turning in both directions

In Yaoshan’s Nonthinking, Daido Loori Roshi teaches on the tendency of mind to take the dualistic stance to experience.  The capping verse is lovely:

When the dharma wheel turns
it always goes in both directions.
The still point is its hub, and from here,
all of our myriad activities emerge.
Rather than give solace to the body,
give solace to the mind.
When both body and mind are at peace,
all things appear as they are:
perfect, complete, lacking nothing.

He continues:

The capping verse:

When the dharma wheel turns it always goes in both directions. The still point is its hub, and from here, all of our myriad activities emerge. The turning of the dharma wheel in both directions simultaneously is the merging of the differences: good/bad, thinking/not thinking, up/down, self/other, on the mountain/in the world, monk practice/lay practice, and on and on. Our minds are dualistic and our tendency is always to look at things in terms of that dualism. In the Sandokai (the Identity of Relative and Absolute), we chant, “The absolute and the relative fit like a box and its lid… it’s like the foot before and the foot behind in walking. Within darkness there is light, but do not look for that light. Within light there is darkness, but do not try to understand that darkness.” These are concepts that are hard to understand, but that can be experienced once the mind stops moving. “When the dharma wheel turns it always goes in both directions” refers to the Fifth Rank of Master Dongshan where unity is finally attained, where absolute and relative, self and other, this and that, thinking and non-thinking, become unified.

This is nice.  There aren’t a whole lot of deep insights.  I’m just really aware of the huge weight of an uncompromising workload and my tendency to submit when there are extraordinary demands.  Yet even that is just a concept, a belief that the wheel can only turn or be stuck.  So it’s very nice when, for a moment, the life is a dharma wheel turning in both directions, when I don’t have to figure things out, when the simplest act is sufficient, when Interbeing and lovingkindness are one and the same.

Thank you for practicing,


one-sided light

Searching for commentaries on the Sandokai, I came across this one below which is a part of lectures given by Master Rev. Jiyu-Kennett and is copyright of Shasta Abbey.  Helmut’s comment in yesterday’s post encourages me to offer this snippet which reiterates not getting stuck and offers a glimpse of our True Nature.

And yet, in each related thing, as leaves
Grow from the roots, end and beginning here
Return unto the source and “high” and “low”
Are used respectively.
Within all light
Is darkness but explained it cannot be
By darkness that one-sided is alone.
In darkness there is light but, here again,
By light one-sided it is not explained.

Nirvana is here and now, in this very lifetime, and in eternity. But do not get stuck with light: “Oh, I am so holy, I am full of light.” Do not think, because there is darkness within you, you are forever doomed to darkness. The Essence flows through both and always has.

*Light goes with darkness as the sequence does
Of steps in walking; all things herein have
Inherent, great potentiality,
Both function, rest, reside within.

Because this line is so important the gong is struck. It is actually light and darkness within each step, not one after the other. It is because light and darkness are within each step that there is this inherent, great potentiality in both the light and the dark. No matter how dark the karma within you may seem, no matter how light, know that the essence of both is in fact identical. Thus there is the great potentiality for the end and the beginning to come together at the Source, and for both function and rest to reside within.

This isn’t easy to grasp and it absolutely cannot be apprehended with the thinking brain!  The dark karma seems particularly dense and impenetrable some days and the light insufficient.  And yet, this feels like a good place to rest and just feel the dance between the two.

Thank you for practicing,


light in dark

Within light there is darkness,
But do not try to understand that darkness.
Within darkness there is light,
But do not look for that light.
Light and darkness are a pair,
Like the foot before and the foot behind in walking.

Sandokai ~ a verse by Shih’tuo

It seems like a little “neural pruning” is in order.  We spent the latter half of last week in Toronto at a workshop on the neuropsychology of trauma and the usefulness of bare awareness in its treatment.  At one level, I “know” all this stuff: notice, notice, suspend judgment, notice some more.  What I didn’t know was how much time I spend diving into the experience of sensations and using it “to understand that darkness.”  It took deep noticing of the subtle ways I glide into the light hoping to grasp the nature of the dark from that vantage.  As if separation of what is unity could make it more accessible.

Neural pruning means letting these old ways of acquiring wisdom die out which encourages the buds of new paths to understanding.  Chances are, given my limited skills then (as now), those old paths are likely to be linear, rigid, and unforgiving of change.  And yet, there is such a resistance to pruning because what if that linear, uncompromising logic is needed one day!

And then compassion says, “It’s not the linear, uncompromising logic you’re pruning away.  It’s the death grip you have on it.”

Thank you for practicing,