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Buddhadharma : Spring 2008
spring 2008| 80 |buddhadharma mind being Buddha, but it’s usually hard to see it. To be wholeheartedly unsure, to sincerely take up a question like, What does it mean that mind is Buddha, I won- der? without veering off into commen- tary—that, Ma found, was a much more direct way for people to experience for themselves the mind that is Buddha. But even that was sometimes too much chitchat for Ma’s taste. When someone froze because they didn’t know how to respond to his question, or tried to present the answer they thought displayed their accomplishment or would please him, Ma was likely to hit or kick or brusquely send them away. He’d put his hand over someone’s mouth just as they were about to speak. He tweaked noses and shouted so loud it deafened people for days. This style of teaching later became a menace and a cliché, but originally it arose from the urgency of the times. Ma knew the power of our habits of bondage, and he also knew the power of being free of them, if only for a moment. He pulled the rug out with the hope of sur- prising us into free fall. The art critic Peter Schjeldahl2 once described the encoun- ter with beauty in a way that Ma would entirely recognize: Beauty stops you in your tracks, so that it’s suddenly impos- sible to continue in the direction that a moment before seemed inevitable. Some- thing pleasurable or attractive (like replac- ing old, flawed positions with new and improved ones) enhances the feelings you already have (NOW I’ve got it). On the other hand, genuine beauty, like suddenly having no position at all, stops the flow of your feelings (Nothing I thought applies anymore), and when they resume they’re moving in a different direction entirely. Behind the shock tactics, Ma’s perspec- tive was deeply optimistic and encourag- ing. Right here and right now, he invited, find your footing as a realized human being. Meet me eye to eye, as an equal. Drop the notion that there’s something to get. You already have it; let’s see it. In the language of his descendent Linji, let us be true persons without rank together, and let us see what becomes possible when we do. Once we’ve done some serious decon- struction and experienced falling freely, we have to do something with that expe- rience. A monk who carefully observed Ma’s method wrote about the time Ma kicked Shuiliao in the chest: “Emptiness, that idle land, is shattered. The iron boat sails straight onto the Ocean of the Infinite.” Even the purity of emptiness, in which nothing ever happens, has to be left behind. There is a boat to build and sail, a vast sea to navigate. There are refugees to feed and orphans to rear, art to rescue from the bonfire and songs to write so people won’t forget. Ma was passionate that responding to our time is an essen- tial part of realization. He once said that from the point of view of the bodhisat- tva, burying oneself in emptiness and not knowing how to get out is like suffering the torments of hell. As our hearts and minds open in meditation, it is actually painful not to open our hands as well. For Ma, hell wasn’t the trouble he saw all around him; hell was turning away from it, trying to escape into a separate peace. Why is it an unfloatable iron boat that we have to sail? In Chan, iron boats take their place next to flutes without holes and stone women who get up to dance, representing the moment-by-moment miracle that emptiness appears as all the things of the universe—as redwood trees and freeway overpasses and the dark matter we can’t even see. We’re partici- pating in the same miracle when, having experienced the free fall of emptiness, we step back into the thick of life to turn our awakening into matter. How do we do that? Well, Shitou and Ma didn’t think it was by way of a prac- tice that requires all kinds of special con- ditions to do it correctly. This may be the place where you lose your body and your life, but there’s nothing special about it, and certainly nothing that you can control through fear and fussiness. Ma maintained that “a person bathing in the great ocean uses all the waters that empty into it.” We launch that iron boat by truly understand- ing that wherever we find ourselves, what- ever we’re faced with, that’s the Way. There are no detours from the Way; we can’t lose our Way. To engage and entangle ourselves with whomever and whatever we meet, to care about them, to throw our lot in with them—that is the Way. Every moment, every circumstance, is another chance to experience things as they are, rather than as we wish or fear them to be. 2 “Notes on Beauty” (1994) 335 Meads Mt. Rd., Woodstock, NY 12498 845.679.5906x10 firstname.lastname@example.org for fullschedule and updates visit: www.kagyu.org KARMA TRIYANA DHARMACHAKRA TibetanBuddhistTeaching andMeditation Center FEB 24 Three-Ye ar Retreat Graduation MARCH 29-APRIL 4 WhiteTaraRetreat APRIL 5-6 Dharma Discussion KTD wishesyou ahealthy andprosperous Year of theEarth Rat LAMA TASHI DONDUP MARCH 21-23 SixPerfections BARDOR TULKU RINPOCHE MARCH 14-16 Chapter on Wisdom from Bodhicharyavatara FEB 3-8, 2008 LosarEvents KHENPO UGYEN TENZIN FEB 15-17 Mind Only Chittamatra ➤ continued from page 25