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Lions Roar : July 2013
SHAMBHALA SUN JULY 2013 36 and fears had to do with the body, either sensual allurements or threats of bodily harm. Declaring that the many threatening minions arrayed behind him were his army, Mara defiantly called out, “Where is your army, oh Buddha?” In response the Buddha touched the ground and said, “The Earth is my witness and support.” In touching the Earth, the Buddha was not only calling on the Earth Goddess to be his protector. He was saying, the Earth is my body. My body expresses Earth, is produced and supported by Earth, is made exclusively of Earth elements. Nothing on Earth, no matter how frightening, can threaten this indestructible Earth body. Even if it is broken up into a million pieces it remains, going home to its Mother who gave birth to it, who embraces it now and always will embrace it. With this gesture of truth, belonging, and ultimate invulnerability, born of surrender to and identity with the Earth, Buddha expressed his absolute fearlessness, and in doing so defeated Mara. After this, his enlightenment unfolded. And this is exactly true of all of us. Our bodies too are the Earth. They rise up from her, and are nurtured, fed, and illuminated by her. Our bodies are in constant touch with Earth, and return to Earth, from which they have never parted. Our human bodies are expressions of the Earth’s creative force. Everything that makes human life— breathing, eating, elimination, perception, feeling, language—occurs only in concert with Earth. No thought would ever take place without the prior existence of Earth. No thought would be thinkable without air, water, fire, space, dirt. Even our most abstract ideas, like freedom, justice, and happiness, are nothing more or less than Earth’s urge, the thought of wind, sky, water, and light. Nothing we think or do could ever be more profound or true than these natural elements, which are literally nothing more or less than our own bodies. Mahayana Buddhism was a philosophical and emotional reaction to Buddhism’s earlier, more sober teachings, which often characterized the body as repulsive and a source of attachment. In Mahayana thought, the body as such is asserted and celebrated. It is transfigured, through art and faith, into the bodhisattva body, the buddha body, the perfect eternal beautiful body hidden in the earthly body of impermanence and decay. The Buddha of the Mahayana sutras has three bodies: the dharmakaya, or truth body, measureless, all-encompassing and perfect, beyond perception and concept; the sambhogakaya, or enjoyment body, the purified perceived body of perfect meditation and teaching; and finally the nirmanakaya, the transient historical body that appears in our world for the purpose of teaching worldly beings. In Zen teaching, it is axiomatic that the ordinary human body that can be accessed in meditation practice is itself beyond the human body as normally conceived. The “True Body,” as Dogen says, “is far beyond the world’s dusts.” Or, as Hakuin puts it in his Song of Zazen, “This very body is the Body of Buddha.” The actual biological human body really is (as we discover more and more every day) a marvelous and endlessly complex occurrence. Three hundred years of medical science has still only scratched the surface of its immense functioning. The brain, for instance: how does it regulate everything so perfectly, adjusting to any and all sorts of contingencies, producing thoughts, literary works, skyscrapers, cities, social systems, and so on? The heart, the lungs. Cells, DNA. The enormous knowledge and complex communication and movement that seems to occur effortlessly within every human body: walking, running, jumping, shouting, singing, playing the piano. There are 25,000 miles of blood vessels in the human body. Stretched out end to end they’d reach the moon. Blood flows through them ceaselessly, nurturing There’s a truth that’s always been engraved on our very skins: body, mind, spirit, and Earth are one expression, one concern, and one delight. ➢ page 67