The Baggage We Carry

The Baggage We Carry July 19, 2018
Hakuin’s Blind Men








Here at the Nebraska Zen Center, we’re getting ready for the summer sesshin (a week of intensive practice) that starts on Saturday. Soon students will be packing their bags and on their way.

In this year of blogging Hakuin, I think of this from Complete Poison Blossoms from a Thicket of Thorn, #332, “Hakuin’s Baggage:”

“ON THE AFTERNOON of the seventeenth day of the first month of the first year of Kampō [1741], I heard sounds of a commotion from the kuri [the monks’ lodging quarters]. Upon inquiring, I was told that it was the porters bundling and tying up my baggage. It was being sent ahead to Kai province where I had been invited to deliver lectures. This perturbed me. “I don’t want them carrying all this heavy baggage up to Kai province,” I said. “Get rid of some things to lighten their load. Then I won’t be embarrassed as Hua-yen was, but I’ll still need to fear Yun-feng’s words.” All the bundles were unpacked and a search was made for articles that could be left behind, but I don’t think they came up with a single thing.”

This is quintessential Hakuin – the teaching is embedded in daily life.  The references here to Hua-yen and Yun-feng, though, might obscure the point. Simply put (and I’ll leave it to those of you who have the text to dig deeper into the references), both have to do with the embarrassment of carrying stuff when you’re supposed to be living the simple life of the homeleaver. Hua-yen, though, also realized awakening when he spilled a drink he was carrying. Don’t neglect that point.

As you may know, heading into sesshin, we’re often told, “Leave it all behind.” “Drop it all at the doorway.” “Forget your baggage and just sit, dropping body mind.”

Good advice. Hakuin, too, does not want to carry all his baggage or even have others carrying it for him. But when they go through his bundles to lighten the load, they find no extra baggage. It was all exactly as it should have been.

Arriving at sesshin, or in this moment, we too bring just the right amount of baggage, just what is –  hurt or anger, joy or release, a broken love, financial concerns, worry about our body, and/or anxiety at what will happen next. Examining my baggage, friend, I can also report with some relief that there does not appear to be anything extra at all.

So we can sit in peace together and go on with our stories.

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