Saturday, June 17, 2006

Give a hoot, don't pollute

If you've been following this blog chances are you have seen me use the following teachings again and again (and again)...

'Affliction is Bodhi and the cycle of birth and death is Nirvana'
-Platform Sutra of Hui Neng

'Form is no other than emptiness, emptiness no other than form; form is exactly emptiness, emptiness exactly form'
-Heart Sutra

In very few words, brief phrases such as these convey core observations of (not-exclusively) Buddhist wisdom, so they crop up again and again at different times in my writing, helping to take different contexts and levels of meaning of grand discourses and long theses on 'Buddhist' philosophy or insight and show that they in fact simply point them back to the basics. Such mindful elegance is rare, and it is both a check to the ego and a boost to our confidence when we see that such gems continually reflect through myriad musings and silent illumination. Another to add to the list of phrases which gets repeated enough and keeps revealing more and more the longer I ponder:

'The Way does not require cultivation, just don't pollute it.'
-Chan ancestor Mazu
(if you like, you can substitute 'Tao' for 'Way' and 'Zen Patriarch' for 'Chan ancestor', it makes no difference).

I originally used the phrase to cap the post Mountains and Rivers. In that context, the emphasis was on the first part of the sentence. Obviously, that's only half of the story.

'The Way does not need cultivaton' - Buddhanature is always there. Reality-as-it-is. Suchness and Thatness. Emptiness and form. You don't need to cultivate what is, just dismantle the delusion of self-made barriers built up in your mind that keep you from accepting/realizing what's there. This is an important lesson to keep in mind in our practice. But what about the rest of the teaching?

'Just don't pollute it' - At first, this seems to be equating concepts such as delusion with pollution. This connection may tempt us into thinking that we need to declare our mind a kind of karmic superfund site. How many lifetimes of generating merit through diligent cultivation of the Dharma will it take to purify our mind?



Umm...'diligent cultivation'??? Didn't we just read that 'The Way does not require cultivation'? And, if we really equate delusion with pollution, then doesn't that mean that pollution is delusion? Only as real as we make it? After all, the Way is not created or destroyed, no tainted or pure, not increasing or decreasing - so then how can it possibly be polluted? It can't. Hence 'Just don't pollute it' isn't an admonition to not pollute per se but a reminder that we create our own fictitious obstacles - in a sense, it's reminding us 'Don't let your ego get in the Way.'

Sorry, but I couldn't pass up a good Chan pun, and it does help clarify the teaching ;o)

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