Sunday, November 21, 2004
SAMSARA: Existence prior to liberation, conditioned by the three attitudes of greed, anger and ignorance and marked by continuous rebirths (from "The Eight Gates of Zen" by John Daido Loori)
It's been a strange autumn - I don't know if it's been the effect of the three hurricanes (Charley, Ivan and Jeanne) that passed this way last September, or the sudden cold snap that occurred earlier this month, but the leaves didn't really begin to change color this fall until most of the foliage was already down. Although I've been out raking and leaf blowing nearly every weekend since Jeanne passed through, I didn't notice the autumn colors, all chimney red and pumpkin orange, until this rainy morning, when the muted November light finally revealed the season's palette to me.
A kind of sad, melancholy day to reflect upon a life caught up in samsara. I woke up and took a good long while to drag myself out of bed, brew a pot of coffee and do a little bit of reading. I finally made in over to the Zen Center and hung around for the BOD meeting, which lasted until well past 2:00. By this time, the rain was coming down hard and steady, and the fallen leaves clogged the storm drains creating deep puddles on the roads, which splashed up huge wakes of water as I drove through them coming from the zendo on my way toward Whole Foods, Eatzi's and Publix for food shopping.
The dropping of the autumn leaves is the death that allows the shoots to blossom the next spring, which allow the leaves to fall the next autumn and so on and so forth. But this birth-and-death that I'm caught up in doesn't occur before and after my life, but occurs all the time during this very life - it's the rising of repeated waves of greed, anger and ignorance, and the repeated mistakes I make over and over again in this incarnation. It's all the karmic consequences ever committed by me arising from beginningless greed, anger and delusion. And like a tree, I allow the three poisons to drop away, only to see them return again and manifest themselves in my life, which I then endeavor to allow to drop off again, only to see them return again, etc.
In "The Three Pillars of Zen," Philip Kapleau defines samsara as "the world of relativity; the transformation which all phenomena, including our thoughts and feelings, are ceaselessly undergoing in accordance with the law of causation."
Bassui said, "How can you cut off at a single stroke the sufferings of samsara? As soon as you consider how to advance, you get lost in reasoning; but if you quit you are adverse to the highest path. To be able neither to advance nor to quit is to be a 'breathing corpse.' If in spite of this dilemma you empty your mind of all thoughts and push on with your zazen, you are bound to enlighten yourself and apprehend the phrase, 'Arouse the Mind without its abiding anywhere.' Instantly you will grasp the sense of all Zen dialogue as well as the profound and subtle meaning of the countless sutras."
Bassui also said, "If you would free yourself of the sufferings of samsara, you must learn the direct way to become a Buddha. This way is no other than the realization of your own Mind. Now what is this Mind? It is the true nature of all sentient beings, that which existed before our parents were born and hence before our own birth, and which presently exists, unchangeable and eternal. So it is called one's Face before one's parents were born. This Mind is intrinsically pure. When we are born, it is not newly created, and when we die it does not perish. It has no distinction of male or female, nor has it any coloration of good or bad. It cannot be compared with anything, so it is called Buddha-nature. Yet countless thoughts issue from this Self-nature as waves arise in the ocean or as images are reflected in a mirror."