The Buddha compared people to four kinds of clay vessels. One type of vessel has holes in the bottom. We can pour in as much water as we like and it runs right out. When this type of person hears the Dharma, it goes in one ear and out the other. The second type of vessel has cracks. Though we pour in the Dharma, it seeps out slowly until the vessel is empty again. The third vessel is full to the brim with stale water--views and opinions. One can't pour anything new in, everything is already known. The only useful vessel is the fourth, without holes or cracks and totally empty.
--from Be An Island, by Ayya Khema
This is what I read last night after our meditation.
Lately I've been feeling very pridefully filled up with words, with practice, with my studies, and it took spending several hours with my Dharma Brothers and Sisters and our Sensei to begin the process of pouring all that stuff out of the vessel, in order to allow for a little emptiness. And maybe a little more wisdom and compassion.
A day later, I read Ayya Khema's words and felt as if an arrow had found its target.
Sometimes I can feel myself turning slightly away from the practice, just a little shiver away, so that my patience wears thin at the knees, my equanimity is tottering, and metta just seems like a quaint sweet afterthought.
I may as well by growing the horns of the Ram I sometimes become!
I feel it as one might feel a pebble in ones sock; not exactly painful, but certainly bothersome--the only way to get rid of it is to sit down, take the shoe off, take the sock off, turn it inside out, shake it out, turn it right side out, slip it carefully over the foot, replace the shoe, lace it up and then walk, and walk and walk.....how does it feel?
Other times I am the vessel without a bottom, and no matter what goes in, it simply passes through, never even touching the sides of the pot! Those are the moments when I am utterly devoid of a shred of mindfulness.
I throw the bath towel into the full bathtub, and hang the face cloth on the towel rack.
I put the milk in the cupboard and the Cheerios in the refrigerator.
I know what Sensei has taught me about Buddha Nature one night, then forget all the following evening when discussing the one common thread of all Buddhist practitioners....hmmmm, well the Triple Gem, sure, and the 3 Marks of Existence....and I think there might be something else, if I could only remember.
I sit meditation because I am Buddha, but I only "know" this in split seconds of residing in the Golden World of interbeing, of emptiness, a split second and it's gone.
Meanwhile, I fear that I am more of the cracked vessel type--whatever I have gained is slowly being leached through the many cracks of my delusion. And then I wonder, do I cling to this raft too strenuously, are my attachments so lively and my delusions so endless and clever that I have simply substituted one form for another?
Bodhidharma described Zen as:
"A special transmission outside the scriptures,
Not founded upon words or letters;
By pointing directly to one's mind
It lets one see into one's own true nature and thus attain Buddhahood."
What is there then for me to be attached to, what is there to crave or strive for, where is the form?
Thus the best vessel is not cracked, has no holes, and is as empty as form.
Recognizing that I am sometimes each manifestation of the Buddha's vessel, I can do nothing more than observe the condition with loving kindness for the Ego Self who still struggles to find the Way, who still stamps a foot in frustration and lowers the horns to ram everything out of the way. With ahimsa, the desire not to harm myself, or any other, with that old unborn Buddha Nature, I vow to attain the Way!