The baby cardinals have trouble staying on the feeder. They don’t cling like the baby woodpeckers or nuthatches. Mostly they careen against the column of mesh, knocking themselves off in a shower of sunflower seeds which lie on the ground for the mourning doves and sparrows. Eventually, they manage to crash and cling to the rim on the rebound. It takes practice.
Dogen said, To study the Buddha Way is to study the self. He used the Japanese word narau for “study” and its root means “to get accustomed to,” “to become familiar with,” “to get used to,” or “to become intimate with.”
Shohaku Okumura in To Study the Self (in The Art of Just Sitting edited by John Daido Loori) explains:
In the Chinese character for narau, the upper part of the kanji means “bird’s wings.” The lower part of the kanji refers to “self.” This study is like a baby bird studying or learning how to fly with its parents. By nature, a baby bird has the ability to fly, but a baby bird does not know how to fly. So the baby watches its parents and learns how to fly. It tries again and again, and finally it can fly like its parents. This is the original meaning of “to study” here. This is not simply intellectual study.
Okumura points out that accumulation of intellectual knowledge keeps us from flying, by which he means, we cannot live out our true meaning weighted down by perceptions and ignorance. (Ironic how knowledge can also lend itself to entrenching ignorance.) To see actual reality we must become who we actually are (actualize ourselves). And studying the self is as essential for us to become human as is flying to a baby bird is to become a bird (except for those cute penguins and ostriches).