|Fado performers in Porto, Portugal|
I just read a lovely blog post from the Zen teacher Jon Joseph, about the following koan. Thanks for the pointer to this, Jon!
Wuzu said, “Why did Bodhidharma come from the West? The cypress tree in the garden!”
At these words Yuanwu was suddenly enlightened. He went outside the cottage and saw a rooster fly to the top of a railing, beat his wings and crow loudly. He said to himself, "Isn’t this the sound?"
Full of gratitude, Yuanwu then took incense back into Wuzu's room. He told of his discovery and wrote:
"The golden duck vanishes into the golden brocade,
with a country song the drunk comes home from the woods,
only the young beauty knows about her love affair."
Wuzu said, “I share your joy."
~ Pacific Zen Miscellaneous Koans
Sometimes when I look around at this world, all I see is suffering. I could give you the long list, but you already know it. Some of the suffering is personal, some global, and everything can feel like a recipe for doom and despair. How can we practice in the face of all of this?
Without ignoring what is difficult, we can sit in the presence of everything that arises, and when we do this, our attention can expand from a narrow focus on our pain to a wider view, which includes every single thing. In this space, the call of a mourning dove may open our hearts. Or the laughter of a child at play or a singer giving everything she has to open her own mouth to reveal her wild spirit. Or, really, any sound, or sight, or smell, taste or touch. The world offers itself to us, and when we receive it, we share in the joy that is always present, even when things seem especially dire. Here is a comment on this possibility by the poet Jack Gilbert. Whether it's the sound of a triangle, a fado singer or a rooster, open your ears to hear it. Let the heart be soothed by simple things, and know this shared joy.
Waiting And Finding, by Jack Gilbert
While he was in kindergarten, everybody wanted to play
the tom-toms when it came time for that. You had to
run in order to get there first, and he would not.
So he always had a triangle. He does not remember
how they played the tom-toms, but he sees clearly
their Chinese look. Red with dragons front and back
and gold studs around that held the drumhead tight.
If you had a triangle, you didn’t really make music.
You mostly waited while the tambourines and tom-toms
went on a long time. Until there was a signal for all
triangle people to hit them the right way. Usually once.
Then it was tom-toms and waiting some more. But what
he remembers is the sound of the triangle. A perfect,
shimmering sound that has lasted all his long life.
Fading out and coming again after a while. Getting lost
and the waiting for it to come again. Waiting meaning
without things. Meaning love sometimes dying out,
sometimes being taken away. Meaning that often he lives
silent in the middle of the world’s music. Waiting
for the best to come again. Beginning to hear the silence
as he waits. Beginning to like the silence maybe too much.