BOOK OF EQUANIMITY - Case 94

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  • Jundo
    Treeleaf Founder and Priest
    • Apr 2006
    • 39211

    BOOK OF EQUANIMITY - Case 94

    If everyone feels up to it, we will turn to Case 94 - Tozan's Illness.

    This is page 299 in the PDF link, if you need:



    This Koan plays on the fundamental Zen revelation that everything is Empty, so even as we get sick, there is an aspect of reality that cannot be sick. It is something like saying that the ocean is still the ocean, even if some of the fish in the ocean are sick. The ocean is still precisely the ocean even if filled with fish, and even if there are no fish left in it. And since the fish are not just individual fish, but are the ocean swimming in the guise of fish, and since the ocean is always the ocean, the fish have the aspect beyond sickness even when they themselves get sick.

    Furthermore, we are each other and all things. So, you are not just someone who has a fever due to covid, or who is sick due to cancer. The covid virus is another face of you as covid virus, and likewise the cancer cells. You may be sick, but the virus is thriving, the cancer is thriving. Since the cancer or the virus are also you as cancer and virus, and since you are just the cancer and virus as you, therefore you are thriving too so long as the virus and cancer cells are thriving.

    Nonetheless, you are still sick and feeling miserable. The fish are still sick although the ocean, which they also are, flows on and on.

    As I have mentioned before, we also do not quite believe in death (even though we die) for, like waves that rise and fall, or fish that come and go ... because the waves and the fish are just the sea ... for so long as the sea flows on and on, the waves and fish flow on and on even though they may also vanish.

    Tozan knows this. Even as he is sick, he know this aspect that cannot be sick or ever die. Nonetheless, he is sick and will someday die too.

    I would read the Preface references of "inferior/superior" "mean/noble" "heavy/light" as Zen poetic code words for the "relative" (divided world of sickness and death) and "absolute" (the undivided, thus free of sickness and death). So, the Preface, in my reading is saying something like "although we get sick (the elements of our body are out of proper adjustment) and die, there is also this in which we do not get sick and die ... yet, nonetheless, both are true, both have their place, so we will still get sick and die even though, seen this other way, we do not." Something like that.

    In the Main Case, Tozan is sick yet also knows this "someone" (our other face) which is never sick. I take the lines about "looking after others" to mean something like, although Tozan lives in a world of "separate self and others" that he lives in the normal way, like you and me, sometimes getting sick or meeting other disaster, he also knows the facet where "sickness is not seen." In his practice, he has gotten pretty skilled in living both facets as one ... so sick, yet knowing beyond sickness too. Both take care of each other, like a doctor needs her patient to doctor, a patient needs a doctor to be a patient. Nonetheless, though Tozan knows our face free of sickness, he is still stuck in bed and feeling poorly. All true.

    The Appreciatory Verse says that, even stuck in this "stinking skin bag of flesh" (our fragile body) we can see beyond this, where the "nose is straight, the skull is dry" (traditional Zen images for having seen beyond sickness and death even while still in this world of sickness and death). The "old doctor" (the Wisdom of Emptiness) sees no ailments, but we "little ones" (ignorant ordinary us) struggle to understand that. The fields' draining, autumn passing, clouds dissipating, mountains growing cold ... like our aging bodies as time passes, sometimes getting ill ... just happens in its natural way. The last lines (about not cheating, using "that which cannot be accomplished exhaustively" and the tree-top) probably mean just something like "really really dive into this wonderful mystery about how this all works together, don't just skim the surface."

    Question: Describe a situation where life hands you a disaster like sickness, a death in the family, tree falling on your house, a war in which your country is invaded, or any one of countless situations where you face great hardship. Describe that hardship and pain. Next, however, describe that same situation from the "oceanic" perspective in which there is no loss, no death, no war, no pain. Also, if you can, describe the situation from the "we are each other in other guise" perspective in which the loser is just the winner losing, and the winner is just the loser winning. Which aspect is true? Are they all true?

    By the way, Koan imagery is like song imagery. In this old classic, hear "being away from my baby" as referencing feeling like a separate self distanced from "Emptiness" or "Buddha," and then it is its own Appreciatory Verse, the same word games that the Koan plays ...


    Gassho, J

    STLah
    Last edited by Jundo; 07-23-2022, 05:34 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE
  • Chikyou
    Member
    • May 2022
    • 568

    #2
    I posted in the metta thread about a week ago, my dog is ill again (she has a lump or tumor again. Waiting on test results right now.) I spent much of last weekend crying my eyes out, considering what I was going to do if it's the worst (and this time, that's likely). At least once I sat Zazen with tears running down my face.

    And yet, no sickness, no death. Life is just life, in this time and space and whatever comes after. To borrow your metaphor, she is a fish in the ocean that is my life, and the ocean is still the ocean, with or without that particular fish. To take it a step further, we are BOTH fish in the ocean that is life, our home, jobs (well her only job is eating and sleeping) etc all fish, rocks, scenery in the ocean, which will still be the ocean even as everything changes, which it does as fish come and go, the tide shifts the sands and the rocks erode away.

    I love this ocean imagery by the way. The air we all breathe here on solid ground is kind of an ocean, and also connected to the ocean (the water cycle and all of that)... everything one big ocean really. But for whatever reason I find it much easier to grok when talking about the ocean in the traditional sense.

    Gassho,
    SatLah
    Kelly
    Chikyō 知鏡
    (KellyLM)

    Comment

    • Kaye
      Member
      • Jul 2022
      • 16

      #3
      I find this koan reading fascinating. I am a haiku writer and observe the everyday in "opposites" -- that is, light and heavy etc. At the same time, there is an energy that is cyclical and circular, such as the repetitive nature of the seasons. With haiku one plays word games to inspire an "ah ha" or "YES" response. Is there any connection between haiku, repetition, cycles, etc. and koans? Or am I just way off? In other words, the koan evokes a "feeling" or energy that mirrors that of the universal undercurrents.
      kaye

      Comment

      • Jundo
        Treeleaf Founder and Priest
        • Apr 2006
        • 39211

        #4
        Originally posted by Kaye
        I find this koan reading fascinating. I am a haiku writer and observe the everyday in "opposites" -- that is, light and heavy etc. At the same time, there is an energy that is cyclical and circular, such as the repetitive nature of the seasons. With haiku one plays word games to inspire an "ah ha" or "YES" response. Is there any connection between haiku, repetition, cycles, etc. and koans? Or am I just way off? In other words, the koan evokes a "feeling" or energy that mirrors that of the universal undercurrents.
        kaye
        That's a good question for Kokuu and some of our other resident poets ...



        Kokuu, what say you? (And feel free to answer with more words than a Haiku! )

        Gassho, Jundo

        ST+lah
        ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

        Comment

        • Kokuu
          Treeleaf Priest
          • Nov 2012
          • 6750

          #5
          I find this koan reading fascinating. I am a haiku writer and observe the everyday in "opposites" -- that is, light and heavy etc. At the same time, there is an energy that is cyclical and circular, such as the repetitive nature of the seasons. With haiku one plays word games to inspire an "ah ha" or "YES" response. Is there any connection between haiku, repetition, cycles, etc. and koans? Or am I just way off? In other words, the koan evokes a "feeling" or energy that mirrors that of the universal undercurrents.
          Hi Kaye!

          I am a haiku poet too and think you are right that good haiku can in some ways emulate the effect of koans, and at least of small kensho moments, in making connections and contrasts between the dualistic nature of the world, and the interconnected and cycling energy that lies beyond. That is not to say that all haiku do that, and certainly not haiku poets, but you doubtless know there are a large number of well-known haiku poets with a connection to Buddhism, including Zen, such as Kobayashi Issa, Matsuo Basho and, in modern times, Robert Aitken Roshi and former Zen monk, Clark Strand. I wrote a short piece about the connection here: https://yearinhaiku.wordpress.com/zen-and-haiku/

          Perhaps one of the most celebrated haiku which shows the ultimate nature of the world, and then hints that there is another side, is Issa's reflection on the death of his daughter:

          the world of dew
          is a world of dew
          and yet and yet...


          That is, the world of experience is fleeting and, as the Buddha puts it in the Diamond Sutra, like a "star at dawn, a bubble in a stream, a flash of lightening in a summer cloud". However, that is not how we mostly experience life as human beings, but rather as life and death, cold and hot, light dark etc. Issa knows the qualities beyond dualism, and yet still cannot escape life and death. In Zen, we hold both sides to be true, and a good haiku can do that also.

          In this poem, Basho seems to be talking about the whiteness of winter, but this may well also be a reference to the oneness that lies beyond dualism (or, as we say in Zen, 'not one, not two'). Emerging from that one-coloured world is the dualistic sound of the wind, showing that emptiness is no other than form:

          Withered by winter
          one-coloured world –
          the sound of wind


          Koan are designed to show us something beyond what we ordinarily see beyond the dualistic world of opposites. This is clear in many koans and this one is just an example:

          A monk asked Master Dongshan, “Cold and heat descend upon us. How can we avoid them?”Dongshan answered, “Why don’t you go to the place where there is no cold or heat?” The monk continued, “Where is the place where there is no cold or heat?” Dongshan said, “When it is cold, let it be so cold that it kills you. When hot, let it be so hot that it kills you.”

          Thank you for your comment, Kaye, and apologies for running long.

          Gassho
          Kokuu
          -sattoday-
          Last edited by Kokuu; 07-25-2022, 10:03 AM.

          Comment

          • Kaye
            Member
            • Jul 2022
            • 16

            #6
            Gassho to Kokuu and gratitude from kaye

            Kokuu,

            Greetings and thank you for your in-depth amazing answer. First of all, I want to live in Gogoan's hut. Simplicity and at one with the surroundings. Can you arrange that? (Joke of course)

            It occurred to me on reading your narrative involving relationships with Buddhism and nature, that haiku and zen practice support our attempts to objectively "witness" the energy and manifestations of events not only on the planet but within our minds. Much of what we "see" is colored by our past experiences, our desires for the future, our inability to stay in the moment, and hence our distorted perceptions. I witness the brief spaciousness between thoughts as an observer and then it is gone, like a smile.
            Would you agree that we are powerless observers? Witnesses to this whatever "this" is?
            Thus, haiku offers a springboard to attempt to figure out what is going on. Maybe truth. Maybe not.

            "Even in Kyoto
            longing for Kyoto
            hotogisu
            — Basho "

            I love Basho. This haiku encapsulates the longing I have felt my whole life.
            Have you read the death poems by the haiku masters? Imagine having such presence of mind and comfort with the process of dying.

            Here's one:

            when my old dog
            watches me
            does she see an old human?

            Again. Thank you thank you thank you.
            Kaye

            Comment

            • Kokuu
              Treeleaf Priest
              • Nov 2012
              • 6750

              #7
              Hi Kaye

              Thank you for your response and questions. It is a lovely conversation to have!

              One thing I would say is that wherever we live, Gogoan is right here and now in terms of being at one with our surroundings. Your gogoan is where you live right now. Simplicity can be a state of mind. Of course, on the flipside I have teenage children so can appreciate peace and quiet too!

              Much of what we "see" is colored by our past experiences, our desires for the future, our inability to stay in the moment, and hence our distorted perceptions. I witness the brief spaciousness between thoughts as an observer and then it is gone, like a smile.
              I would say that everything we see is coloured by past experiences, which some Buddhist philosophy identifies as coming from our Store Consciousness (alaya-vijnana). The trick is not to think that we can somehow bypass that, but instead to realise that what we are seeing is a product of our mind. The sense impressions that we capture in haiku are at least often free of conceptual overlay. There is, however, no way we can ever see complete objective truth free of any distortion. But we can just be with what arises as it is.

              The space between or before thoughts is a nice glimpse of the clear blue sky of consciousness, but I think it is important not to attach to that or silence, over thoughts or noise. Both are equally expressions of all that is, and choosing one over the other falls into dualism.

              Would you agree that we are powerless observers? Witnesses to this whatever "this" is?
              I am not sure I would put it exactly like as I think that including the idea of being a witness or observer adds a sense of separation with experience in which we, the observer, observe the experience which is separate from us, rather than we, ourselves, also being the experience. Let go of the idea of observer and what remains?
              Dōgen puts it like this:

              To study the buddha way is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be actualized by myriad things. When actualized by myriad things, your body and mind as well as the bodies and minds of others drop away. No trace of realization remains, and this no-trace continues endlessly. When you first seek dharma, you imagine you are far away from its environs. At the moment when dharma is correctly transmitted, you are immediately your original self..”

              And, more poetically, there is this from Li Po, which you may already know:

              The birds have vanished into the sky and now the last cloud drains away.
              We sit together the mountain and me, until only the mountain remains
              .”

              "Even in Kyoto
              longing for Kyoto
              hotogisu
              — Basho "
              I love that poem! It is a beautiful evocation both of the place and hotogisu, and also of the human sense of longing for what Zen would say we already have.

              Death poems by haiku poets are something I enjoy too, and Zen teachers have often done the same. It is amazing to have such presence on leaving this life. This was Dōgen’s death poem:

              For fifty-four years I have clarified
              The highest spiritual endowment;
              I leapt beyond,
              Shattering all worlds.
              Ah! Nothing to search for in the entire body –
              Vibrantly I plunge into the realm of death.


              Thank you for sharing your lovely haiku! I like it when haiku ask questions like that.

              Apologies to all for extreme verbosity.

              Gassho
              Kokuu
              -sattoday-

              Comment

              • Seth David
                Member
                • Apr 2022
                • 26

                #8
                When our son was born with brain damage and developmental disabilities, we mourned the loss of our “normal, healthy child.”

                From the oceanic perspective however, there was never anything to lose. No normal. No healthy. No child. And no parents. Just the universe flowing. This is true.

                It is *also* true that Gideon is a cherished member of our family. And advocating on his behalf, to ensure that his special needs are met, is a big part of our job as parents.

                Not sure if this makes us winners losing or losers winning, but we definitely feel lucky to know such an amazing person.

                Gassho,
                Seth
                STLah


                Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

                Comment

                • Jundo
                  Treeleaf Founder and Priest
                  • Apr 2006
                  • 39211

                  #9
                  Originally posted by Seth David
                  When our son was born with brain damage and developmental disabilities, we mourned the loss of our “normal, healthy child.”

                  From the oceanic perspective however, there was never anything to lose. No normal. No healthy. No child. And no parents. Just the universe flowing. This is true.

                  It is *also* true that Gideon is a cherished member of our family. And advocating on his behalf, to ensure that his special needs are met, is a big part of our job as parents.

                  Not sure if this makes us winners losing or losers winning, but we definitely feel lucky to know such an amazing person.

                  Gassho,
                  Seth
                  STLah
                  ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

                  Comment

                  • Kaye
                    Member
                    • Jul 2022
                    • 16

                    #10
                    I sat today.
                    No separation.
                    Gassho Kokuu

                    Comment

                    • Heikyo
                      Member
                      • Dec 2014
                      • 103

                      #11
                      When my father died two years ago there was grief. But there was also a sense that he had rejoined the rest of the universe. Or maybe not rejoined, as he was never separate from itÂ… The idea of an ocean really helped me understand that he was always the atoms and molecules that make up the ocean, but formed into a unique wave that rose up, peaked and then fell back again into that vast ocean. The cells of the cancer that he had when he was ill were still made of the stuff of the ocean, just arranged in a different way. The ocean will never resurface as that one unique wave again. It made me realise something about my own life and how I could be returning to the ocean at any time, and to be grateful of my time as this particular wave in the ocean of the universe.
                      Gassho
                      Paul
                      Sat today

                      Comment

                      • Jundo
                        Treeleaf Founder and Priest
                        • Apr 2006
                        • 39211

                        #12
                        e was always the atoms and molecules that make up the ocean
                        I would go further, and say that he was not only the atoms and molecules of the ocean. He was, precisely, fully and without distinction, the ocean. And so are you.

                        Peace to your dad.

                        Gassho, J

                        STLAH
                        ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

                        Comment

                        • Tairin
                          Member
                          • Feb 2016
                          • 2725

                          #13
                          Seven years ago I suffered sudden hearing loss as the result of an airplane flight. The experts were never able to explain what happened but the suspicion is that I suffered a form of barotrauma that damaged my inner ear. As the result of the accident I am mostly deaf in my left ear and my right ear is significantly compromised. As a last ditch effort to find out what had happened I submitted to surgery which found nothing to repair. The surgeon literally said “sorry for you luck.”

                          I love music and as many here know I am a musician. Before the accident I would have been despondent about the idea of losing my hearing. Yet I sit here typing this story with compromised hearing and yet I am here. Life goes on. I have adjusted. One learns to live and even hear in different ways.


                          Tairin
                          Sat today and lah
                          泰林 - Tai Rin - Peaceful Woods

                          Comment

                          • Jundo
                            Treeleaf Founder and Priest
                            • Apr 2006
                            • 39211

                            #14
                            Originally posted by Tairin
                            Seven years ago I suffered sudden hearing loss as the result of an airplane flight. The experts were never able to explain what happened but the suspicion is that I suffered a form of barotrauma that damaged my inner ear. As the result of the accident I am mostly deaf in my left ear and my right ear is significantly compromised. As a last ditch effort to find out what had happened I submitted to surgery which found nothing to repair. The surgeon literally said “sorry for you luck.”

                            I love music and as many here know I am a musician. Before the accident I would have been despondent about the idea of losing my hearing. Yet I sit here typing this story with compromised hearing and yet I am here. Life goes on. I have adjusted. One learns to live and even hear in different ways.


                            Tairin
                            Sat today and lah
                            Ah, but while your ears do not work, there is a Sound which does not need ears, and every pair of ears in the universe is your own. I know that is hard to know when your own disability is so difficult, but it is true too. The lose of one sound is also a gain for silence or other sounds.

                            We try to hear our teachings (pun intended) to recognize that all of the above it true at once.

                            Gassho, J

                            STLah
                            ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

                            Comment

                            • Kaye
                              Member
                              • Jul 2022
                              • 16

                              #15
                              There are accounts in most meditation forms and religions , there are teachings and discussions of "celestial "sounds, inner sounds heard not with physical ears, but with one's inner being. Pythagoras spoke of the music of the spheres. \

                              I sat today and am sitting again now.
                              Gassho.
                              kaye

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