the prayer of form and emptiness


Though we find clear waters ranging to the vast blue sky in autumn,
how an it compare with the hazy moon on a spring night!
Most people want to have it pure white,
but sweep as you will, you cannot empty the mind

Keizan Jokin

Those of us who engage the way of koan introspection are gifted with having our noses rubbed in various aspects of reality.

Usually we start off well acquainted with differentiation. I’m pretty clear that I’m me and you are not. Most of us are.

Because of the way our brains are put together we also have the ability to see that we are part of something larger, or, as we prefer to note within our Zen way, that we all share the essence of no essence – that, pick your metaphor, we are one or we are empty. Most of us have some sense of this. Something from childhood. Some event in our adolescence. A dream, maybe. But, it isn’t for most of us a part of our everyday waking consciousness.

And so when we embark on the spiritual endeavor, particularly the way of koan introspection, the first thing to do is to reclaim that noticing.

And so the invite into a question like Mu or What is the sound of the single hand?

There are lots of gates to the vast empty. A koan. The secret question of your own heart.

Or, the universal solvent: sit down, shut up

pay attention.

It may take a while.

But other than the fact the clock is ticking and death is one automobile accident, one heart attack away, there’s no particular rush.

As it is what we really are, a critical part of what we really are, eventually the dime drops.

Perhaps we have a glorious bursting forth of insight, an eruption of the way things are into our ordinary consciousness. That would be lovely.

Perhaps it is a gentle unfolding, leaves simply falling open revealing what has always been there. That would be quite lovely.

And there is no right way to it.

We just notice.

What has always been there.

A gift.

Grace.

And it is important. More than words can convey. I think critical for those of us who wish to see what we are, who we can be, and where it might all take us.

And so.

Here we stand at the gate of liberation.

But, and this is where many people get confused.

This noticing of the one, or, as I prefer, with slightly less luggage, the great empty is necessary but not sufficient.

Then, we need to continue on to the next realization.

Emptiness is form.

Form is emptiness.

Or, as my ancestor on this way once sang into the heart of the universe,

Though we find clear waters ranging to the vast blue sky in autumn,
how an it compare with the hazy moon on a spring night!
Most people want to have it pure white,
but sweep as you will, you cannot empty the mind

It is so important to see this.

We see this and we discover our hearts are the heart of the world.

And what we want

And what we do

Becomes a great song

A lovely song

Of hearts calling out to hearts

One thing

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  • Aaron Caruso

    Nice post, and a beautiful poem from Keizan. Regarding koan practice, how mysterious! I’ve been working on case 4 of the Gateless Gate, “Huoan’s Beardless Barbarian.” Stuck for a few weeks without an opportunity to meet a teacher, I decided to grow my own beard…I then was able to answer the question.

    Thanks,
    Aaron

  • Stephen Slottow

    The hazy moon on a spring night. Getting new eyeglasses. “My legs get tired with long sitting.” I asked Pat Hawk “would it be OK to say that every day is a bad day.” “NO.”


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