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“I, Together with the Great Earth . . .”
In our corner of the dharma we celebrate the Buddha’s Awakening on December 8. It’s good to remember Siddartha Gautama sitting under that tree, seeing the morning star, and understanding.
Keizan, in his account, tells us
“Shakyamuni Buddha saw the morning star, awakened to the way, and said, ‘I, together with the great earth and sentient beings, simultaneously attain the way.’”
I think of a sky filled with stars as dawn began. trees dotting a meadow in northern India where this man nearing middle age sits under one, hoping to figure it all out. He’s been doing this seven days and nights and the eighth day is dawning. Perhaps he dozes, then is startled awake. His head comes up and the first thing he sees is the bright morning star. In that moment of surprise and openness, he gets it.
Though he’s a solitary human being sitting under a tree, Gautama is not alone. He is part of all this. He realizes, as Keizan says, “When one lifts up a great net, all of its pieces are lifted up together.” When he understands, he is this whole universe understanding. Reality manifests awakening when Gautama awakens. Gautama awakens because reality has the possibility of awakening in it. They’re not quite the same, yet not separable, waking up together in the dawn under the stars, under a tree. They simultaneously awaken.
It doesn’t end there, though, just as it didn’t begin there. The net of interdependence spans both space and time. Keizan says we have become these lumps of flesh (“meatballs,” he calls us) that are Gautama’s eyes, the eyes of awakening. We are reality functioning in this moment and we wake up together.
All this is just a helpful way of thinking about things, though. In the last analysis, we let go of “I,” “Gautama,” and “together with” and just sit. We live our lives as just this moment manifesting awakening however it is, without thought of “I” and “waking up.” It’s noting special, just ordinary human beings and ordinary reality.
I’ll be celebrating Shakyamuni’s awakening with noon zazen – at 12:15 – on Wednesday. Come sit with me. If you don’t have the link, email us.
My version of the story is taken from Record of the Transmission of the Illumination by the Great Zen Master Keizan, tr. by T. Griffith Foulk (Tokyo: Sotoshu Shumucho, 2017), pp. 2 – 9
For an account that’s easier to lay hands on, see Thomas Cleary (tr.), Transmission of Light: Zen in the Art of Enlightenment by Master Keizan (San Francisco: North Point Press, 1990), pp. 3 – 5.
It’s also in Francis Cook ( tr.), The Record of Transmitting the Light: Zen Master Keizan’s Denkoroku (Los Angeles: Center Publications, 1991), pp. 27 – 30. I think Shambhala may have recently re-published this.
Monday Night Dharma – by Zoom – Monday nights , 7:00– 8:00 p.m. Contact us for the link.
Introduction to Zazen – by Zoom – Wednesday, December 15, 7:30 – 9:00 p.m. Contact us for the link.
December 12 – Sangha Meeting, following Dharma Talk (combined November meeting)
December 31 – zazen–7:30 – 10:40pm, Ryaku Fusatsu–10:40 – 11:10, noodles and social time–11:10pm – midnight
Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday
12:15 – 12:55 zazen
Tuesday evenings – 20 minute zazen periods
6:30 – 6:50 zazen
6:50 – 7:00 kinhin
7:00 – 7:20 zazen
7:20 – 7:30 kinhin
7:30 – 8:00 zazen
Wednesday and Thursday evenings – 40 minutes zazen periods
6:30 – 7:10 zazen
7:10 – 7:20 kinhin
7:20 – 8:00 zazen
Sunday zazen – by Zoom
9:00 – 9:40 sitting
9:45 – 10:15 dharma talk
10:15 – 11:00 check in and discussion
Quote of the week
Zen Is Right Here: Teaching Stories and Anecdotes of Shunryu Suzuki, author of Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind
by Shunryu Suzuki,
Edited by David Chadwick,