When the Opposites Arise

This is a talk I gave this morning to the people here on retreat until the 2nd January. Thought you might want to see it.
The audio of this talk can be found on the Throssel Hole Abbey website.
When the opposites arise, it is written in the Rules for Meditation, the Buddha Mind is lost. I’d like to say lost sight of, since I don’t think one can lose the ‘Buddha Mind’. Or you could say, one can’t lose one’s nature as a Buddha, that is an enlightenment being. Whatever one’s views are about oneself and others and no matter how unenlightened one’s actions and the actions of others might be – the fundamental enlightened nature, Buddha Nature, is there. Neither lost nor forsaken.  How could it be otherwise since there is no (separate) eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, mind as it is stated in the Scripture of Great Wisdom. The no is actually mu which means empty, immaculate, pure. Rev. M. Jiyu translated mu as pure in an attempt, I believe, to help westerners to not trip over the alternate words – empty or Immaculate. But we can trip over anything, if we have a particular function of our minds switched on. Then over time, become fixated on a particular understanding of this scripture – perhaps remaining for the rest of one’s life! How sad.

The functioning of our minds is miraculous, and not fathomable by the ‘ordinary mind’, the mind caught in the opposites.  In the blessing verse recited at the end of meals, we have; Pure and beyond the world (of the opposites of the world of Samsara) is the Mind of the trainee. O Holy Buddha, we take refuge in thee. That’s a statement of faith right there.

And so we sit, just sit, which in actual fact is a 24/7 ‘activity’ not just in formal zazen. This just sitting requires of us an exercising of faith/trust with the clear and firm intention to keep returning to just sitting throughout the day (and night). It requires of us to trust the process one enters into when dedicating one’s life to spiritual practice. Paramount is the refraining from evaluations (labelling) ones ‘progress’, or lack of it, and refraining from evaluating others around you; or those who come into our world of awareness. There is a way of thinking and being and acting which one can deliberately choose not to nurture the habit of swirling around in the opposites, mentally and emotionally. All the while Nirvana, or that which lies within Samsara is lurking, calling to us, nudging us to return to effort/awareness (the two are inseparable) return to clear, bright intention

There is a choice. Formal Zazen has a particular place in this choosing because one CHOOSES, deliberately decides to allow projects, planning, and pain to subside. This can take time. It takes time for a boat, having crossed a lake and arrived at a dock, to stop bobby around in the water. It takes time too for the wake generated by its journey through the water to catch up with it, and then settle. Eventually, if the boat just remains by the dock it will settle, stop moving and be still. So too with us when we settle to sit.

Actually there is a power in deliberately and consciously deciding to do something, Zazen for example, when you want to or could do, something else. Even as you settle by the dock (so to speak) you can remake your decision, your intention to ‘just sit’, no add-ons. Yes, the pain and the plans and the projects and whatever else will arise, naturally enough. It is not so easy however to ride out the waves when there are painful thoughts, feelings and emotions. From the past, in the present, or fear of the future. Here, now, the Buddha calls – SILENTLY!

I’ll read you a poem now, by Mary Oliver. It is short and quite unlike the majority of her poems. It speaks of love (saddened love- a box full of darkness, from one once loved) and loss and transformation.

The Uses of Sorrow
(in my sleep I dreamed this poem)

Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness

It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.

Mary Oliver

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3 thoughts on “When the Opposites Arise”

  1. Beautiful!
    Samsara IS Nirvana. Form IS pure. Pure IS form. No knowledge, no attainment. Give up picking and choosing. ….
    To me, the scriptures are not metaphorical, mystical words. They express nothing less than the literal truth.
    And so do you.
    Thank you.

  2. Thank you for the dharma talk- a lucid reminder of the treasure we inherit. .Thank you for including us. Wish I was there. Glad you shared!

  3. Thank you and so needed to read this as I start my day 🙏 . With deep bows of gratitude for gentle reminders to stay open hearted in my practice and not have a fixed view of anything!🙋‍♀️

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