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Buddhadharma : Spring 2014
62 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY SPRING 2014 can intensify this general conditioning. I was in the first generation of southern black children consciously raised to enter integrated schools. In such circumstances, everything seems to ride on “keeping it together,” especially in public, and so we were conscientious and hypervigilant in order to prevent disaster. And yet we Zen students have chosen a path that calls us in the opposite direction. In spite of our conditioning, we are called to awareness rather than vigilance. We are on a path of “no water, no moon.” Our conditioning tells us that it is a risky path, and yet we sense its offer of freedom and feel called to take it. Ironically, it was precisely that conditioning of “keeping it all together” that gave me the cour- age to walk into a Zen center for the first time. I had been trained to tolerate the circumstance of being “other,” to maintain a public identity in places where I was allowed but possibly not welcome. Like the schools and libraries of my childhood, Zen centers offered something that I deeply needed, a place to experience my life in the world more deeply. I hoped I would be welcome at a Zen center, and I also knew that it could be otherwise. To walk into this uncertainty, I relied on being outwardly upright while keenly aware of inner fears. As Zen students we live between Chiyono’s first two lines and her second two lines, between keeping things from falling apart and letting them fall apart. Knowing how to “keep things together” is a valuable skill. It was knowing how to care for things that led Chiyono to continually patch the bucket. When it fell apart, she made excellent use of that circumstance as well. Our liberation deepens with the refinement of our capacity for flexibility and discernment. Seven Wise Women in the Charnel Ground China, ninth century Seven wise sisters planned a spring journey. One of them said, “Sisters, instead of going to a park to enjoy the spring flowers, let’s go together to see the charnel grounds.” The others said, “That place is full of decaying corpses. What is such a place good for?” The first woman replied, “Let’s just go. Very good things are there.” When they arrived, one of them pointed to a corpse and said, “There is a person’s body. Where has the person gone?” “What?!” another said. “What did you say?” And all seven sisters were immediately enlightened. Indra, Lord of the Gods, was moved by their awakening and showered flowers down onto them. He offered them whatever they needed for the rest of their lives. One of the sisters replied, “We have everything we need. But please give us a tree without roots, some land without light or shade, and a mountain valley where a shout does not echo.” COURTESYOFNIHONNOHANGACOLLECTION,AMSTERDAM,THENETHERLANDSDANDEMETRIAD Lady Chiyono and the Broken Water Bucket, from the series One Hundred Views of the Moon (1885–1892) by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi