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Buddhadharma : Fall 2014
FALL 2 0 1 4 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 27 for her, Fazhen was fascinated by what she heard, and she took the opportunity to ask the visitor about Dahui’s methods. He told her his teacher required that students investigate the koan of Zaozhou’s Mu with every atom of their being, and that he didn’t allow them to comment on it or think about it. Fazhen was inspired by the adept’s words. She did the housework during the day and sat with Mu at night. One day her mind became clear and she could respond unhesitatingly to the monk’s questions. He approved her realization, and Fazhen gave him a letter to take back to Dahui in which she wrote some verses. The final verse read: All day long reading the words of the sutras, It’s like meeting an old acquaintance. Don’t say doubts arise again and again— Each time it is brought up, each time it’s new. When Dahui received the widow’s verses, he was delighted that she had accorded with his own words, “When you’ve seen into your deepest nature, reading the old stories is like going outside and running into an old friend.” Or like coming home and finding an old friend waiting. This is the freshness of the dharma. Each encounter is the first. Even doubts about our grasp of it are part of its richness. The old stories illuminate us, and we shyly illuminate them. We find glimmering intimations of this everywhere. The widow’s story shows us how, even with mea- ger opportunities, we can awaken. We are always orienting. We seem, at any stage of the Way, to lose contact and then regain it. The process is a bit like air traffic control bringing a plane in to land. Now we are on beam, now off, but always correcting. Whether we are a beginner or an old-timer, each stage of the way, including Orientation, is expressive of our inherent buddhanature. Service For whom have you washed off your splendid makeup? The cuckoo’s call urges you to return. The hundred flowers have fallen, yet the call is unending, moving deeper and still deeper into jumbled peaks. At the stage of Service, we deepen our com- mitment to the Way and make the sacrifices nec- essary to place it at the center of our lives. Here “service” and “commitment” mean not only ethical considerations but also service and com- mitment to essential nature. When we open our eyes in the morning and roll out of bed, feeling the cold floor with our toes, that’s service to the essential. In this regard, even our dreams serve, though they resist being pressed into service. The Chinese term that we translate here as “service” is feng, which also carries the meanings of “holding something devoutly” or “being obe- dient to a teaching.” In addition to these, feng can also mean “to honor,” “to pay homage to,” “to esteem,” and “to offer.” All of these senses of feng are variously at play at the stage of Service. I asked an old friend of mine who doesn’t practice Zen formally, “What should I do when I feel depressed?” “Do something for someone else,” was his reply. In Latin, attendare, from which the English word “attention” is derived, means “to lean toward” or “to serve.” We serve others when we open an attentive silence in which they can express their joy and suffering. In order to accomplish this, we need to let go of rehearsing our eager story as they tell theirs. Whatever else enlight- ened activity is, it surely includes this. One of the finest acknowledgments one human can give another is to say of that person, “He was there for me” or “She was there for me.” Idealistic and