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Buddhadharma : Fall 2012
FALL 2 0 1 2 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 11 THE ROBE OF LIBERATION Wearing the Buddha’s teachings, says Geoffrey Shugen Arnold Sensei, is like wearing your skin. It’s not something you can take on and off. Each morning we chant the Verse of the Kesa: “Vast is the robe of liberation, a formless field of benefaction. I wear the Tatagatha’s teach- ings, saving all sentient beings.” The “robe of liberation” is the o-kesa, the monastic’s robe, or the rakusu, received with the precepts and worn by both monastic and lay practitioners. That robe is the Tatagatha’s teachings, the Buddha’s teachings. We should all strive to wear the Buddha’s teachings. But this is not like wearing an outfit that you put on and take off depending on the circumstance or season or fashion. It’s a timeless and formless robe, more like the way you wear your skin. It’s like your blood and bones, and the way you wear those, the way you wear your heart and lungs, and the breath within you. It is the robe of liberation that supports us and allows us to stand upright, to look straight ahead, to feel the ground under our feet, and to leap forward. And though this robe is formless, unborn, and undying, just like your blood, skin, and bones, it needs to be taken care of. This is what practice is about, to profoundly care for and take care of this very life. How do we live this way? This is the great matter of the buddhadharma. The Verse of the Kesa tells us to make our life about being in the world in the most natural and ulti- mately effortless and radical way; that is, to alleviate all the suffering. In order to do that, we must cease from evil, practice good, and actualize good for others. We need to be clear about what needs to be done and what does not need to be done. We need to not indulge our confusion, which means we have to rec- ognize our confusion and see it as confusion. We also need to not indulge our small-minded views, which means we have to recognize the views that are small-minded, or self-centered, and not indulge them. We have to be able to recognize our greediness and our anger. If we don’t recognize these things, if we don’t see them clearly, then we will indulge them. Remember that delusion thrives in dark- ness. Seeing the light is not only the light of illumination, of wisdom, but it’s also the fire of our deepest aspiration that burns off every- thing unnecessary. Because there is darkness we are easily hidden from the truth, so we need to know what to do from within our hid- denness. How do we go straight ahead when we’re turning in circles? How do we open up and find spaciousness again when we have become confined? This is a most important practice: to know what should be avoided in that moment of our attachment to regret, to shame, to self-hatred or inertia. This is how we learn to take responsibility, to atone and renew our vows. When we understand this in a very deep way, in a very beautiful way we join the family of buddhas. FROM MOUNTAIN RECORD: THE ZEN PRACTITIONER’S JOURNAL, SUMMER 2012 FIRST THOUGHTS ILLUSTRATIONS by ERIC HANSON