Tag Archive | Hongzhi

Is Openness the Antidote for Stagnation?

It seems that previous Zen cultures had some of the same concerns with stillness I do. In The Method of No-Method: The Chan Practice of Silent Illumination by Sheng Yen (p. 84):

“During his time, many people criticized Hongzhi and his Silent Illumination practice. They called people who sat in Silent Illumination ‘withered logs,’ and likened the state of clarity to stagnant water. The true state of Silent Illumination is vastly different than that. Although the mind is still and serene, it is lively and clear. So the state of Silent Illumination is likened to ever-flowing water, clear and transparent to the bottom. Because the mental state is like this, it is described as spiritually potent and vast, bright, and luminous.”

Clearly, others saw hazards back then that I am seeing now. To dismiss their observations addresses nothing.

I wish to help others and myself. I am looking for solutions in my life that I may turn around and help others. On page 35, Yen says, “We are most compassionate when we strive not for our own liberation but for the liberation of all beings. When no-self is realized, one can roam freely in samsara responding to the needs of sentient beings.” My feeling of what he is saying is that stagnation is unlikely when one is open to the sufferings of others. Like a spring meadow, while there may be utter silence, there is activity teeming within. Anyone spreading out a blanket for a picnic knows how close this activity really is to the surface. The meadow is not stagnant because it is affected by everything: breezes, the angle of the sun, humidity, and the activities of local critters. It is open and vibrant.

This openness is what I am guessing that Yen says makes stillness not stagnant. I relate this to people that I know that seem to live in the past, particularly at a moment when their lives seemed to stop. For example, I have a brother whose eldest daughter died in the 1990s. He and his wife moved out to the country with the settlement money and, as near as I can tell, checked out of the real world like a cheap motel. Going to their house gives me the heebie-jeebies. It is like stepping into a time capsule. The fresh air of current reality never blows in their world and I am still treated like I am twelve years old. Eeeuuuwwww. My family remains mystified as to why I don’t participate more in family events. I can barely deal with my current reality, let alone go time travelling for various holidays.

I am leery of some of this philosophy because it seems so passive and reactive. When I learn a lesson in my own life, I do not simply wish to help others respond likewise. Rather, I wish to help prevent others from going through my current situation at all. My desire is to be proactive so as to prevent suffering altogether when possible.

I feel like I have awakened rather abruptly in certain areas of my life, such as realizing that I am simply not up to taking care of my house by myself. How do I help others to wake up to whatever their situations may be? I don’t want others to go through what I am dealing with, if at all possible. How does this work?

Consistent Conduct

“Consistent conduct of a person of the Way, the perseverance of practice, of study of the self, of offering this very life as a ceaseless thread, is like the perseverance of clouds drifting across the boundlessness of the sky or like the moon’s unbiased illumination. There is no stumbling or resting, no loss of direction, no judgment. There is no effort amidst exhaustive relinquishing of limitations. With no grasping mind there is no possibility of attachment. With utter and complete freedom, there is a beginningless and endless journey.” The Flavor of Liberation, Dharma Discourse by Konrad Ryushin Marchaj, Sensei, From Cultivating the Empty Field, The Conduct of Moon and Clouds

This sounds like the choiceless awareness experience I’ve been contemplating, only from the inside.

I have the book Cultivating the Empty Field by Hongzhi Zhengjue. I love it. He is pre-Dogen. The book speaks from the perspective of equanimity. There is a Zen quote that expresses the spirit of the book (but is not from the book). “The great way is not difficult for those who have no preferences,” says Seng-T’san on the faith mind. I simply read from the book and feel spacious.

You are the sky and not the clouds; you are the moon’s unbiased illumination. Getting things done does not require drama.


Discontinuing Energy Leaks

“Just resting is like the great ocean accepting hundreds of streams all absorbed in one flavor. A practitioner of the way follows movement and responds to changes in total harmony. Moreover, haven’t you yourself established the mind that thinks up all the illusory conditions? This insight must be perfectly incorporated. Discontinue leaks and do not act on them.”
— Master Hongzhi
Cultivating the Empty Field

I have developed an interest in energy leaks. Energy is neither created nor destroyed. So…where did mine go? I sense a vicious cycle arising. I don’t have any energy, so things accumulate, and then I am overwhelmed and have no energy…

Leaks are everywhere: inefficiencies due to lack of organization, energy vampires, repeated traumata, emotional ambivalence, and chronic illness

One thing I do understand: when it comes to the story of my life, it is all made up, like the “illusory conditions” referred to.

I need to plug the leaks and not allow them to influence my behavior.

I guess I have my marching orders.