Thursday, April 9, 2015

Zhaozhou's Country Bumpkin

From the Blue Cliff Record, Case 57:  A monk asked Zhaozhou,  "The supreme way is not difficult, it simply dislikes choosing.  What is non-choosing?"  Zhaozhou said, "Above the heavens, beneath the heavens, I am alone and the honored one."  The monk persisted, "Isn't that still choosing?"  Zhaozhou said, "You country bumpkin!  Where is the choosing?"

This little koan has stayed with me over the past few weeks.  It's been a time of difficulties and losses, deaths of unborn babies and  beloved old friends.  Expectations have been dashed in a variety of ways.   And how is this different from my usual life?   Perhaps the succession of events has revealed more clearly than usual the impossibility of maintaining the delusion that everything is just fine.  The bareness  of the distorted thinking behind wishing things were different has been exposed over and over.  Sometimes it's just like that.

The persistence of winter at Cook's Pond, Worcester
The third Chinese ancestor, Sengcan, wrote the poem quoted by the monk in this story,  the Xinxin Ming, usually translated as "Verses on the Faith Mind."    In Boundless Way Zen we call it "The Heart of True Entrusting."   The first line, quoted here, appears in a number of stories about Zhaozhou.  Another translation is, "The Great Way is easy.  Just avoid picking and choosing."

But how do we avoid picking and choosing?   What is non-choosing?  In some respects, it really is easy.  Just stop fighting reality.  Allow everything to unfold the way it will.  Change and death are inevitable, and our limited power to control the universe is revealed to us regularly.

Today it snowed again.  I want to point out that it is April 9. Worcester continues to be the American city with the most snowfall -- another dusting added today.  How can I non-choose the weather? How can I beat my own heart?  When I surrender to what is here, something is revealed.  Do ice-covered branches represent the spring? Today, yes.

No comments:

Post a Comment