groping the elephant

Eminent students [of the Dharma], long accustomed to groping for the elephant, pray do not doubt the true dragon.*

I like my misconceptions.  Actually, it’s more accurate to say I don’t dislike them enough.  In fact, they are so weakly challenged for their right of passage through my inner world that they tend to leave quite a mess behind.  None of this genteel “guests” in the Guesthouse à la Rumi.  And yet, strangely, I like them for the momentary respite they give me from reality.

Then on Monday, Barry at Ox Herding wrote a lovely post on reality to which I commented that “if reality is not optional, then suffering is inevitable.”  So there you have it.  Grope on that elephant all you want; reality will win out when you sit atop it and the tree trunks start moving.

*Maezumi, Hakuyu Taizan, Commentary on Fukanzazengi.  In Loori, John Daido (ed.), The Art of Just Sitting: Essential writings on the zen practice of shikantaza.

PS: Barry has graciously offered his new book The Path of Zen to everyone.  It’s simply beautiful… and very real!  Please click here to obtain a copy.  A deep bow of gratitude for all your teachings, Barry!

Edit: “if reality is optional, then suffering is inevitable.”  Not surprising I’m always confused!

an opportunity provided by a finger

Practice, apparently, is not about recognizing esoteric signs.  Fingers (flipped or no), banners, needles or mallets don’t count.  Nor do Rorschach leavings in the bottom of my ink pots.  Realization of our true nature doesn’t come carefully packaged and delivered by Fed-Ex.  And, listen carefully, it definitely doesn’t arise out of being whacked by a kyosaku, pummelled by a fist, a staff or a shout*.

This is the place we get stuck.  We try to understand enlightenment by our discriminative mind; yet, our discriminative, our discursive thought, is the very thing that binds us.  The question really is how to go beyond, how to transcend that dichotomy.  But we all have to start with that discriminative mind. 

At this point, I am beginning to get the inkling that I’ve wasted precious practice time diving into shallow waters.  But the discriminative mind, the mind that wants to have evidence, steps, and stories, is what we have as the start point.  Perhaps that first tentative step (or sometimes ego-inflated step) is simply to want this because my own suffering is too much and I am willing to take, buy, trade, barter time on the cushion for the promise of relief.

That’s ok.  Unless it stops there.

*Hakuyu Taizan Maezumi, Commentary on Fukanzazengi.  In Loori, John Daido (ed), The Art of Just Sitting, 2nd Edition