Friday, April 15, 2011

Flowers in Empty Air

Here is an excerpt from a teisho (dharma talk) of a Zen teacher in Ottawa, Ven. Anzan Hosshin Roshi. 
Note for those not familiar: the reference in the last line to "put your hands in the mudra" is to assuming a formal sitting meditation position used in Zen. The opening quote is from the Surangama Sutra:
"It is like a person with clouded eyes
seeing flowers in empty air.
When the disease of cloudy eyes is cured,
the flowers in empty air vanish."

Your presumptions about yourselves as selves cloud your eyes like cataracts and so you see things that are just not there. Sometimes they might indeed be beautiful like flowers. But more often they are much more threatening: like flesh eating flowers looming around you and images of scowling faces and fear of plots and rejections, feeling unloved and unlovable, and loving someone for what you want them to be and hating someone for not being what you want them to be and on and on. Self-image clouds the eyes, dims the ears, numbs the body and dreams its nightmares of hope and fear throughout the day and night. What we hope for is an hallucination that eludes and tortures us, what we fear is a phantasm that can take any form from a telephone call to a telephone that doesn't ring to saying the wrong thing to a wordless gasp that we wake up in the morning with.
As attention narrows and fixates, discursive storylines that fit the edges of that narrowing squirm into place and fill what is experienced with meanings that seem certain because they fit so well. Anything can seem to be true if the information that would contradict it is simply ignored. When we practise opening fixation we find that many if not yet most of our presumptions begin to fall away because without that narrowness there is nothing to hold them in place. It can even seem to make sense to shove our heads back into the mouth of the flesh eating flower of our fantasy because, well, we grew up with it. The bite of the acids is so familiar it seems like the smell of mom's home cooking. We are so addicted to grasping after and pushing away the fleurs du mal of our delusions that we don't know what to do with our hands without them.
So Sengcan says, "What are you? Crazy? Stop that. Put your hands in the mudra. Sit up straight."

- excerpted from Ven. Anzan Hoshin roshi, beginning teisho 13: “Satori and Fleurs de Mal,” from the series "Without Difficulty: Commentaries on Jianzhi Sengcan's Xinxin Ming: Words on Trusting Awareness,” Monday, May 15th, 2006.

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