Thursday, February 11, 2010

Expedient Means

There is indeed a purpose in the myriad activities which we need to explore through training and practice. When Nangaku picked up a roof tile and began to polish it with a rock, Baso asked him, “What are you doing?”

Who could fail to see that he was polishing a tile? So the question must have meant, “What are you going to make from polishing a tile in that way?” What he was going to make was undoubtedly a polished tile. But who can see it as "a polished tile?"

It is not simply a matter of taking one’s own personal view not to be a personal view: in such activities, there is significance that can be learned through practice. Here and in other realms, different though they may be, Nangaku’s polishing a tile will have a significance that will never cease. The actions of bodhisattvas and mahasattvas far transcend the states of common folk. But without the dharma of polishing a tile, how could the bodhisattvas and mahasattvas have any expedient means of teaching people?

Keep in mind that, just as when we encounter the ocean we may not recognize it, or when we see a mountain we may not recognize it either, so we might not recognize or understand a Buddha when we encounter a Buddha. Nevertheless, the way to explore the buddha-dharma is not to hastily conclude that there can be no pathway into the dharma that is right before our eyes.

(adapted from Shobogenzo Zazenshin [1242] and Shobogenzo Kokyo [1241] by Zen Master Dogen)

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