The Buddha, The Dharma, The Sangha

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

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Not Knowing.
Something that has been on my mind lately.

My dharma brother D was in the zendo last week and delivered a beautiful talk to the sangha on Not Knowing.  It was a timely dharma talk, since we had, only days before, lost a dear friend and colleague, a sangha member who supported whatever efforts I made toward sharing the Buddhadharma, and effortlessly brightened every place she found herself.
K brought me books to share in our library, supplied endless cups of tea to go along with bread and jam whenever we got together, and shared too, her concerns about impermanence as her body turned toward a deeper frailty and vulnerability.

Her death reminds me that when the rug is pulled out from beneath our feet, to practice Not Knowing is the Buddha way, and yet, how we cling to the illusion of a permanent foundation that will never crumble or shift.  A house of cards.  A balsa wood, jerry built tower put together with spit and glue.

D talked about the Buddha's awakening in terms of a release of knowing, of un-knowing, and realizing that all of existence is marked by un-knowing.

In the days after our friend's death (and the death of my cat as it just so happened), I found myself yearning for those comforting touch stones of ordinary, mindless habit--a meal prepared and shared with my husband, a good book, a conversation with a friend--but none of these activities were able to ease the underlying sadness of death, and this place of disquiet is a geography where Not Knowing is a primal forest for practice.

It is not a place of repose, unless one can abide here, and though I am conscious of making choices to simply let these places be spacious and unfettered, I also know I have a long way to go.  Nothing feels quite "right".
But then I have to ask myself, what is "right"?  The answer that comes back loud and clear is this:  "right" is just another band aid applied to the jerry built ego tower.  "Right" is illusion.  "Right" is knowing all the time.

So even as I add another stick of balsa wood to the tower, another portion is dismantled.  
Maybe the new stick is shorter, lighter, smaller, as insubstantial as a feather.  Yet I am still trying to build the ego tower as I deconstruct something that no longer serves.  
Is this is the pinnacle of ignorance?

And yet, I offer incense to K and watch as the stick burns down to ash, leaving nothing more than a scent that we all walk away with on our clothes.  
Her memorial service is chock full of funny stories, of poignant messages, tears and raucous laughter, silence, and finally, a recitation of the Metta Sutra by all.
I think there was comfort to be found here, but what seemed more clear was that we live within a mystery that is endlessly fascinating, terrifying, beguiling, and that even as we perform the known rituals of community, unfathomable mystery permeates all, as the scent of incense permeates the air.

Jijuyu Zammai: "Everything you encounter is the self; receiving our joyous self and fulfilling our function."

Dogen Zenji

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