Wednesday, January 17, 2018


by Elihu Genmyo Smith
Seeing the morning star light the Buddha awakened. In the Sutra he states “I and all beings together awakened as the way”. What is the awakening of seeing morning star light?
What is light awakening?

What is together awakening?

Master Yunmen states “Everyone is light. When you look for it you don’t see it, it is dark, obscure. What is the light?”

He answered on behalf of the assembled, “the kitchen pantry and the main gate.” He later said, “a good thing is not as good as no-thing.” (Case 86, Pi Yen Lu/Blue Cliff Record)

Everyone is light, in the midst of light - always, this brightness. Unfortunately, looking for a fixed thing or a fixed idea, especially in how I should be, how others should be, how the universe should be, gets us in trouble.

What of facing cancer or a stroke? Conceptually, one can say moving-waves light, moving-waves non-self, interdependent interbeing. If I treat illness or ageing losing of abilities as something separate and a cause of upset, treat encountering others whom we find “difficult” as not my life and a fault in how it should be, much less reacting with anger or fear, this dualistically limits life and creates problems. Darkening unclear vision, unable to hear sounds, weakness – when these arise can we embrace this moment as is, this light wave? What of the “unreasonable” or “nasty” person, events at a distance we do not “like”, believe are “wrong” or “evil”? This life is our opportunity and yet, believed ideas about conditions and events inside-outside, and reactions based on them, especially anger and depression, may cut this boundless life and hinder compassionate responding. Do you notice this in your life? What are your reactions to changing circumstances, to others? What do you do when you notice this?

Because of our tendency of believing reactions and fear, the Tathagata states, “Abiding nowhere, heart-mind comes forth” (Diamond Sutra); produce heart-mind without abiding anywhere. Therefore, when there is abiding, holding, believing good or bad, this moment requires practice effort. How can discovering abiding make possible non-abiding? What is experiencing/zazening abiding nowhere?

The 6th Ancestor asks, “Thinking neither good nor bad, what is your original face (before your parents were born)?”What is your practice with reactions to changes? What to do when believing good or bad? What is experiencing thinking neither good nor bad? Does abiding of itself cease abiding, maybe even ceasing and desisting?

The Tathagata says “all these thoughts are not thoughts. Therefore they are called thoughts. Why, Subhuti? Because past thoughts are intangible, present thoughts are intangible, and future thoughts are intangible.” Is this so for you? Is this not so – how? What is believed, made tangible and held to as thoughts? What are your practice efforts and supports when believing and making tangible thoughts? Though we may say “likes and dislikes are empty of fixed self, no point in anger, fear or disputes” - and yet, is there anger, disputes and desires for retaliation arising? How do you practice with this?

Zazening is intimacy this moment light, experiencing universe–paraphrasing a dedication, “myriad waves endless dimensions.” This breath, this experiencing life, is our non-abiding opportunity. Experiencing, non-abiding abiding, there can be noticing beliefs or reactions arising. We need not be blinded by the self-centered attachments or reactions to changing. What assists you in noticing held thoughts-beliefs about seeing in the midst of changing circumstances? When do you notice believing the forms you attach to life?

Inhabiting this intimacy is our ongoing practice. Thus, we live as this moment - not because of some idea about emptiness or interbeing interdependence but being this life. Form of non-form is exactly this life, and is the opportunity to manifest this. So the Tathagata states, “As far as ‘all dharmas’ are concerned, Subhuti, all of them are dharma-less. That is why they are called ‘all dharmas.’”

In the introduction to this Pi Yen Lu case Master Yuanwu comments about Yunmen, “he holds the world fast without the slightest leak, he holds the myriad flows without keeping a drop.” Not keeping a drop, not losing a drop, not sticking to even a drop. Usually we hold onto beliefs and habits of body mind, to various flows, and in holding miss this moment.

Master Tenkei Denson comments: “Simply not eating with your nose is everyone’s light.” Isn’t that nice? We all are so! Not something special or extra; yet so often we miss this life we are, we do not live this moment. Yunmen is straightforward - being the morning starlight, Buddha says, “All beings are wisdom and perfection of Tathagata.” “Everyone is brightness,” every one of us. Not because of doing something special like practicing. But when looking for it, making it this and not that, you may be in trouble, missing what cannot be missed. To paraphrase Master Dogen - because practice is in realization, ongoing practice effort is exactly this realization; in accord with circumstances we see this clearly.

Being this moment is taking care of this moment, cooking, listening, responding. Thinking, analyzing, are also this wonderful functioning. Life death is so. In this very life we are seemingly bound and in this very life we are seemingly liberated.

Master Changsha says “The whole universe …is everyday speech of a practitioner. The whole universe… is the whole body of a practitioner. The whole universe…is the brightness of self. The whole universe…exists within the brightness of self. In the whole universe…there is no one who is not themselves.” Reflect for a moment on conditions functioning – is there something that you are sure is not the brightness of self?

Trying to see, you don’t see, you can’t see. You can’t see the brightness, only brightness sees brightness! Only light sees light! Being light, it is easy to respond. Or, being darkness. Darkness isn’t “bad,” just be this light darkness.

Our practice is light; according to circumstances we awaken to this, as this light that we are. But don’t think light is out there, special or different from dark. What is light? Not my light, not your light - no one else’s. This is sitting here together, practicing together. The point is simple; yours to actualize.

Dogen says “Practicing and experiencing this brightness, we become Buddhas, sit as Buddhas, experience as Buddhas.” He also says, “The brightness of the hundred weeds is already their roots, stem, twigs, leaves, fruit, flowers, light, color; never something added on or taken away.” Living and dying is the going and coming of brightness, not more or less - no birth, no death. Being brightness, whether we “know it” or not, enables us to taste, see and realize this. And yet, the “more” that we do so, the “more” we manifest this.

Of course, expressions like “more” may make it seem like a matter of more and less. To paraphrase Dogen, practice and experiencing are not non-existent, they are brightness being tainted. Practice is always exactly where you are. Exactly where you are is the whole of the brightness, and there is ongoing practice effort – including seeing where you refuse to be brightness. Doing so, right here, ordinary functioning is brightness revealing itself, revealing our self.

© 2018 Elihu Genmyo Smith
(earlier version in Everything is the Way by EGS)