The Buddha, The Dharma, The Sangha

"Spiritual powers and their wondrous functioning--hauling water and carrying firewood." --Layman Pang, upon his realization

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Unsui: At Home In The World

Unsui, literally translated from the Japanese, means "cloud, water", and in Zen practice, this is a particular characteristic of a novice monk, or someone just beginning the path of Zen. It may refer to one who travels from monastery to monastery in search of a Master who will accept them as a student, or sometimes, a traveler, who has reached enlightenment and wants deeper confirmation of their Satori from other Masters. Thus the term "itinerant monk", in short, a wandering cloud.
In our Order Of The Dragonfly, we are declared Unsui after our initial ordination as Shuso, the voice of the Sangha. A year of Priest Studies enables us to work for the benefit of the Sangha, to find a common language between the lay population and the Priests.
When I was first introduced to the concept of being Unsui, it surprised me at how comforting the metaphor felt to me, as if I just needed permission to further allow a process of being in the world that had always been appealing, if not a little perplexing.
How could this be applied? How could I proceed? Where were the instructions and might I just drift away, like fog? I needn't have worried about drifting away like fog--the ego self is so strong, it flexes its muscles at any hint of evaporating!
But as I have continued to study and sit meditation, being Unsui, at home anywhere in the world, is a beautiful metaphor for that fragile, ever changing state of equanimity. It is a place of coming and going, flowing organically with whatever situation presents itself, finding a balance amongst the trials and tribulations, slings and arrows, ups and downs--all of it! Like a ship's ballast, a state of equanimity allows us to respond to each moment with skill and compassion. And yes, it is moment to moment, it is mindfulness that enables us to
flow freely, without obstruction, around obstacles.
Clouds know nothing of walls or barriers--if they reach a mountain, they build upon one another in tumbling forms, until the tension is broken in a shower or storm. They appear and disappear before our eyes, then morph into yet some other form--clouds are shape shifters.
The ego self is a shape shifter as well, but behind it all is the True Self, our innate Buddha nature, unborn, undying. Though forms change, the ground of our being is immutable.
When we are able to recall this realization, moment by moment, we are truly liberated, like clouds, like water.

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