Conduct and observance

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Monday, June 25, 2007

gruel and rice

There are times, when I sit down to write entries in this blog, that no one obvious subject has presented itself. That is to say, in the past day, or two, or three, no one specific insight, overarching question, or focused subject is at hand.

Instead, I discover that I have spent the last few days thinking less and existing more.

We tend to view life from the point of view of the highlights. In this overstimulated world we live in, the highlights are often perceived as having to be progressively bigger and brighter in order to be meaningful. We watch this go on in capitalism, where companies always have to be bigger, more profitable, and more productive every single year. We watch it go on in the media, where every film opening has to be bigger than the last one.

We do not tend to watch it in our own lives, even though a great deal of our lives are led this way.

Frustration arises from this situation. First of all, life is not just about the highlights. All of it is equally valuable and equally valid. The fact that we are rarely in a state to appreciate this slips by us in our ordinary understanding. We are all addicted to the big event.

Living like this, ,we can't get no satisfaction. This is a question worthy of serious examination in the sense of our relationship to our lives.

Dogen speaks of the monk who is fully realized as being satisfied with morning gruel, satisfied with afternoon rice. In other words, the monk derives his satisfaction in life from the details, the ordinary events, which have become so feeding that he truly appreciates their nature. Everything that he encounters within the continuum of what we call consciousness has a flavor, a taste, a value that is more real. He no longer seeks incessant stimulation of exotic kinds.

What stimulates arises from within and draws its motive force from relationship. Forming a relationship to the small things, the details, is a worthy redirection of the attention. The more sensitivity we have to a given moment, the more likely it is that the food of that moment will reach parts in us deeper than the gatekeeper.

Of course there is a lot more to it than this. Dogen spends a great deal of time explaining that the way the mind divides reality into dualities, even the duality of "enlightenment" versus "no enlightenment," is fundamentally in error. The mind that pretends to grasp this is already in error. Can we understand that?

If we understand, we don't understand.

Hence I find myself living within the ordinary. There are no special ideas, no special insights, no wisdoms to impart. I am merely experiencing this life. Within that ordinary experience there are myriad details, like the gruel and rice Dogen speaks of. And within relationship to each one of those details, as it is savored, there lies the experience--potentially, of course,-- of the Buddha Dharma.

That being said, the following experiences were of interest over the last day or two.

There are many butterflies at the catnip. The mint grows in profusion. During the day, the criesy of a red tailed hawk feeding its young filter down from the woods on the ridge above our house.

The salt marsh at the mouth of the Sparkill is ancient. I can see boulders left there by the glaciers, lurking beneath the peaty soils formed over the last 10,000 years.

In places, between the reeds, no trace of man can be seen.

Trees are lungs. Water is blood. The water must meet the tree in order to form the fruit.

May your trees bear fruit, and your wells yield water..

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