PZI Teacher Archives

Dragons of the Blue Cliff Retreat – Part 2: Hands & Eyes


How does the bodhisattva of compassion use all those hands and eyes? How do I express Guanyin? How is Guanyin showing up in my life? John Tarrant’s afternoon meditation & talk, Part 2 of this two-session Dragons of the Blue Cliff 1-Day Retreat. In the PZI Digital Temple, as recorded June 6, 2021.


Read Part 1 of this conversation


Guanyin is a good place to start our month. [June Intensive practice period] Guanyin takes many forms—she can appear anywhere as anyone.

Every time we meditate we’re stepping into the mystery. Every time we don’t meditate we remember the koans.

You pick up the koan path, you walk the path. It’s a practice, an alembic for a purification which comes with immersion in the vessel—in the sense that things get cooked and life becomes richer and more beautiful, not more stark.

Through the koan you experience your own connection to that which is great in all things. The ancient and archetypal images in koans describe the nature of consciousness; they speak of a mind and body which are seldom at ease with each other. The koans show us how to be human.

Koans were recorded in a time like ours. We want to believe, of our time, that things are finally coming together, going back to normal after this troubling year full of loss and divisiveness. But history tells us it is not coming together. This is the nature of human existence. This is it!

Our clever plans? Sure, that’s what we do. Beyond our clever plans, at work in the dark, there’s something greater than ourselves. Reaching in the dark behind us for something we cannot quite make out. We can rest in the mystery, like Bodhidharma.

“Who are you?”
“I don’t know.”

Something vast, transparent, infinite, and empty is carrying us. The touch of eternity is in everything we do. Hakuin said,

“When you scoop up the water the moon is in your hands.”

Afternoon Service:

Chanting can be pure, like birdcall. Out of the dark, chanting comes.

Heart Sutra: if Zen had a statement, it would be this. The Heart Sutra is made up of koans.

Small Group Dokusan:

How do I express Guanyin? How is Guanyin showing up in my life?

The hard thing you are in is just as mysterious as what you’re reaching for, which is also a mystery.

Reaching back… in time.

Reaching back… the koans are back there.

Reaching back… for ancestors.

Reaching back… don’t know.

Closing Words:

Guanyin is a motorcycle sound appearing, as hands and eyes in the one body. We’re being carried, letting life have us; we willingly play our part. Letting others’ pieces of awakening wash through all of us.

It’s good to have something real from the heart and soul.

Read Part 1 of this conversation.

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