice cake isn’t any more tasty.

The monk circled the master’s seat and then left.

– He’d better pack a spare pair of sandals.

The master said, “If you close your eyes and eat a snail, it will at once be sour, tart, and bitter.”

– There are not two sides to this coin; this delicacy is lost on many.

Konin’s Prose Commentary:

Master Changcha’s student reveals his particular form of delusion in the opening question. It seems this fellow feels there is some magic moment that will arise from his practice. So he’s waiting around for something special, and in the meantime, he happens to encounter the teacher. At least he’s found a clear one. Changcha tries to tell him not to get caught up in differences. That is, though there are people of varying colors and practices, the magic moment is every moment, since all things are expressions of the original function. Experiencing things in this way, just drinking tea is an awakening moment.

The awakened way doesn’t wait for an opportunity that seems right. Still, if it doesn’t feel right, you will always make faces when eating snails.

Even so, it seems the monk is stuck and before he can continue Changcha does him a favor, telling him that he can see the monk’s confusion. In good faith the monk persists, asking about the Master’s teaching, but ends up walking out. It seems his magic moment hasn’t arrived when, in fact, it’s already here. That could be a long road for him. Yet Changcha goes the extra mile, leaving him with one last, skillful word. Three flavors in one, all discernable yet the eyes are closed. This is the flavor of enlightenment in the midst of the bland world, all the while infusing our delusions. with the freshest of scents. At the time of this dialogue I doubt that snails were a delicacy, but Changcha has now made it so.

 

How Do We Know the Way Home?

Study & Arts, Sangha & InclusionGuiding TeacherComment

A good Dharma friend of mine recently asked the question, "Even after enlightenment, how do we know the way home?" 

This is my reply:

Dear Dharma Sister, 

The realization of enlightenment is said to reveal the purity of the self and all things as mere momentary attributes of a constantly changing universe. For that reason, it brings profound peace of mind, because one is then able to truly rest in reality as it is, rather than suffer by clinging to things that will inevitably change.

In that context, there can be no immortal spirit, but rather all things as expressions of the luminous awareness of Original Function - not a object or a being, but an activity that is awareness itself. So you are right to say that we are more than a body, because we are beings that arise out of causes and conditions, and therefore we are inter-connected with everything. That is the great koan of Buddhism and of life - how is it that we are aware and what is it that experiences the stream of karma, the stream of change? 

One could say it is a constantly changing thing, this body and mind, precisely because it is arising in relationship to everything else. That is, a person is a wave that surges, crests, and sinks back into the ocean of reality. And that very activity creates the conditions for the next person/wave, which is not the same one reappearing, but a new one influenced by the karmic energy of the last.

 

Home is where we are in every moment because enlightenment - understood as absolute harmony (beyond any harmony we can imagine) with this Original Function, which we must be by definition - enlightenment/harmony is the nature of things. 

Realizing this (awakening or realization or actualization) is to find our true home, our true home in this moment, our true home in the great creative activity of all being. There is no place to go after that, because you have discovered you have always already been there.

Therefore, after realization, there is simply sharing and more and more sharing, as the Buddha did getting up from the bliss to go teach, as the Bodhisattvas did and still do, vowing to support all beings to discover this for themselves.

May you all abide in your true home, knowing that it is the great, vast oneness.