The Buddha, The Dharma, The Sangha

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

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Buddhism is a path of supreme optimism, for one of its basic tenets is that no human life or experience is to be wasted or forgotten, but all should be transformed into a source of wisdom and compassionate living.  This is the connotation of the classical statement that sums up the goal of Buddhist life: "Transform delusion into enlightenment."  On the everyday level of experience, Shin Buddhists speak of this transformation as "bits of rubble turn into gold."

from Number One Fool, by Taitetsu Unno
Tricycle Magazine, Spring 2008

Today my dharma brothers and sisters will be gathering at Gessha Tea House for a celebration of Robiraki, the sinking of the winter fire.  They will sample for the first time, the Spring tea, and enjoy ceremonial treats created by Tea Sensei, Todd Frey and his student.

Robiraki is my favorite tea ceremony;  it evokes a time of quiet, intense pleasures and practices, tinged with the creative forces and newness of the past Spring, when the tea leaves were gathered, dried and stored specifically for this first tasting in Autumn.
The art of tending the tea bushes and carefully nurturing, harvesting, artfully storing what will eventually slip past my teeth as thick macha, is an essential mystery that holds the Dharma, IS the Dharma.

I am unable to attend this year, due to a cold that is also the Dharma!  
Drat! I don't like this Dharma.

Still, I can imagine what scroll or stark flower arrangement might grace the tokonoma.  If Sensei has already lit the charcoal fire and placed the heavy kettle on the embers, there will be the slight hiss of steam rising from the lid.  If the fire is to be laid, he will delicately place charcoal bits, largest to smallest, in a crosshatched construction, light it and then fan the new flame with the large wing feather of a bird.  
That flame and feather and the essential element of air brings to mind the Triratna: The Buddha, The Dharma, The Sangha. 

The tea will be scooped from the caddy and whisked into brilliant froth in one of Sensei's tea bowls--perhaps he will use the one that I love so much, that nestles in the hand like a warm rock, the heart of the clay somehow still alive through the process of digging it from the earth, forming, decorating and firing the artist's creation.  But a bowl has no beating heart until it is shared, and this one will be passed from hand to hand, with just a little swig of matcha, enough for everyone.

Without being there, I am still last in line.
I slurp the dregs with gusto, making all those slurpy, smacking sounds my mother implored me as a child not to make in public.  
Here, the grander the slurp, the more obviously sincere my gratitude and compliment for my tea host's gift!

And so I come round to Shinran, who as my beloved Sensei made the Nembutsu available to all foolish beings such as myself.  
I am reminded that even the discomfort and inconvenience of a common cold is life experience for practice, even as it precludes other practices....we awaken with whatever rubble is presented, not with the fool's gold we may find mesmerizing. 

This foolish being, searching for words that only hint at the truth, who struggles moment to moment to realize what is already realized and who, at this moment, is a sneezing, sniffling, coughing, spitting, virus-cornucopia, is none the less, embraced by infinite compassion!

A little more rubble for the gold mine!

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