Saturday, February 21, 2009

Forget Your Coat and Hat

Coats and hats are important - they keep us warm in the winter and dry in the rain. They protect us from the elements and keep us healthy. In some situations, it is not an exaggeration to say that they save our lives.

But once we are indoors, they are no longer necessary. So we hang them by the door and go about our business. Hanging them up and walking away does not mean they are no longer important, that we no longer value them, it just means that we do not presently need them, at least until our next trip out of doors.

So it is with words. We use them to communicate, to express the truth, to warn and advise others. But when we sit in zazen, words are no loner necessary. Nor are their internal component, thoughts. We might as well hang them by the zendo door along with our coats and hats.

So in this light, Zen Master Dogen composed the following poem to express this truth:

Natural wondrous wisdom itself is true suchness.
Why should we employ Confucian discourse or Buddhist texts?
Rely on sitting at ease at your place,
and hang your mouth on the wall.
Friends arrive here and are released from emptiness.
[Chapter 10 (Assorted Verses), Eihei Koruku]


Uku said...

Truly wonderful post, thank you! I'll put this post of yours into my blog's section "Hot blog posts right now!" if you don't mind?


With palms together,

GreenSmile said...

Wow. That just works for me, Shokai. I do live among my words. I do create myself to some extent by recording my words.

The futility of that existing-in-words sometimes chills me and darkens my outlook but I soon forget and go about the wordsmithing.

This is a sweet and loaded metaphor for me.