sitting buddha versus jizo

The view out onto the Upaya grounds reminds me of the divisions I create between stillness and activity: sitting Buddha and Jizo in counterpoint.

I want things to be easy.  Show up, laugh, eat, sit, become enlightened, manifest compassion.  Can someone out there write a little program that I can download into my brain as a memory capsule?  I’m sure this balance between contemplation and engagement really is as easy and it seems for everyone else.  Don’t you love those self-revelatory books that make it seem that way?  Compressed into a 100 or 200 pages are all the peak experiences of becoming Buddha.  Do you ever read behind the lines to confirm what you know really happened?  Having lived your own life as an enlightened being, you do know what it takes.  Which means you know the lines on the pages are wonderfully crafted to slide over the boulders and rubble (thank you, Helmut!) left from the earthquakes and aftershocks in your inner landscape.

Maybe I’m being a bit too cynical.  Some time ago, Barry (Ox Herding) and I had a fun exchange about Layman Pang’s whinge about how hard it was to sow the seeds of practice; Pang’s wife responded that it was easy, and their daughter cheekily retorted that it was all there on a blade of grass just for the having.  If I read it again, it seems to me the Layman is addressing the outer form of practice, his wife the inner form, and their daughter points to the 84,000 dharma doors that we can choose from.  Hard, easy, effortless – it’s our choice.

Dogen is uncompromising on the issue of true practice.  It’s easy to chop off arms and fingers, he says, in the way our ancestors chose to prove their commitment.  But harmonizing the body and harmonizing the mind are difficult.

Brilliance is not primary, understanding is not primary, conscious endeavor is not primary, introspection is not primary.  Without using any of these, harmonize body-and-mind and enter the buddha way.

Old man Shakyamuni said, “Avalokiteshvara turns the stream inward and disregards knowing objects.”

That is the meaning.  Separation between two aspects of activity and stillness simply does not arise.  This is harmonizing.

Dogen on Guidelines for Studying the Way from Moon in a Dewdrop edited by Kazuaki Tanahashi

I learned this chopping onions.  A calm mind and fully engaged body goes a long way to keeping the fingers whole.

Thank you for practicing,


8 thoughts on “sitting buddha versus jizo

  1. Perhaps the peak experience of becoming Buddha is to come into being and have awareness of it. The Born being aware of the Unborn.
    Jizo’s vow to save all beings starts with each of us.
    If this stuff was easy we would all be going to high-rise and multiplex Zendos.

  2. So far I have all my fingers. It isn’t due to enlightenment. Attention perhaps. Inattention has lead to a number of broken glasses though…

  3. I love Helmut’s idea – high-rise Zendos bustling with pretty enlightened people – like those skyscrapers full of birds and cats in The World Without Us. Only nicer.

  4. You are all delightful!

    Helmut, our zendo is on the third floor of our building. Sitting on the cushion, all we see is blue sky – and no road traffic. A great delusion!

    Janice, looks like next week may have to explore Dogen’s Instructions to the Tenzo! We cant’ have you losing fingers or breaking the stemware!

    Jeanne, I looked at the book and website: Wow… Joanna Macy spoke of a feeling of despair and futility in the face of the eco-disaster we have created. I felt that in reading the excerpt ( and yet there seems to be a hopeful tone to it as well. Thank you for this lead!

  5. There is a karmic justice to this thread. After reading this post, I go to prepare dinner and… cut my finger (mangling my nailbed)I must humbly request these instructions of Dogen

  6. There is, in fact, a nifty little program that you can download.

    However . . . first you have to wipe the hard drive clean of all the old, corrupted, virus-infested programs that you’ve been running all these years . . .

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