winds of joy, light at my feet

From Bodhidharma Anthology by Jeffrey Broughton: Entering through practice – equanimity

The second entrance to the path is through the practice of following conditions or (Red Pine) adapting to conditions.  

(S)entient beings lack a self and are all whirled around by conditions and karma; suffering and joy are to be equally accepted, for both arise from conditions.

When life throws up these dust storms that blind me or the days grow darker and darker, my support circles point to the light at the end of the tunnel.  I understand that in their love for us and their wish to speed up the journey through the dark or bumpy parts, they’d like us to look into the distance and grasp that this experience is impermanent.  However, it’s a risky process which can carry us too quickly away from the reality of what is right here.

The light at the end of the tunnel is actually more useful when it shines right here in tunnel at my feet.  

Bodhidharma’s teachings suggest that we are vulnerable to being swept away by the winds of joy and the dust storms of suffering.  To attach to each one unduly makes no sense because the conditions that created them are not sustainable.  (Oh yes, I can definitely continue to make myself miserable but that’s not the same misery I started out with.  Check it out for yourself!)  To reject either unconsciously is dangerous because this creates a loss of intimacy with ourselves and others.  To become confused about the origins of them is pointless because the causes and conditions lie in an intricate and oft-times tangled web of action and reaction.

Unmoved by the winds of joy*, one is mysteriously in accordance with the path.

Now you may thank that this reduces you to zombie-like blob, careening off the walls and lamp posts of your path.  At their extreme, all statements are untenable and likely false.  To be unmoved is to be steady in the experience of joy, to be connected deeply with it.  So deeply that there is a spaciousness that arises which can contain the entire spectrum of variability in each joy, sorrow, contentment, pain, love, and anguish.

The adaptability we practice is not to the great brush strokes of impermanence.  It is to the rhythmic variation in the winds of joy and woe.

Auguries of Innocence
William Blake 

It is right it should be so:
Man was made for joy and woe;
And when this we rightly know
Through the world we safely go.
Joy and woe are woven fine,
A clothing for the soul divine.
Under every grief and pine
Runs a joy with silken twine.

*”Winds of Joy here may refer to the eight winds or eight worldly conditions.  For a brilliant story read here.

requited injury

Continuing with the Bodhidharma Anthology by Jeffrey Broughton: Entering by practice.

This is the second way to enter the path.  Having established ourselves in the practice through principle, we have four ways to enter the path through practice.  The first is the practice of requiting injury or (Red Pine) suffering injustice.

I don’t like this practice.  It requires me to give up my self-rightness.  You read that correctly.  I am frequently right.  And when I’m not, I use all my left-brain power of data crunching to baffle-gab you with statistics so that you can’t deny that – at the very least – I am a formidable foe.  Some time back a friend sent me this amazing photo.  It pretty much sums up my reaction to being unjustly treated.  Don’t you just love it?  I know you’re not like that at all.  You probably meet injustice exactly the way Bodhidharma says you should, by letting go of  – unrequiting – the injury.

Actually, of the two translations, I do prefer Jeffrey Broughton’s version to Red Pine’s “suffering injustice.”  It feels less like I’d run the risk of being a doormat.  And in that little snippet is the truth of needing to defend madly against injustice (perceived or real).  There is a fear that if I let this one in, a legion of injustices will rampage through the door.

However, to face the injustice, to look deeply into its causes and conditions reveals things about me that I may not want to know.  Bodhidharma teaches that the cause of present injustice lies in the myriad unknowable actions I partook of in the past.  I’m not much of an adherent to the theory of direct karmic consequences but it is worth while reflecting on the ways in which I was one of the motley characters in the drama of my ego’s demise.  

The sutra says: “When you meet suffering, do not be sad.  Why?  Because you comprehend the underlying reason behind it.”

That opens up many doors of discernment, doesn’t it?  The underlying reasons can be as simple as blind dumb luck or being in the wrong place at the right time to learn a lesson about mindfulness.  In my case, it’s more likely being delusional about the level of power I hold that seems to confer a sense of invincibility or rightness to my actions.  

When (the above) thought arises, one is yoked with principle.

You remember “principle” from yesterday’s post: all beings are “identical to the True Nature” and we are blinded to this by the dust storms in our heart; that is supposed to mitigate our choices of the wrong-headed path.  However, it’s probably more likely that because we are blinded to the reality of our interconnections, we act in ways that create injustice and suffering.  Regardless, the arising of a perception of injustice is a powerful mindful bell of this reality of interconnectedness.  

The take-away lesson is that if I don’t learn this the good karma way, I will get a chance to learn it the tough karma way.