Mid morning

Mid morning —
The bird wobbles across the garden.
He picks a twig, lets it go.
He goes towards a fallen bougainvillea flower, turns away.
He flies onto a branch, sings a few notes.

Mankind —
We seem to always have a place to go,
a goal to reach,
a purpose to fulfill.
Couldn’t we just be aimless?

There may be some wisdom in this somewhere.

Kenza.

—-

Inspiration: reading Chuang Tzu on a Spring morning in a garden.

Zen story – Su Dongpo and Master Fo-yin

My son turns 10 years old today, and I told him the following story that made him laugh and think. I hope you do to.

Feeling particularly inspired that morning, Su Dongpo wrote the following brief poem and sent it to his teacher, Zen Master Fo-yin, who lived just across the Yangtze river.

“I bow to the god among gods;
his hair-light illuminates the world.
Unmoved when the eight winds blow,
upright I sit in a purple-gold lotus.”

After receiving the poem, Master Fo-yin replied with two words:

“Fart! Fart!”

When Su Dongpo received the Master’s reply, he became furious and without further ado, jumped on a boat, crossed the Yangtze river and barged into Master Fo-yin’s house saying:

“How could you possibly send someone a note with these two words? This is slanderous!”

“Slanderous?” replied Master Fo-yin. “Who was I slandering? You said you were unmoved by the eight winds when they blew. But look at you now! Just two farts blew you across the Yangtze river!”

Recognizing his error and realizing he boasted about a spiritual progress he had not yet achieved, Su Dongpo apologized to the Master for his outburst and promised to strive to always act with full humility.

Notes:
– The eight winds are praise, ridicule, misery, happiness, honor, disgrace, gain and loss — all external elements affecting our internal quietude if taken at heart and without wisdom.
– Su Tung-p’o or Su Dongpo (1037-1101) was a poet during the Song Dynasty. He is better known as Su Shi (his art name).
– Master Fo-yin (1011-1086) was a Great Master of the Zen tradition. He was known for his strict discipline and wonderful sense of humor, as is the case with many Zen masters and others who have reached such serenity, that joy springs naturally and in its many forms.
– Here, I have most humbly put into my own words a story I once read written by Zen Master Hsuan Hua.

Art – Hasegawa Tohaku and the concept of “Ma” 間

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“Pine trees” by Hasegawa Tohaku, dated 16th c. (Azuchi-Momoyama Period), Japan
– via the Tokyo National Museum.

This is one of two six-fold panels. Painted with ink on paper, it is considered one of the jewels of Japanese ink painting.

In Japanese and Chinese art, pines symbolise winter, wisdom and longevity, since they do not loose their needles with the cold.

By drawing pines in the mist, the author sought to illustrate the Zen concept of “Ma” 間, generally translated as “negative space,” where contradictory things can connect and co-exist. In other words, “Ma” is the delicate moment of total awareness when what is and what is not merge.

Looking at the kanji may help understand it better. The kanji is made of “gate” (門) under which is the “moon” 月. Together they denote the space filled when the light of the moon shines through a gate. Because of the light (what is), one becomes conscious of the space that is void (what is not).

On the practical level, the concept of “Ma,” which I find extremely delicate and simple, is to allow the creation of moments of quietness, of deep reflection and of detachment. It is creating the potential from which harmony and tranquility may prevail.

Kenza.

* In Japan, the concept of space is more subtle and complex than in Western thought. Space is seen as a place of connection, it is not useless emptiness since it is where time and things can pass through and exist. In many ways, the same notion can be found in the Chinese Tao idea that the emptiness within a bowl is what makes it a bowl as much as its material —without the space it could not hold liquid and hence would be useless. In Japan, four kinds of spaces are generally thought of: relational space (wa), location (tokoro), space that helps create connections to produce knowledge (ba) and negative space (ma). 

Namkhai Norbu

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“Realization is not knowledge about the universe, but the living experience of the nature of the universe.”

Chögyal Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche, Dzogchen Master (1938-2018).

It was a blessing, in the deepest sense of the term, to have received his teachings.

Here a short video. He was an amazing human being filled with light and wisdom, and an immense presence.

“Maybe” – a Taoist tale

In a small village in rural China, there was a wise and simple man who had a horse, a beautiful horse. One day, the horse ran away. Some villagers paid the man a visit, telling him how sorry they were and how sad it was that he had lost his horse. The man answered: “maybe.”

A few days later, the horse came back with seven beautiful wild horses accompanying him. The villagers went to see the man again and told him how wonderful that was. The man answered: “maybe.”

A few days later, the man’s son who tried to tame one of the wild horses, was thrown on the ground and broke his leg. The villagers who came to visit the injured young man told his father that it was indeed an unfortunate event. The man answered: “maybe.”

The following week, administrative officials came by the house to sign-up the young man into the Imperial Army. Being injured, he avoided conscription. The villagers rejoiced and told the father how lucky he was. The wise and simple man answered once again: “maybe.”


Notes:

On the story: This is an old Taoist story that I just put into my own words. The central idea is the one of not seeing advantages and/or disadvantages in things, in not weighting actions and things, in not qualifying them as good or bad. It is fundamental to Taoism. The great Taoist Master Lieh-Tzu (China 4th c. BCE) who lived a few centuries after Lao Tse (China, 6th c. BCE), the author of the “Tao Te Ching,” use to meditate on the “neutrality” of things as a way to go beyond them. The practicality of it as illustrated in the story, is to avoid anxiety by imposing or bending things with our mind.

As the “Tao Te Ching” says:

“When people see some things as beautiful,
other things become ugly.
When people see some things as good,
other things become bad.
Being and non-being create each other.”
(Ref: No. 2 of the “Tao Te Ching,” trans. by S. Mitchell, 1988)