First published 2009. The ‘time came’ for the chap who sent me this photograph, he died this year. He left many gifts, especially his offering in Edinburgh to the Buddhist Sangha. Rawdon, you will not be forgotten.
West Allen Valley
What might I leave you
as a last gift when my time comes?
the cuckoo singing all summer,
the yellow leaves of autumn.
Zen Master Ryokan, translated by Sam Hamill
In the 1960’s there was a TV programme called ‘All Our Yesterdays’ in which we saw what life was like 25 years previously. Mostly it was black and white newsreel footage from WW2, if I remember correctly.
This picture was taken twenty five years ago in 1982. The priory, as it was then, was switching gears from being a lay retreat center to growing into what it is now, a full training monastery with a continuing guest programme. The chap who sent me the photograph, along with many others who read this, played an important part in the growth and development that has taken place over the years. Here is an opportunity to say thank you.
And the poem? I found it today in the monastic alms box. That’s a place we can put religious items for others to pick up and use, I thought you’d like it.
Last Sunday a number of people came to the monastery to mark the Buddha’s Enlightenment with a ceremony. We sing, we bow, sing some more and offer incense at the main altar. We follow a form I’m very familiar with from having participated in this and other ceremonies for…many years. Thirty something years and I’m not counting.
Like so many aspects of formal monastic life, which I’m revisiting while living at Throssel on an open-ended stay, I’m seeing myself respond to forms we use in our Buddhist tradition (and form generally) differently. That is rather interesting since, heck!, one would imagine ones response to conditions both internal and external would be subject to change! And they are. Conditionable we are, and habits of mind and body do change – in the short-term, long-term and very long-term.
Anyway here are a couple of verses from an invocation we sang on Sunday that caught my attention:
There is a Life beyond the dream,
The dream of life and death.
With naught to have, to want, to know,
IT fills me with each breath.
There is a Real beyond the dream,
Of sacred and profane,
Beyond the mirror of my mind:
No form, no end, no stain.
This post is for all those who find themselves in extremity, physically/emotionally/mentally/spiritually. The above words point to absolute truth through what we term ‘the opposites’. In Zen teaching the relative and the absolute are ‘not two’. Not one and not separate.
On a slightly different note we witnessed, early in the morning the other day while walking to meditation, the moon and Venus rising at the same time. It is said that the Buddha’s was Enlightened on seeing the Morningstar, Venus. Who knows, that was a long time ago and far away. Certainly caught my attention.
At the still point of the turning world.
Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is.
But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered, either movement from nor towards.
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
there would be no dance. And there is only the dance.
Burnt Norton, T.S.Eliot
Tomorrow I leave Mt. Shasta on a Greyhound bus heading towards Eugene Oregon. It has been a good stay at the monastery and now I’m heading back to England arriving mid February. Hopefully there will be space enough to make some posts here on Jade Mountains.