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Lions Roar : September 2011
SHAMBHALA SUN SEPTEMBER 2011 42 And another: One day, while Guishan was lying down, Yang- shan came to see him. Guishan said, “Let me tell you about my dream.” Yangshan leaned forward to listen. Guishan said, “Would you interpret my dream for me? I want to see how you do it.” Yangshan brought a basin of water and a towel. Guishan washed his face and sat up. Then Xiangyan came in. Guishan said, “Yangshan and I have been sharing miracles. This is no small matter.” Xiangyan said, “I was next door and heard you.” Guishan said to him, “Why don’t you try?” Xiangyan made a bowl of tea and brought it to him. Guishan praised them, saying, “You two students surpass even Shariputra and Maudgal- yayana with your miraculous activity!” These are wonderful stories about people who know each other so well and whose minds and hearts are in such harmony that they don’t need to explain or discuss. They are so close they can communicate everything with a bowl of water or a bow. Simply appreciating being together, sharing life basically and intimately, they understand one another at a level far beyond ordinary needs and wants and arguments. Of course, not all Zen stories illustrate this perfect accord between practitioners, but those that do are eloquent in just this way; they are saying that simply being together with warm- hearted kindness, dropping storylines, and appre- ciating each other’s profound human presence, is the whole of the teaching. No mention here of meditation insights, esoteric ritual, or fancy Bud- dhist doctrine. Intimate and caring relationship is the miracle that moves Guishan so much. Someone said to me recently, “I know your feet.” This is a funny and intimate thing to say. In Zen practice we spend a lot of time in the meditation hall together, doing things in unison—sitting down and getting up, standing, walking, and eating. It is not unusual for us to spend a week together in retreat like this, with no speaking or looking into each other’s faces. But we appreciate and recog- nize each other’s presence. Some of us wear robes, and our feet are bare. We see each other’s feet and hands, and we acknowledge with a bow each oth- er’s bodies in passing. In the world at large, we can know someone quite well—they can even be a good friend—but we might not know their feet or their hands or fully take in the sense of their body as they stand near us. Though we know what they look like, we may not really have taken in their face, or their voice, or the way they move when they are deeply connected to NORMAN FISCHER is a Zen Buddhist priest and the author of Taking Our Places: The Buddhist Path to Truly Growing Up. From 1995 to 2000, he served as co-abbot of the San Francisco Zen Center and is currently a senior dharma teacher there. He is also the founder and spiritual director of the Everyday Zen Foundation, an organization dedicated to adapting Zen Buddhist teachings to Western culture. The Shadow Replies to the Body Immortality cannot be reached, and seeking long life is foolish. I too wish to wander Paradise but it is too remote to find. Since I’ve met you we’ve shared our joy and sorrow. While you rested in the shadows we parted for a while. Yet with the sun’s return we were reunited. Even so, we cannot remain side by side forever. When it comes, we both must go into darkness. As the body dies, so goes the fame. This thought burns inside my heart. Let us labor while we can to do the good we may. Wine may in truth dispel our sorrow but not as well as lasting love. — TAO CHIEN Excerpted from Chinese Zen Poems: What Hold Has This Mountain? Published by Bottom Dog Press.