Plum Blossoms IV for Roshi’s 24th Memorial Day

On this 24th Memorial of Katagiri Roshi’s death, I offer his “Plum Blossoms IV” to you, dear reader.

You can view the other installments here: Plum Blossoms I, Plum Blossoms II, and Plum Blossoms III).

Once again, David Casacuberta poured his big heart into the transcribing (thank you, David!) and someone who vaguely resembles the guy on the left (me on my homeleaving day in 1984 with Katagiri Roshi) again made a mess of it by doing the editing.

“Plum Blossoms” was a series of talks given during Rohatsu, 1988 – Katagiri Roshi’s last Rohatsu and last of many seven-day sesshins. There are only six talks rather than seven because Roshi became quite sick and couldn’t give the last talk. Fittingly, toward the end of this piece, he turns his attention to death.

And also fittingly, he didn’t finish commenting on “Plum Blossoms,” really just got started. Probably would have taken another four or five sesshins to work through it all.

It seems that so much in this great life is left undone, only to be forgotten, or perhaps for others to pick up and complete in their own way.

Here’s Roshi:

Dogen Zenji says this in his “Plum Blossoms” fascicle of Shobogenzo:

When the old plum tree suddenly opens, the world of blossoming flowers arises. At the moment when the world of blossoming flowers arises, spring arrives. There is a single blossoms that opens in five petals. At this moment of a single blossom, there are three, four and five blossoms, hundreds, myriads billions of blossoms -countless blossoms. These blossomings are not-being-proud of one, two or countless branches of the old plum tree. An udumbara blossom and blue lotus blossoms are also one or two branches of the old plum tree’s blossoms. Blossoming is the old plum tree offering.

The old plum tree is between the human and heavenly worlds in treeness. Myriads and billions of blossoms are Buddha ancestors blossoms. In such a moment, ‘all the Buddhas have appeared in the world’ is shouted; ‘The ancestor was originally in this land!’ is shouted.

In this case, when the old plum tree suddenly opens, flowers bloom and the world arises, spring arises. They are not separate.

Even if you don’t understand, we continue to say this, otherwise it is very difficult to have the opportunity to be oneness. Even through the ear the words come, you don’t understand, but it is wonderful.

We usually think that spring comes then flowers bloom. But in terms of Buddha’s eye, flowers blooming is simultaneous with spring arising. Shakyamuni Buddha and Zen ancestors continuously are telling so.

Bodhidharma said, “There is a single blossom that opens five petals.”

Dogen said in “Flowers in the Sky,” “One flower opens with five petals, and ripens on its own accord.”

The presence of a single event is intimately connected with five blossoms. The reality that you have attended this sesshin is because this single event is already connected to many conditioned factors. Then this event arises. That is called sesshin is sesshin. One is never two. So that is total picture of existence.

“At this moment a single blossom becomes three, four, five, hundreds, myriads of blossoms.” And the world arises. One is one, Katagiri is Katagiri, sesshin is sesshin. Not a single existence is separated from all beings.

First you have to understand the place beyond time and space but simultaneously it must be connected and digested with all sentient beings. All things in your body and mind. Then it is really alive. That is called “Buddha” – one single blossom blooming.

“These blossomings are not-being-proud of one, two or countless branches of the old plum tree.”

Dharma arises without leaving anything behind but a pure sense of activity. This is the elemental factor of existence. So the blossoms are not proud of one, two, three or countless branches.

The old plum tree is you. The old plum tree is Katagiri and it is beyond Katagiri.

“An udumbara blossom and blue lotus blossoms are also one or two branches of the old plum tree’s blossoms.”

The udumbara flower refers to when Buddha presented a flower to the assembly and Mahakasyapa smiled. The plum tree is exactly the udumbara flower that Shakyamuni held up. Blooming is the old plum tree’s offering.

Even if you don’t like your life, it is blooming. The essential factors of your life are always giving you offerings to let the flowers of your life bloom.

The plum tree is the human world and the heavenly world. “Heavenly world” means the idealistic world and “human world” is the realistic world. The plum tree blooms in both the idealistic and the realistic worlds. Not separated. That’s why Dogen says it manifest in both worlds with its treeness.

There are hundreds of thousands of blossoms, heavenly and human, myriads of blossoms are Buddha ancestors’ blossoms. At such a time, “all the Buddhas have appeared in the world” is shouted and “the ancestor was originally in this land” is shouted. It is a great opportunity when one flower blooms because they are interconnected, interpenetrated with many conditional elements, functioning in dynamism, praising the life of Buddha.

“All the Buddhas have appeared in the world,” is from the Lotus Sutra. It says that the reason the Buddha was born in this world was to open human’s eyes and guide them to enlightenment to dwell in the Buddha’s world.

“The ancestor was originally in this land,” means “I am originally in this land to transmit dharma and save deluded sentient beings.”

“I am originally in this land” refers to China. Bodhidharma came to China in 6th Century to teach Buddhism by sitting in zazen for nine years. Bodhidharma sitting for nine years at the Shaolin temple manifested his life and Buddha’s teaching.

For instance, when I came to the United States there were many changes for me. But strictly speaking I am facing the wall with nothing to teach you and nothing you can get from me. You are also facing the wall. Day to day you have to take care of it. And then many different worlds come: San Francisco, Minneapolis, etc. Basically, you have to be in the same location, always. Sitting for nine years. That’s the meaning of Bodhidharma’s sitting.

“This land” is not something different from me. I am this land. At that time, you can begin to take action, teaching and helping all sentient beings to walk hand in hand. If this land is separated from me, if your human life is separated from me and from the rocks, tiles, and pebbles, it is very difficult to give warm heart.

This is our practice. Zazen and you are not separated. You are zazen, then you can really get emotions, and warm feelings towards zazen and you really can teach and understand, walking with zazen hand-in-hand for a long time. Otherwise you cannot do zazen for a long time and you cannot teach Zen. If you try, your teaching will be very narrow, just using words. This is a key point on how we live, how we walk with all sentient beings, lifetime after lifetime.

Your life is stretched to every inch of the universe so your body is a huge body (laughs). That’s why in the Lotus Sutra it is expressed the Buddha’s body as 16 feet tall with a golden body. Where you are right now is beyond time and space.

That’s why Bodhidharma mentions that there is a single blossom that opens one, two, three, millions of blossoms. Nevertheless, there is no egoistic sense of “I” arising nor of “I” perishing. It is exactly pure. No sense of pride, no sense of fragrance. Just come, just gassho, just sit down. Be the intersections. That is pure location for everyone. Then simultaneously, in that location the big world opens. That is the flowers blooming and world arising.

Your moment-time is exactly in the same location as Buddha’s location, Bodhidharma’s location. Pure time is open to everyone, plum trees, lakes, past, present, future. Very naturally, that time you can see and Bodhidharma can see and Buddha Shakyamuni can see.

Therefore, through continuous practice you can actualize Shakyamuni Buddha. For example, when you sew a rakusu and take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Just like this, Shakyamuni Buddha can be actualized by your continuous practice day to day.

Just like this, gassho is not your gassho, it is the same gassho that Shakyamuni or Bodhidharma did.

So finally, when I die, the whole world dies. When I come to this moment, the whole world is me – then I can die very peacefully because nothing different. If I see something very different from me, so called Zen Center, then I wonder how the Zen Center will continue  after my death, and I think my spirit will be haunting all over the Zen Center always.

At that time my death is not peaceful. If I die in peace, in that moment death is exactly death, occupying the whole world.

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