Sunday, December 20, 2009

Transcendental Symmetry

T'ien-t'ung said in verse:

The totality of forms is so steep,
But passing through to infinity blocks the eyes.
Who has the strength to sweep out his garden?
Hidden in human hearts, it turns into feelings.
A boat crosses a rustic fjord, steeped in the azure of autumn,
Rowing into the reed flowers reflecting the light off the snow.
An old fisherman with a bolt of silk takes it to the market,
Floating lightly in the wind, a single leaf traverses the waves.

The totality of forms is steep, but passing through to infinity blocks the eyes, this means that the way of the true Buddhist is through the world, not avoiding its difficulties, not plunging into oblivion in the absolute.

Who has the strength to sweep out his garden? The emptiness of the absolute is not realized by rejecting or denying things, or by trying to blank the mind.

Hidden in human hearts, it turns into feelings; if you become fixated upon "emptiness" as a principle or as a state of mind, this gives the sense of something there, which obstructs penetrating illumination of insight.

A boat crossing a rustic fjord steeped in the azure of autumn refers to stagnation in the stillness of the absolute; rowing into the reed flowers reflecting the light off the snow refers to being dazzled by direct perception of the absolute. Wan-sung quotes, "When pure light shines in your eyes, it seems you have missed your home; turning around in pure clarity, you fall into that state."

The last two lines describe what is known as "entering the marketplace with hands extended," transcending transcendence to re-enter the ordinary world, "not avoiding the wind and waves," neither rejecting nor denying things, realizing the nonresistance of the absolute without making that into an object either, being in the world but not of the world, free to come and go.

The Flower Ornament Scripture says, "Beings teach, lands teach, all things in all times teach, constantly, without interruption." Disputation is not the way to hear this teaching, while your emotions and your intellect are arguing back and forth, reality passes you by, as you "stumble past without being aware of it."

Emotions and intelligence are like shoes, which enable us to walk, to act efficiently, by cushioning us from the impact of the world at large. Emotion cushions us by alerting us to instinctive feelings of attraction and danger, while intelligence cushions us by enabling us to make sense of an otherwise chaotic world.

{Classic of Buddhism and Zen, translated by Thomas Cleary}

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