We’re in a time that is difficult, but it is our time—and difficulty is not the only thing going on. Creativity is also present, but it is easy to be crazy right now. The old masters understood this situation. September 5, 2021.
We’re in a time that is difficult, but it is our time—and difficulty is not the only thing going on. Creativity is also present, but it is easy to be crazy right now. The old masters understood this situation—”Stop the fighting across the river!”—a koan from Bukkho, during a time of war and the invasions of Genghis Khan.
A great minister asked, “I’ve been reading the sutras—what is meant by, ‘A fierce wind has blown the ship off course, setting it drifting toward the land of the Rakshasas’?”
The teacher responded, “Why ask something like that?”
The great minister’s face went pale with that response.
And the teacher repeated, “A fierce wind has blown the ship off course, setting it drifting toward the land of the Rakshasas!”
The minister understood.
Demons can be overwhelming, or gnawing away at you. A koan can be like annoying dogs, tugging at you for attention. It pops up, and points things out when you are caught! It just appears, and we find it is good to spend time with the demons—they are all of us.
Also, the merest awakening is all awakenings. Noticing the smallest of things is important. Forgetting the self can come through beauty. Or a self appears where you might have hidden blame.
The mind is a great artist, ceaselessly creating and assessing problems. The defeat of your own intentions is the gate! The territory of the koan is finding the delicious helplessness of the mind and body, and settling into that—it’s the robe of the moment.
Distant Regard, by Tony Hoagland
If I knew I would be dead by this time next year
I believe I would spend the months from now till then
writing thank-you notes to strangers and acquaintances,
telling them, “You really were a great travel agent,”
or “I never got the taste of your kisses out of my mouth.”
or “Watching you walk across the room was part of my destination.”
It would be the equivalent, I think,
of leaving a chocolate wrapped in shiny foil
on the pillow of a guest in a hotel–
“Hotel of earth, where we resided for some years together,”
I start to say, before I realize it is a terrible cliche, and stop,
and then go on, forgiving myself in a mere split second
because now that I’m dying, I just go
forward like water, flowing around obstacles
and second thoughts, not getting snagged, just continuing
with my long list of thank-yous,
which seems to naturally expand to include sunlight and wind,
and the aspen trees which gleam and shimmer in the yard
as if grateful for being soaked last night
by the irrigation system invented by an individual
to whom I am quietly grateful.
Outside it is autumn, the philosophical season,
when cold air sharpens the intellect;
the hills are red and copper in their shaggy majesty.
The clouds blow overhead like governments and years.
It took me a long time to understand the phrase “distant regard,”
but I am grateful for it now,
and I am grateful for my heart,
that turned out to be good, after all;
and grateful for my mind,
to which, in retrospect, I can see
I have never been sufficiently kind.