Just rest your eyes on this beautiful image of the quite rare Shetland White Water-Lily. Thank you to Kevin who is a long time reader here. As some of you will know the Lotus flower is used in Buddhism to symbolize training and enlightenment. With its roots growing deep into the mud and nourished through them. Then there is the long stem representing faith and the flower which rises out of the water untouched by the water that surrounds it. The Lotus flower itself is used as the symbol of enlightenment. We have a blessing verse which goes thus:
Just as the Lotus
is not wetted by the
water that surrounds it
pure and beyond the
world is the mind
of the trainee.
Let us bow to
the highest Truth.
The last couple of lines are paraphrased. As I understand it the water-lily flower floats on the surface of the water unlike the Lotus so the lily can’t really be used in quite the same way, with the same meaning, as the Lotus. That said I’m sure I have seen lily flowers sticking out of the water….
Years ago I remember listening to a chap in a spiritual counselling setting. Gradually we got around to what was really bothering him. Sometimes it takes a bit of time to get to the heart of the matter. I kicked my zafu (meditation cushion) across the room the other day! he confessed. I can’t remember what I actually said in response, I most likely smiled a smile of recognition before drawing out what might be behind this act. Those moments of utter frustration at seemingly not getting anywhere with meditation and Buddhist practice come to most of us in one form or another. Zafu’s are such a tempting item to heft across the room too!
Lurking below the frustration and the desire for progress is an ever-present sincerity of purpose which transcends any particular religious tradition. The rub of it is that what draws people to a particular practice, meditation/compassion/Precepts, is ultimately resistant to rational explanation. The Dharma, the teaching, points out the way others have gone before which we can learn from. Deeper encounters with Dharma, by my way of thinking, sets up a resonance within us with that which brought us to the cushion in the first place. Being around, talking with, sitting with, walking with those who (in Buddhism termed the Sangha) are living the practice can be both encouraging and taken deeper bring one to realize the zafu is without edges.
For several weeks while crossing the moorlands in Eastern Cumbria and also into Yorkshire I’ve been captivated by the thistles growing on the side of the roads. Seen in low light in early morning and late evening has them looking almost science fiction like.
From the Eihei Koroku – Dogen’s Extensive Record. Another gem from this huge tome.
Zazen within Desire and Stumbling
I can remember, Dharma Teacher Dayi of the Tang dynasty asking Master Ehu, “There is no dhyana in the realm of desire, how can we cultivate the samadhi of dhyana?”
Ehu said, “You only know that there is no dhyana in the realm of desire. You do not yet know that there is no desire in the realm of dhyana.”
Dayi had no response.
and that, you might think, was the end of that but no… After a pause Dogen said:
Within seven tumbles and eight falls we still take up and use [meditation]. Both “no desire” and “no dhyana” are not true. In steadfast immovable effort there is nothing to seek. How can this be equated with the three realms [of desire, form, and the formless]?
We are constantly being pointed to ‘going on beyond’. No resting place and no ‘stumbling’ place it would seem.
If all you can manage mentally in this hot weather is to look at moving traffic where nothing much happens then this is for you. For around six minutes somebody in Melbourne Australia is featured doing formal zazen in the middle of moving cars, she or he is not moving! I’d have been happy just to watch to the end with nothing happening, but something does! If that is too much excitement in this heat-wave we are all enjoying in Britain at the moment I suggest sitting very still, not in the middle of the road, with a wet flannel on your head. Keep cool.
Back in the day when the monastic kitchens would heat up to impressively high temperatures I’d wear a wet bandana on my head and from time to time spray a fine mist around the kitchen from a spray bottle. Anything to help keep the kitchen staff keep their heads. One day we registered 100f while a monk fried chips on the griddle.
As we all must know already there is a real danger to health when the temperatures stay consistently high day after day. Vulnerable people such as the elderly the young and those with certain medical conditions can suffer from heat-exhaustion and worse, heatstroke. Let’s watch out for each other out there.