” Confused by thoughts,
we experience duality in life.
Unencumbered by ideas,
the enlightened see the one Reality.”
- Hui Neng 6th Zen patriarch
Hi folks. I have been playing with a thought I call Poetic Liberation. Let me explain. The enlightenment experience has a deeply poetic quality in several ways. The intensity, joy and beauty of the experience cannot be captured by intellectual dissertation. Only poetry can somewhat successfully express this type of experience. We can see the huge volume of poetry that has come from many of the great mystics in all the great mystic traditions. I only need point to Rumi in the Sufi tradition, Milarepa in the Tibetan tradition, Tagore in the Hindu tradition and St Francis in the Christian tradition. There are whole web sites devoted to mystic poets if you want to read some of this wonderful poetry. Poetry has this wonderful quality of being able to evoke the deep feelings and understanding of the mystic experience.
The relationship between poetry and the enlightenment experience is even deeper then the ability of poetry to express feelings and thoughts. The enlightenment experience causes this amazing transformation in the way the individual thinks about things. This transformation is deeply poetic because it creates a deeply metaphorical way of thinking. With the experience of the non-dual we all of a sudden realize that the essential duality of language is a problem. We divide up our perception of the world with words. As long as we hold to the fixed meaning of words not only can we not express non-duality but our attachment to fixed meanings prevents our experience of the non-dual. Enlightenment liberates us from the fixed meanings of words. but in some way though, we must first liberate ourselves from the fixed meanings of words before we open ourselves to the enlightenment experience. How do we do this? Well just sitting for many many hours is a good way. We sit until in some sense we forget the meaning of words but actually we sit until our mind becomes quiet and we just stop using words. There is also another way which is used in Zen. It is called Koan practice. This is to confront the student with an enigmatic question which will only cause endless frustration if he sticks to the fixed meaning of words. Combine this with meditation and now we have a powerful tool which can cut through the impediment of fixed meanings and liberate our use of language. With this liberation words can now express the metaphoric quality of enlightened understanding.
What is the metaphoric quality of the enlightenment experience? It is to see unity when most people see just duality. It is to understand non-duality in the world of duality. In this understanding each individual thing is just a temporary manifestation of the non-dual and thereby becomes a metaphor for the non-dual. In this understanding as each individual thing becomes a metaphor for the non-dual it also becomes a metaphor for every other individual thing. Now seeing everything as a metaphor for everything just about makes verbal thought impossible. How can we verbally teach the non-dual Dharma? Now comes the innovation in teaching method that has made Zen Buddhism unique, the enigmatic use of language, the selective use of seemingly absurd metaphors.
The Zen master says, "Become one with the sound of the wind." How can I become one with the sound of the wind when we are two? The wind is one thing and I am something else. Some where there is an experience where the I and the wind become one. The experience is in front of us all the time but as long as we hold to a fixed meaning for "I" and "wind" never the two shall meet.
This web sight is named from a poetic couplet:
Sitting in the Moonwater Dojo
Tracing flowers in the sky
The Moon reflecting on still water is a common Zen metaphor. Still water represents a clear mind without the commotion of many thoughts like a polished mirror reflecting the reality around us. The Moon represents that reality around us but not as we normally see it with our active mind, but as a single whole the, undifferentiated oneness, the Absolute, Buddha. The Moomwater Dojo is a place of practice where we can sit and clearly experience the Oneness of reality. This might be thought of as a physical place but it also is a mental place that is free of any specific physical place. The Moonwater Dojo is our clear mind. The Moonwater Dojo is also the Absolute perspective where everything is Empty Then taking this metaphor even further the Moonwater Dojo is also the absolute, non-dual, Oneness The Moonwater Dojo is all of this and nothing, just a word, just a sound.
"Tracing flowers in the sky" another poetic image which has multiple metaphoric meanings. Flowers are sort of amazing. They are absolutely beautiful and very temporary. They open up, attract insects with their colors, and then in a day or a week or maybe a bit longer they wither and are gone. This is like our lives This is like the lives of all living things. And if we expand our time scale, all things are just temporary manifestations, mountains, rivers, civilizations. Everything is both a beneficiary and victim to the constant change we call reality. Everything is ephemeral. Everything is a flower in the Sky.
Sitting in the Moonwater Dojo, sitting with a clear mind, not attaching any dualistic thinking to any sensation, sensations reflect upon the clear consciousness like passing flowers. And a deeper understanding is present,, that of the non-dual and the flowers which cannot be separated from the non-dual. Sitting in the Moonwater Dojo, tracing flowers in the sky is the Absolute sitting in its own presence
The non-dual Absolute which contains everything, encompasses everything, is everything, including time and space, this Universe and all Universes, transcends everything, is beyond fixed definition, is beyond grasping, and yet, it's presence can be grasped with every flower in the sky.
This is enough for one blog so you will just have to wait as I continue this theme and write about the enigmatic and poetic use of language in Koans in the next blog