"During war in pacific, a haiku by Soen Nakagawa Roshi:
Spring 1943 Senka tada tera no shundei fumu bakari
News of victorious battle,
I just shuffle along in the mud,
At this spring temple.
Spring 1944 Senka tada tera no shundei fumu bakari
News of disastrous battle,
I just shuffle along in the mud,
At this spring temple.”
(from Endless Vow, pp.79-80)
One word, a kanji which is a “homonym”, ( i.e. that sounds the same) is changed between the two haiku, between the two years, between the two sets of events. With this one so-called changed “fact” between the two haiku, victorious to disastrous, the two haiku helps us clarify actualizing practice, actualizing life.
Life events, this ongoing change Buddha nature that we live, can be the occasion for all sorts of reactions and attachments – and therefore may result in arising of satisfactions, dissatisfactions and suffering, and arising of all sorts of entanglements of anger, greed and confusion. Our practice enables and supports experiencing this arising passing, noticing entanglement, noticing self-centeredness in various forms, and supports our Bodhisattva effort with these entanglements self-centeredness.
In the recent elections, your candidates or issues may have “won”, may have “lost.”
How have you lived winning?
How have you lived losing?
In the midst of winning, in the midst of being defeated, so-called gaining or losing, victory or disaster, what has been the truth of life - the truth of your Bodhisattva vows, your Bodhisattva response? How do you nurture this?
We encounter and have relations with many people, some close or far, some friends and family, some strangers. We hear of changing circumstances, of events and actions in national politics or the world, even hear of sports results -all sorts of circumstances where we believe that I, we, they, won or were defeated. We are certain that we gained or lost, they gained or lost. Please reflect on where this might have been so for you. And what are the consequences of your winning, of your losing?
When you gain, what is gained?
When you lose, what is lost?
In daily life, people say or do things, and we believe that this - this speaking, this intention, this in-attention - means that I, we, won or were defeated, gained or lost.
Believing this seems natural to us, seems the natural responses of this human biological social psychological being we are.
In the coming weeks or in the past weeks, some of your “teams” “won” or “lost”, some of your “causes” won or lost; what do you discover with this? How do respond?
Family, friends, causes and circumstances, what we want from others, want of our self – all may result in judgments and evaluations of gaining and losing, winning and being defeated. Believing and entangling in these, not seeing clearly what this is, manifests in unsatisfactoriness, suffering and harming.
Do you notice when and what reactive habits are occurring? Do you notice what you believe and do as a result of these beliefs and attachments? What assists your noticing, experiencing, responding?
When do you believe you do not have? What is this? When do you believe you have? What is this?
Loss or defeat can seem emotionally physically painful, and winning or gaining have other physical emotional aspects. Being this, experiencing this, right here is this practice life.
When you are feeling strong, energetic, is this gaining?
When you are feeling tired, worn out or even ill, is this losing?
The Buddha states, “Gain arises for an uninstructed run-of-the-mill person. He does not reflect, ‘Gain has arisen for me. It is inconstant, stressful, and subject to change.’ He does not discern it as it has come to be.
Loss arises for an uninstructed run-of-the-mill person. He does not reflect, ‘Loss has arisen for me. It is inconstant, stressful, and subject to change.’ He does not discern it as it has come to be….
His mind remains consumed with the gain. His mind remains consumed with the loss…He welcomes the arisen gain and rebels against the arisen loss…As he is thus engaged in welcoming and rebelling…He is not released, I tell you, from suffering and stress.
…Now, gain arises for a well-instructed disciple of the noble ones. He reflects, ‘Gain has arisen for me. It is inconstant, stressful, and subject to change.’ He discerns it as it actually is.
Loss arises for a well-instructed disciple of the noble ones. He reflects, ‘Loss has arisen for me. It is inconstant, stressful, and subject to change.’ He discerns it as it actually is….
His mind does not remain consumed with the gain. His mind does not remain consumed with the loss. He does not welcome the arisen gain, or rebel against the arisen loss...As he thus abandons welcoming and rebelling…He is released, I tell you, from suffering and stress.” (Angutarra Nikaya, 8-6)
Please reflect – in winning, in being defeated, in so-called gaining or losing, - how have your recent responses been the truth of life? What is your Bodhisattva vow efforts?
Clarifying “forgetting self”, clarifying “emptiness”, what is this moment gain? Right here, what is emptiness of five conditions? What is this moment loss?
It is important to notice our ways of thinking, speaking, attaching or believing. Being present, being practice efforts - what do you notice - what is experiencing, responding?
Each of you have your own life practice, particularly when noticing habits, attachments, entanglement. It may be experiencing, being just here. It may be breathing; may be bowing; may be something else – but it is your effort, your being, your doing - and this ongoing practice enables and supports clarification, supports skillful and appropriate effort. This ongoing practice is yours to cultivate.
We have many names for potentially entangling reactive habits; “I have”, “I do not have”, “I won” “we lost”, “we gained”, “I lost”.
One way we can practice with this is:
When you “win”, look - “who” won?
When you “lost”, look - “who” lost?
When you “have”, look - “who” has?
When you “do not have”, look – “who” does not have?
Before gain or loss, who?
We are living arising passing. Please clarify this moment moment ongoing practice of your win, your defeat, your gain, your loss, your having, your not having. Are we consumed by gain, consumed by loss?
To encourage our practice, here is Case 26 of Mumonkan (Chinese –Wumen-kuan).
“TWO MONKS ROLL UP THE BLINDS
Hogen of Seiryo (Ch - Fayan of Qingliang) came to the hall before the midday meal. A monk asked for instruction. Hogen pointed to the bamboo blinds. At this moment two monks rose and rolled the blinds up. Hogen observed, "One gain, one loss." (alternate translation, “One has it, one missed.”)
Now tell me, which one gained and which one lost? If any of you has one eye, he will see through the failure of Hogen of Seiryo. However, do not inquire in connection to gain or loss.
When the blinds are rolled up, the great sky is bright and clear.
The great sky is not yet in accord with our teaching.
It is better to throw sky and everything away.
Then it is so lucid and perfect that not even a wind blows through.”
Here I add, “Nevertheless, flowers fall amid our longing, and weeds spring up amid our loathing – and that is all.”(Dogen, GenjoKoan)
© 2016 Elihu Genmyo Smith