Filling a Silver Bowl with Snow

The entire universe is One Bright Pearl. It means that the entire universe is neither vast nor minute, neither square nor round. It is not neutral, not active, and not obvious.

A paper-thin full moon blushes and the Autumn 2016 practice period comes to an end. Traditionally the ending of the intensive meditation period is marked with an opportunity for each participant to reflect deeply on their vows and conduct, to confess and forgive all unskillfulness and renew their practice vows as the place and intensity shifts.

Before plunging into the final sesshin of the training year, the Rohatsu sesshin, celebrating the Buddha’s Enlightenment, the residents of Great Vow gathered for their Fusatsu Sharing Circle, giving voice to practice edges and celebrating growth. “To have the courage to enter residential training,” Jogen said, “we must be willing to practice continual forgiveness within the community.”

For even though we practice, side by side with one another, eating, sleeping, sitting, working within feet of each other, we can not know the burdens of another’s heart, we can not really know what brings them to practice at the monastery, and what obstacles block the heart its open, responsive love and clarity. This sharing circle provides the space to hold each other and ourselves in forgiveness, and to glimpse the other universes lying within.

Because it is beyond the coming or going of birth and death, it is the coming and going of birth and death. Thus, past days have already left here and the present moment starts here.

How many beings are contained within the Self? One. All. Everyone I meet. This Ango we studied the teachings and lives of the Ancestors, both women and men, lay and ordained, whose aspiration for Enlightenment was so thorough that they dedicated their lives to the practice. We allowed their stories into our hearts, their lives into our bones; we let their determination rest in our flesh. We leaned into them, recognizing our co-dependence, the interpenetration of past, present and future to complete the circle of the way.

Here is the now of the body, the now of the mind. This is the bright pearl; it is not limited to grass and trees here and there, or even to mountains and rivers in the universe.

Rohatsu sesshin is practiced all over the world. During this week, no matter what time you are sitting zazen, you are joining the countless other practitioners in Korea, Japan, China, Russia, Europe, India, Africa, South America, Canada and the US in their own enactment of the Buddha’s Awakening. This is the sesshin that culminates a year of practice. It is celebrated as one continuous day of practice that spans seven full days. In some places practitioners do not sleep or lie down for the entire week. Soten, who is currently practicing at Sogenji with Harada Roshi in Japan, took up this practice of continual awakeness for an entire week. He called home inspired by a “seamless night of samadhi,” noting that he “did not know it was humanly possible” to practice with such diligence and surrender. At the monastery, we too, took on a similar practice. Some chose to stay up an hour later each night, culminating the week with an all-night sit. Kept company with Mu chanting and encouraging words from the new Shuso Shinei, awakening the Heart to its natural, still, open presence.

An authentic Buddha speaking to you walks in the midst of various beings. Now turn the light inward and illuminate yourself.

“Feel the Body from the inside,” Hogen Roshi instructs. Whatever practice you are doing, “rest inside.” Sitting inside of sitting, walking inside of walking, breath inside of breath, awareness inside of awareness, hearing inside of sound, sound inside of hearing. To be inside, there is no separation, non-dual, oneness, opens as the entire world. Shinei says in her dedication, “If you are still in your own way, just step aside, and feel life from the inside, only Buddha feeling Buddha.”

A silver bowl filled with snow, a heron hidden in the moon.—Dongshan

The entire Body is the entire Body, there is no hindrance. It is gently curved and turns round and round.

We all have a bright pearl sewn into our body, sewn into our hearts—“everyone here,” Fuho says, “meets the qualifications for Awakening, everyone here is fully equipped with a body and a heart.”

This being so, although you may say, “I am not a bright pearl,” you should not doubt.

“This is my fourth Rohatsu Sesshin,” Bella says at closing circle, “I am giving up on Enlightenment, but I am taking with me this bright pearl. When Fuho held up the bright pearl, I realized that this is me, this is everyone I meet. We all have this bright pearl.”

How lovely is one bright pearl’s infinite colors and shades!

With every practice, aspiration and awakening we open to the positive energy, also known as merit, that influences and is generated. If you could give away all the benefits of a day, a week, a training period, a year, a life of practice/awakening—where would you direct such a gift? To all beings, to our mothers and fathers, to those who live in constant fear, to the underprivileged, to those who are victims of abuse or violence, to those who perpetuate hate through their own insecurity, to our teachers, to our family, to our community, to the birds, the Great Earth and Open Sky.

The winds & rains, stories & teachings, shouts & giggles of Ango have all passed through—the unmoving clarity; spacious and bright.

What is it that remains?

Autumn leaves fade into soil, winter chill appears—fresh and alive.

This human heart exactly

Is the precious mirror mystery, going, coming and beyond

May the positive energy of our Ango practice multiply a millionfold through our service and compassion, as we practice, realize, and express the Buddha Way together

Selections taken from Dogen’s Fascicle “One Bright Pearl.” Photos from Cho-on and Sophia Gallagher