Memories Locations

The place changes, the memory fades
The place changes…

It is said that one’s memories from early life remain sharp, clear and vivid. Partly because the first time one does something is so significant in ones growing up. For example ones first proper date, first proper job interview, first car, first time abroad, oh and yes – the first kiss. What is vivid is not only the experience itself but the physical surroundings. That’s how it has been for me. And then there are significant events, life changing events, which have their physical location emblazoned in my mind. This house, in the front room with me standing by the fire-place, letting my parents know I intended to be a monk was such an event. Seeing the windows and remembering I’d helped put them in, earning money from my parents doing up the house to pay my way as a novice at Shasta. That whole six months preparing to leave one life behind and enter another are vivid in my mind’s eye. (Thanks to my good sangha friends for taking the snap.)

You must remember this....
You must remember this….

Again, everything about my first visit to Throssel is vivid, less the physical place and more the monks and what was going on in my mind grappling with conscious self-reflection/meditation, for the first time! Subsequent visits throw up sharper image memories. (And thanks to another good sangha friend for sending this photograph. Taken 1981/2 when I’d already be at Shasta.)

Thinking about it there seems no reason why ones connection to people, places and things along with ones interior need be any less vivid the 20th or 200th time. Then there are those facing death, knowing they have perhaps just a few months to live, do memories and their associated physical locations again become vivid? Many report, in such circumstances, a renewed and welcomed encounter with everything. Not always or all of the time yet the last time would have a certain clarity and meaning wouldn’t it. But what is this all about. Surely we discourage thinking about the past and indeed that is true in the sense of living in or dwelling in the past and missing the shining hour right now. And that’s the point really here, to remember to open oneself to the depth and richness of life. Not with the intention to gather great and memorable experiences like beads on a rosary to tell in the future. More the intention to live full and ripe. Right now.

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Returning ‘Home’

Note from Mugo: Thank you folks for your patience. It has been about a month since I last posted on Jade Mountains. I’ve stopped counting how many places I have stayed at since leaving England 11th July, I’ve certainly been contemplating the meaning of ‘home’. I landing initially in Seattle then moved over to Victoria Vancouver Island for two weeks, then a brief trip to Vancouver, (as it turned out it was an aborted trip to the interior of British Columbia). Returning then to Victoria for another two weeks and more emergency dental work! Thanks to everybody who hosted me and supported me with Dana, food, and transport (and much MUCH more). Words fail. Such kindness and generosity.

Now at Shasta Abbey in Northern California preparing to help out on a retreat titled The Teaching of Our Tradition. On Monday I’m kicking off with a talk on Zen Master Dogen’s Fukanzazengi. What an honour!

Why leave behind your proper place, which exists right in your own home, and wander aimlessly off to the dusty realms of other lands? If you make even a single misstep, you stray from the Great Way lying directly before you.

The above is taken from a translation of the Fukanzazengi written by Zen Master Dogen and is an allusion to the parable of the lost son from the Lotus Sutra:
An only son left his home and family to live in a distant land. He experienced great hardship, totally unaware of the increasing wealth his father was accumulating in the meantime. Many years later, the son returned home and inherited the great treasure that was his original birthright.
Importantly the son had to prove himself before his father recognized him as the one to inherit what was his true birthright. Here below is a longer version of the story.

THE PRODIGAL SON – a Story from “the Lotus Sutra”
This parable was told by one of Buddha’s senior disciple Maha-Kasyapa:
Once upon a time, there was a man who had a son. As a teenage, the son took his father’s money and ran away from home to lead an extravagant life. After he had spent all his money, he became very poor, and had to wonder from town to town, begging for a living.
Many years had passed and the father had been looking for him but failed to find him. As time went by, the father became very rich, having a big house with numerous treasures, gold and silver, a large herd of cattle and goat, a group of servants and employees, and a large fleet of elephant and horse drawn wagons.
One day, the son was wondering into his hometown and begging for a living as usual. He came across a fleet of luxurious wagons, accompanied by a group of servants. When he saw the procession, he thought, “he must be a king or some noble knight. Well, I should not have come here. It is difficult to approach someone very high in society to ask for help.”
As he was turning around and going away, the father recognized him and ordered his security officers to get him. As the son was approached by the security officers, he cried out in despair, “I had not committed any crime. Why do you want to arrest me?” The security officers became suspicious. They tied him up and brought him to see the father.
The father looked at him carefully to make sure that he indeed was his son. He knew that his son had a very strong will and it would not work if he tried to lure him back with money or riches alone. So, without saying a word, he ordered his release and let him go. The son was glad that he was free, but he returned to the ghetto and continued to beg for a living.
The next day, the father sent two of his senior employees to the ghetto to look for his son. The two employees found him and said, “our boss is operating a big business and he is looking for someone who is trustworthy to work as a janitor. We will offer you a good salary and benefits. Are you interested in taking the job?” Having been wandering from town to town looking for work, the son was happy that someone offered him a job. He accepted it immediately.
As the son took on a low ranking job as a janitor, the father did not say anything about their relationship to any other employees, customers, suppliers, friends or relatives. However, the son proved himself to be a good worker and soon earned the respect of his fellow employees. As time went by he was promoted to a senior position.
One day, his father got sick, and, knowing that his days were soon over, his gathered every employee, friends and relatives to announce his will. He disclosed the father-and-son relationship to everybody and announced that his son would inherit his business. The son, by this time, a fairly senior employee, had proven his ability to take over his father’s business operation.
Maha-Kasyapa (Buddha’s senior disciple) concluded that the father represented the Lord Buddha and the son represented the followers.
NOTE: Although a similar story appears in the Christian Bible (Luke Chapter 15, 12 to 32), there is a very significant philosophical difference between Buddhism and Christianity. In the Christian Bible, the father forgave the son immediately and gave him all his heritage as soon as the son admitted his sin – that means: you have sinned, therefore, success is a grace from God. Here in the Lotus Sutra, after the reunion, the son proved his ability to take over his father’s heritage – that is, success is largely a result of your own effort. However, the reader is free to interpret the story in anyway he/she wants.
Copied from a .pdf from the following book. The Heart of Dogen’s Shobogenzo, by Norman Waddell (Translator), Masao Abe (Translator)

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The ‘Road’ is Home

The infant has it’s own joy because the world is not a mere road but a home, of which it will have more and more as it grows up in wisdom. With our road the gain is at every step, for it is the road and the home in one; it leads us on yet gives us shelter.
Tagore

Thus I read to the elderly, and often confused, monk I’m seeing every day. She smiled at the truth of this. Smiled in recognition.

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Home is?

A friend said recently that she didn’t know where home is anymore. And I can completely understand having recently packed up and stored everything that represents ‘home’. Pots and pans, altar items, books and spare clothing. Not to mention my walking boots and sundry other items. Bedding.

My instant response to my friend comment was ‘home is where your heart is’. I said nothing and have been sitting with the question of what and where that is has been with me ever since.

But my plane is taxiing….more later.

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Nothing Fixed Anywhere

I’m still thinking about how we (our connective tissue) becomes more fluid the more we move and in so doing ‘makes more variations of movement and action possible’. Nothing fixed anywhere. (Well, that’s according to a ‘new model’ of how our physicality functions referred to below. Enjoy the whole video.

The Infinite Now – The Cinemagraphs of Ray Collins from Ray Collins on Vimeo.

Previously we thought body movement was accomplished by a series of ratchets, levers, and pulleys. Lately, this machine model has begun to break down.
Connective tissue is the ocean within us, and, in fact, contains the same basic proportions of elements, salts, and carbon compounds found in sea water…it becomes more fluid the more it is moved; the more sedentary, the more ‘dried out’ it becomes. We literally moisten ourselves and make more variations of movement and action possible.The water within us seems to have a sort of mind…The new model sees the body water itself shaping us. That is, we do not contain it like a bottle; it holds itself together like ‘standing waves’ and shapes our more solid structures around it.
-Neil Douglas-Klotz

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Practice Within The Order of Buddhist Contemplatives