The non-action of the Sage is really unceasing activity.
His characteristic is eternal and intense activity.
His stillness is like the apparent stillness
of a very fast-rotating top.
Its extreme speed cannot be followed by the eye and
so it appears to be still.
This must be explained, as people generally mistake
the stillness of the Sage for inertness.
To know the Truth
Of one's own Self
Is the way to be liberated
From all ignorance,
Its delusion of bondage,
And its consequent suffering.
Ignorance is merely
An inverted view
Of the one ever-same Existence,
An inverted attempt
to know the Reality of the Self.
Samsara is Brahman seen unclearly;
Ego is the Self seen unclearly.
Brahma-nirvana is extinguishments
Of the notion there is a samsara.
Realization is knowing
The non existence of the ego.
Liberation is freedom
From the notion that there is bondage.
To destroy samsara,
Destroy the ego.
To destroy the ego,
Know the Self.
To know the Self is
To know the Truth
This way and that way
I tried to keep the pail of water together,
hoping the weak bamboos
would never break
But suddenly the bottom fell out:
no more water
no more moon in the water
and emptiness in my hand!
When other thoughts arise, one should not pursue them, but should inquire: 'To whom do they arise?' It does not matter how many thoughts arise. As each thought arises, one should inquire with diligence, "To whom has this thought arisen?". The answer that would emerge would be "To me". Thereupon if one inquires "Who am I?", the mind will go back to its source; and the thought that arose will become quiescent. With repeated practice in this manner, the mind will develop the skill to stay in its source.
Since 1957, scientists have known that all chemical elements (other than the simplest hydrogen and helium) were created not In the Beginning — not at the moment of the Big Bang — but very much later, and in the depths of massive stars. All the carbon and calcium in our bodies, all the silicon and oxygen in sand and computer chips — all these elements, every single atom, came into existence inside a star.
Imagine that! Inside a star! For many of us moved by the cosmic epic offered by science, there is no realization more magnificent than this: We know that we are stardust — recycled stardust from the generations of stars that preceded the birth of our own sun. Only stars at least eight times the size of our sun can take this path of elemental creation. And those that do are so busy burning hydrogen and helium into the full spectrum of elements that they blaze and die in a mere 10 million years, rather than the expected 10 billion year life span of our own modest star.
It is one thing to create the palette of elements; it is another to launch them into the galaxy. A star that forged the Periodic Table as far as iron will collapse upon itself. Then, rebounding in a supernova explosion of unimaginable brightness, the remaining heavy elements churn into existence — all the gold-leaf in an ancient Koran, all the silver in a Hanukkah menorah, all the copper in a bronze Buddha, all the tin in Christmas tinsel.
All the complex atoms in your body and everything around you were at one time streaming away from just such a dying star. This is truly a miracle of Creation. The birth of chemical elements manifests divine creativity, however one may think of God. Does it not make sense to celebrate this common reality?
The Buddha Bowl
Emperor Wu had an ancient treasure, a bowl made from the skull of a revered Buddhist master. Whenever he drank tea from the delicate polished skull, he felt at one with the wisdom of the ages. It was his "Buddha Bowl."
One day a nun from the nearby monastery was serving the emperor his tea. Fu was a rather dreamy Buddhist nun and, on this particular day, she spilled a few drops of tea on the emperor's hand. The hot liquid burned. The bowl fell, shattering into numberless pieces. Fu stared at the white bone bits on the black stone floor. "Like stars strewn through the night" she mused. Then she heard Emperor Wu shouting: "My precious Buddha bowl, gone, because of your clumsiness!"
Fu looked up and met the emperor's eyes. " You must find me another," he warned, "or I will have your skull, nun Fu!" Kicking aside the bits of broken skull, Emperor Wu stormed out.
Fu returned to her monastery, approached her teacher's door, knocked three times as prescribed , and soon heard the answering bell admitting her. She bowed. Then she told of her predicament.
The two nuns sat in silence. The Zen teacher spoke a koan for Fu:
FIND YOUR GREAT SELF.
THE BUDDHA BOWL OF THE STARS
SHALL APPEAR FOR YOU TO USE AT WILL.
Fu bowed and left. The koan rang in her ears. As she repeated it, the words echoed within her skull. They reverberated through her bones.
The Emperor's official tea ceremony was to be held at the next full moon. When Fu went into the monastery garden, she saw the white sliver of the new moon appear in the west as the sun set. She sat zazen into the night until even the dimmest stars appeared. Each evening for the next twelve days, Fu practiced zazen in the monastery garden, breathing her koan into her bones.
By day the nun was assigned by her teacher to work in the little Zen garden. There she raked patterns into the sand around the carefully placed rocks. Sunlight glinted off the myriad bits of quartz — of silica — at her feet. "Daytime stars," thought Fu.
Each evening Fu watched the stars appear and scatter themselves into deep space. Breathing in the dark, sitting without end, she surrendered herself to the koan. It was taking her deeper and deeper into the emptiness of space, to the time before the light of stars was born.
Body and mind dropping off into astonishing Radiance . . .
Everything arising together out of that Radiance . . .
The Starburst breaking open the wonder of the Universe.
Fu herself became this Vastness. She became Vastness watching Itself unfold. Fu was light and air and water and earth. She became the Universe of stones and bones, sunshine and sand.
On full moon day, Fu shaved her head. She softly touched her smooth round skull. She whispered her koan: " Find your Great Self. The Buddha Bowl of the stars shall appear for you to use at will." It was time to return to Emperor Wu's palace and prepare for the tea ceremony. The sun was setting.
Emperor Wu appeared in his finest silks, welcomed his noble guests, and took his seat. He held out his hand, waiting for the new Buddha Bowl.
Fu stood before him, her hands clenched at her sides. Suddenly she flung open her fingers. Sand scattered across the floor. At that moment the light of the full moon shone through the eastern window on to the black stone floor. The sand glistened as brightly as stars in the night sky.
"Receive the Buddha Bowl of the stars," spoke Fu.
"Know it as your very Self.
Star, Sand, Stone, Bone —
All take refuge in the one Being of the Universe.
Will you take refuge in the Self which is not separate, but is one?"
Fu bowed deeply. She waited until she heard the rustling of silks. When she rose, Emperor Wu was there, serving her a cup of tea.
See also a few koans