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Buddhadharma : Summer 2008
11 summer 2 00 8 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly The BodhisaTTva’s comPosure Myogen Steve Stücky, co-abbot of the San Francisco Zen Center, says that maintaining our composure is the basic practice of the bodhisattva. Shunryu Suzuki Roshi chose the word “composure” very carefully when he said that our practice is “to find com- posure in the face of the fact that everything changes.” He was reminding his students that a fundamental teaching of Buddhism is the teaching of impermanence, that every- thing changes, and when we are unable to find composure in the face of impermanence, we suffer. It is pretty hard to establish your composure when things are changing, but that’s the challenge that each of us meets, moment by moment. In our dharma teaching there are many suggestions and techniques to assist us in finding composure—real composure. But any technique may be interpreted in a way that is a kind of pretend com- posure. A false stability may be supported by the desire to look like we have composure. There’s a Zen story of a monk who challenged his practice of finding composure by sitting zazen in a tree. He was sometimes referred to as Bird Nest Roshi. Bird Nest Roshi had a friend who was a local magistrate and Buddhist practitioner. One time this man came to visit and said, “You look pretty insecure up there.” Bird Nest Roshi looked down at him and said, “You look pretty insecure down there.” He knew that the magistrate was concerned about his own security and the instability of his social position. Maybe he was worried about the next election. Anything you base your security on may fail. How do you feel as you walk around? Do you feel secure? Do you feel that you actually have stability? And what is it based on? What is real security based on? In Zen, we are interested in our actual life, not some theory about it, not some handy motto or proverb about it, but how we actu- ally live. In the word “composure,” the root com-, from the Latin, means “together, being with, being connected.” The -posure part comes from a Greek root that means “pause,” or “stop.” Remember to pause together, to stop together, and to awaken in this pause with many beings, the myriad things. Don’t doubt the value of the contribu- tion that you make just by being willing to find compo- sure, even by simply recalling the thought, “How can I find composure in this challenging situation?” And also to help each other to do this. This is maturity of mind. This is actually the manifestation of what we call the vow of the bodhisattva, to help beings mature, to help beings be fully present in themselves. This is a wisdom that we all have, that each of us carries, that you can attend to and cultivate in yourself. So please remember your own innate composure. From Wind Bell, Vol. 41, 2007 imagine a life WiThouT aTTachmenT Living without attachment isn’t dry and boring, says Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche. In fact, it’s much juicier and more fascinating. Some people might think that, without attachment, life would lose its juice. We are so habituated to the usual ups and downs, worries, stresses, and anxieties that we worry that if these go missing, so would all the love, care, enjoy- ment, and passions we experience. From this standpoint, life without conflicting emotions surging and churning all the time may seem a bit alien. But the boredom we fear is really just a state of unfulfilled desires, the flip side of the excitement and entertainment we habitually seek. It’s still wholly within the realm of attachment’s focus on getting or not getting, possessing or not possessing, keeping or not keeping, increasing or not increasing. Is there any true enjoyment in this? Imagine craving absolutely nothing from the world. Imagine cutting the invisible strings that so painfully bind us. What would that be like? Imagine the freedoms that come from the ability to enjoy things without having to acquire them, own them, possess them. Try to envision a first thoughts illustrations by hadley hooper