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Buddhadharma : Fall 2014
26 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY FALL 2 0 1 4 suggested that I work on the koan Mu, and he told me the story of Zhaozhou’s dog. That very moment a dog burst onto the veranda and scam- pered joyously around us, barking excitedly. We both burst out laughing. I felt that I was meeting my life, although I didn’t have the words for it. Sage rulers have always modeled themselves on Emperor Yao. Treating others with propriety, you bend your dragon waist. The legendary Emperor Yao (2357–2257 BCE) was the original emperor of China’s first dynasty, the Xia. This emperor is remembered for having redirected the flow of the Yellow River, thereby preventing floods that threatened his subjects who lived along its banks. This redi- rection of the Yellow River is what Dongshan is referring to when he writes that “you bend your dragon waist.” It’s said that Yao’s light encompassed the extremities of the empire and extended from heaven to earth—an image that hints at his awakened nature. Rather than killing off opposition, Yao seems to have been able to bear complaints and to incorporate objections into his rule. Being modest, he preferred to parley rather than to overpower. Yao can therefore also be understood as an exemplary figure who repre- sents the wisdom and compassion of the Buddha. “Treating others with propriety” suggests maintaining proper form and being consistent and just in our dealings. In short, it suggests behaving with integrity. “Bending the dragon waist” can also be understood as courtesy, grace under pressure, even forgiveness and mercy. On one hand we hold the line and cleave to principle; on the other we give others a better-than-even break. The qualities that we associate with propriety and “bending the dragon waist” may appear to be opposed. However, they accord readily in the conduct of a true person of the Way. “Bending ROSS BOLLETER ROSHI is a teacher in the Diamond Sangha tradition and a dharma successor of Robert Aitken and John Tarrant. He is the senior teacher of Zen Group of Western Australia in Perth. This teaching is adapted from The Five Ranks of Dongshan, published by Wisdom Publications, 2014. your dragon waist” means that you are avail- able to talk to a friend who rings late at night to discuss what’s troubling him, and “treating others with propriety” means not ringing others late at night to discuss your problems. Instead we hunker down, meditate, and examine our own hearts. For me, this comes down to friendship in another’s trouble; courage in one’s own. At times, passing through the thick of the bustling market, you find it civilized throughout and the august dynasty celebrated. I like it that Dongshan begins our journey in the marketplace: the place to where we return at the end of our journey, according to the Ox- Herding Cycle. To say that we find the market- place “civilized throughout” is to express the sense that it is our own true nature in its unfold- ing. The brightly colored, noisy stalls steal our sense of separation. We are allured and joyous, and we can’t fathom why. Simply walking down the street feels large and alive. A sudden wind lifts the shining leaves and we are gusted away. We discover the ancient teachings, and they shake up the kaleidoscope of our presuppositions. It’s like being in love: we see our beloved everywhere—in changing light, in a mountain, in a flight of birds, and in our own smile. We see things through his or her eyes too: “That’s how my beloved would see it.” We know this unerringly, and like Shake- speare’s Juliet, we wish but for the thing we have. When we get to know the stories and sayings of the old teachers in this spirit, their words open a path for us. The story of how widow Fazhen came to awakening back in twelfth-century China is exemplary in this regard: Chan Master Dahui Zonggao sent a monk to call on the widow Fazhen’s son. The monk stayed for a time and talked to the son about Chan. Although the teachings were not intended ANTOINETTECARRIER