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Buddhadharma : Fall 2008
27 fall 2 00 8 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly Both what and how we see are intricately interwoven with our conditioning. We see what we have learned to see. If we come out of our house in midday and see a yellow barn surrounded by a forest, that image becomes a part of our memory. Later, at the end of the day, when the evening sun is sinking over the horizon and the once yellow barn and green trees have been transformed by the fiery orange hue, we may miss that change. our tendency will be to remember the yellow and green unless a deliberate effort is made to see things as they are. In the glow of twilight, the house may have a pinkish tone. Trees will turn purple. Yet our mind, if we let it be controlled and fixed by our memory, will only see the afterimages of the past. cameras and film add other challenges and provide other possibilities to our seeing. In Zen we say that enlightenment without morality is not yet enlightenment, and morality without enlightenment is not yet morality. on one side, we have the danger of wisdom that lacks compassion. as gary Snyder once said, “Wisdom without compassion feels no pain.” on the other hand, we have compassion without wisdom, which essentially becomes doing good. of course, doing good is valuable. But doing good is different from realizing compassion. It is only doing good. When we are doing good, we should carefully examine who or what is being served by our actions. Doing good requires a sense of self—there is someone who will help someone else. In compassion there is no self, no other, no doer or doing. ultimately, compassion is dependent on wisdom, and wisdom is dependent on compassion. When we lift up one, we have lifted both. manjushri Bodhisattva and Samantabhadra Bodhisattva— who embody wisdom and compassion—always sit together on either side of the Buddha statue in the altar of the Buddha hall of a Zen monastery. Wisdom is compassion; compassion is wis- dom. But although we say that they are two sides of the same reality, they cannot even begin to function in our lives until we acknowledge that we’re responsible for the whole catastrophe. Each one of us creates the entire universe with our mind. taking one view, there is flowing; from another perspective, there is non-flowing. at one point in time there is flowing; at another, not flowing. one of the beginner koans reads: the bridge flows; the river is still. What kind of reality is this? It’s not something that we can explain rationally. It’s not something that we can understand intellectually. understanding will only get us so far. Zazen, wisdom, and compassion, the Five ranks, can’t be understood. They must be realized; they must be made real in everything we do. Shakyamuni Buddha never heard of the Five ranks. nei- ther did mahakashyapa nor ananda. It wasn’t until Dongshan and his successor caoshan decided to create a framework to study the interplay between the relative and absolute realms that the Five ranks came into being. But as is true of any other aspect of the teachings, the Five ranks are simply a means to realization; they are not an end in themselves. When it comes down to it, all the skillful means in the world won’t help us if we do not realize the mountains, do not realize our body and mind. Why? Because realizing the mountains as one’s own body and mind is transformative. “mountains” are all form—all things, all beings sentient and insentient, and neither sentient nor insentient. To realize all form as one’s own body and mind is to dwell in a universe that is unborn and inextinguishable, a universe that has no beginning or end. You have no beginning or end. Then how will you care for the mountains and rivers, for your own body and mind, the body and mind of the universe? The only limits that exist are the ones we have set for our- selves. Take off the blinders, break the chains, push down the walls of your cage, and take a step forward. When you’ve taken that step, acknowledge it, let it go, and take another step. and when you finally arrive at enlightenment, at whole body and mind intimacy, acknowledge it, let it go, and take a step forward. This kind of practice is, always has been, and always will be the ceaseless practice of all the buddhas and ancestors. By practicing in this way, you actualize their very being, their very life. You give life to the Buddha. ➤ They are not burdened by the bias of memory. They always “see” the image from a camera’s perspective. Lenses and film types change the way color is recorded. Kodachrome “sees” differently than Ektachrome, which “sees” differently than Fujichrome. To see what the camera sees, it is necessary to develop that camera’s vision. To “make love with light,” to consciously create the moods and feelings a photograph can emanate, means first giv- ing our attention to all these technical factors. Then, we must see the subject fresh, new, in the moment of the shutter’s release. If we are awake to all of that, then we experience a sense of completion. The circle closes. From Making love with light: Contemplating nature with Words and Photographs, by John Daido Loori. © Dharma communications. Published by Shambhala Publications.