It’s past midnight
The moon has not yet risen.
In the deep dark we see a face from long ago
But you don’t recognize her.
Don’t think that’s strange.
You find yourself to be an old woman
You’re sleeping late.
When you wake up you come upon an ancient mirror
And you see your own face clearly.
Try not to lose sight of it again and go chasing shadows.
You’re in the middle of nothing
There is a road that has no dust
Just don’t mention the names of sages and emperors
Then you’ll be more eloquent than they were in ancient times.
Two swords are crossed.
There’s no way to retreat.
You’re a lotus in the fire
You can’t help it
You’re determined to go higher.
Not deciding it is or it isn’t
Do you have the courage to be at peace with it?
Everyone wants to leave the endless changes
But when we finish bending and fitting our lives
We come and sit by the fire.
—from the Record of Dongshan, The Five Ranks (Chapter 114)
John Tarrant tells a story about meeting whatever arises, in preparation for PZI’s first in-person retreat since Covid, and for other unexpected encounters. Meeting your true self: Turning toward the fire gives you your life. And, “Meeting the old familiar face from long ago,” from the first of Dongshan’s Five Ranks. The only now we have is ours, as intense and real as it might be. So, have your life! Being lost is better than being right. Recorded June 12, 2022. 9-minute video.
PZI Zen Online- Dongshan’s 4th Rank-‘Two crossed swords..’a timely image for unrest, protests, the dance of the vast and undifferentiated natural order of the universe is always calling us even in distress. Everything is expressing itself, demonstrators are streams moving in flow to a river. Not a thing out of place. As recorded June 8, 2020.
So there’s something about where we’re located, which is in the middle of nothing, good to know, and then how do you manage there? And also something about expression being eloquent. So what is eloquence when you’re in the middle of nothing? And also something about not reaching for approval, categories, emperors, sages, psychologies, ideas, history, anything that’s not nothing. Okay, so here we are.
“Two swords are crossed, there’s no way to retreat; you’re a lotus in the fire, you can’t help it – you’re determined to go higher.”
John talks about the concept of enlightenment and serenity, and managing to love and appreciate the inner life of the mind.
While ducking projectile pillows, Steven discusses the student/teacher relationship, internalized pain, and the issues of self-deception – through the use of puppets.
“Not deciding it is or isn’t, do you have the courage to be at peace with this? Everyone wants to leave the endless changes, but when we finish bending and fitting our lives we come back to sit by the fire.”
John continues to discuss the 5th koan in the enlightenment cycle, focusing on the concept of “not deciding it is or it isn’t,” and discusses the “method” of zen.