Tuesday, February 23, 2016


Doorways -- Italy
The Chinese Master Yunmen once asked his student Dongshan, "Why do you wander about, now west of the river, now south of the lake?"  Yunmen was asking about a common type of human wandering, familiar to anyone who has ever watched his or her own mind for even a few minutes.  We are endlessly addicted to chasing after thoughts, moving backwards and forwards into the past and into the future, never being fully where we actually are.

Many things have been occurring recently in my life that are unsettling.  Strange weather, friends getting seriously ill, people dying.  None of this is unusual, and in many ways I am lucky, spared from great disasters.  But still, I notice my mind wandering, to the past in regret and to the future in worry.   Moments of settling into this present moment are so precious, but not permanent.  I find myself longing to be settled physically, emotionally and cognitively, to be at home in this ever-changing world.

And perhaps this is the whole point of Zen practice:  to be comfortable in the wandering itself; to be at home in every place.

Yunmen's words caused Dongshan to have a great awakening.  This is what he said to his teacher:  "Someday I'll go where there's no one around and build myself a hut.  I'll store no rice and plant no vegetables but will receive worthy friends coming and going from all directions.  Pulling out their pegs and yanking out their wedges, snatching away their grubby hats and ripping off their smelly robes.  I'll make them clean and free, I'll make them people with nothing to do."

Yunmen responded, "You're no larger than a coconut, yet how big your mouth is!"

Dongshan is talking about my own job description!  Here at the Temple we gather, gradually becoming people with nothing to do.  And then, off we go again!  Every moment is a doorway to the Great Matter.