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Buddhadharma : Fall 2014
32 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY FALL 2 0 1 4 and our own expectations or fail to come into our own, we are still irrevocably unique. Dongshan’s point cuts deeper than our shallow attempts to stand out from the crowd—a position aptly encapsulated in the slogan “Let me be different, like everybody else!” In truth, each particular thing unstintingly pours out its song: the cicada sings itself to death as the cicada. There is a Zen saying “The elbow does not bend outward.” “The elbow” is our human- ity expressed as limitation and vulnerability. It is the elbow’s nature not to bend outward; it is our nature to be fragile and fleeting, even as we embody vastness. Yet we don’t dwell on that connection; we don’t seek to dwell in vastness. Instead, we invest that immensity in our connec- tion with the world and in how we treat others. How do we do this? When a child comes to us, we open to her as a child and deal with her as a child; when a wise person comes, we open to her wisdom and honor the gifts that she brings. We deal appropriately with each particular being by meeting her fully and acknowledging her completely. The saying “When dew enters the willow it becomes green; when it enters the flower it becomes red” beautifully expresses such true meeting. When we meet each person fully, we lose (and find) ourselves over and over, enlight- ening others and becoming enlightened ourselves in an unending dance. I assume the guise of a scary monster for the delight of my daughter; I become the parent that urges her to bed; I act as her coconspirator, planning her mother’s birth- day. Now she guides me, helping me choose a suit in a labyrinthine menswear shop. Each of our roles flashes from darkness; each is the face of that darkness. What do the myriad differences and distinctions clarify? Where the partridge calls, the hundred flowers bloom afresh. Dongshan’s question here conveys the essen- tial realm and is itself a response to its own query. We shouldn’t be unduly fascinated with this, though. We can easily spin our wheels in the mud, going nowhere fast. Dongshan responds to his question-that-is-itself-an-answer with a profound and mysterious line. His reply invites us to see the bright kingdom of the unique and contingent as mysterious all over again. He urges us to live our realization more fully and to suc- cumb at deeper levels. This isn’t simply about realizing wholeness or uniqueness––and their inseparability––but step- ping beyond all that, to express and embody the Way in our least activity. The willingness to “step beyond” is born of the love and compassion that flow from a lifetime of walking the Way. It is difficult to put this into words, but the following brief exchange captures its spirit: Tongan Guanzhi came to the teacher Tongan Daopi and said, “The ancients said, ‘I do not love what worldly people love.’ I wonder, what does your Reverence love?” Tongan Daopi replied, “I have already become like this.” When Guanzhi heard this he had an awakening. The student, Guanzhi, was consumed with love for the Way. Such love pulls us into depth, drawing us deeper into our relationship with the Way. Living expressions of this love appear when we struggle with our practice and go to bed feel- ing discouraged, yet in the morning everything feels fresh and alive. How can that be? We fight with her, but she doesn’t quit on us. Embarking into the Way, we’re like teenage lovers plucking petals from a flower: “She loves me, she loves me not...” As we venture deeper and deeper in, it’s just: “She loves me, she loves me, she loves me...” So the student asks his teacher, “What does your Reverence love?” He’s asking, “Are you worldly? Are you attached? After such long training and practice, how do you stand in rela- tion to love?” And his teacher comes out with this mysterious response, “I have already become like this.” Become like what? In great teachers there is a center, a core that wells. Their activity